Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012)

James Gurney (left) and Thomas Kinkade (right) at work on Ralph Bakshi's "Fire and Ice."

Thomas Kinkade, “The Painter of Light,” died at home in Los Gatos, California on April 6. He was 54. A family spokesman said death was apparently due to natural causes.

Kinkade was among the most commercially successful artists in the history of America, selling his work in malls and earning tens of millions of dollars. Nothing in his work suggests his career ever intersected with the sf & fantasy genres – yet not only did it intersect, his brief work in the genre had a big impact on the success that followed.

Kinkade and James Gurney, of Dinotopia fame, roomed together as freshmen at UC Berkeley in 1976. Both later attended the Art Center College of Design in Southern California. And in 1982 they were hired together to paint backgrounds for Ralph Bakshi’s animated movie Fire and Ice.

In between, the two spent a summer crossing the country on freight trains, paying their way by making sketches of bar patrons and doing house portraits for $10.

They would stop by pubs and start out by sketching the bartender. Thom would give the sketch to the barkeep and ask if he could paint the patrons that came in. The bartenders usually said yes and Thom would set-up at the end of the bar with a jar and a sign that read, “Sketches – $2.00”. People enjoyed the sketches so much that Thom and Jim thought it would be a great idea to teach people how to sketch. So they said, “Let’s write a book”. One night they spent hours on the pier above the Hudson River and banged out what became “The Artist’s Guide to Sketching”.

Having finished the book, the two applied for jobs at Bakshi Studios. They made “hundreds of scenes of jungles, volcanoes, swamps, and forests in which the rotoscope cel-animated characters” performed. These all had to match the style of artist Frank Frazetta, the movie’s co-producer.

Kinkade’s web biography says “This intensive period of work for the movie business may well have been the genesis of Kinkade’s mastery of pictorial lighting effects.”

Can you imagine? The Artist of Light got his inspiration from working for the artist of Conan.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the story.]

Frazetta Family Resumes Feuding

The dispute between Frank Frazetta’s children over their father’s art erupted anew on December 15 when Frank Frazetta Jr. filed suit against his three siblings in Florida.

Frazetta Jr. claims they violated the terms of their settlement by failing to pay him the 25-percent share of the estate his father intended him to have. He alleges they have not provided an accurate accounting of the business dealings involving his father’s art and have not involved him in their decisions as agreed.

The agreement had been reached with the help of a federal mediator in April, not long before Frank Frazetta’s death on May 10.

In July, Frazetta’s painting, “Conan the Destroyer,” was sold to a private collector for $1.5 million, the highest price ever paid for one of his works.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

Legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta died of a stroke on May 10. The Pocono Record reports:

Frank Frazetta, one of the most renowned fantasy illustrators of the 20th century, died this afternoon at a hospital near his home in Boca Grande, Florida. He was 82.

Frazetta had been out to dinner with his daughters Sunday but suffered a stroke at his Boca Grande home later that night and was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital, manager Rob Pistella said.

It was just a short time ago that the family resolved an acrimonious dispute over control of his artwork.

 [Thanks to David Klaus and John King Tarpinian for the story, via several sources.]

Frazetta Family Feud Ends

Suddenly it looks like charges against Frank Frazetta Jr. will be dropped. He has been awaiting trial on charges of stealing 90 of his father’s paintings.

But the Pocono Record reported on April 24 that a federal mediator met for two days with Frazetta family members and their attorneys, including Frank Sr., sons Frank Jr. and Bill Frazetta and daughters Holly Frazetta and Heidi Grabin.

The mediation resulted in Frazetta Sr. agreeing to drop a pending trademark infringement lawsuit against Frank Jr.

In a statement, family said “all the litigation surrounding his family and his art has been resolved. All of Frank’s children will now be working together as a team to promote his remarkable collection of images that has inspired people for decades.”

The agreement also is expected to make the criminal case go away. The Record was told by the family and its representatives that prosecutors said they would not pursue the criminal charges against Frank Jr. without the testimony of the senior Frazetta, and he is no longer willing to testify against his son.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for the story.]

Frazetta Sr. Lowers Boom on Jr.

After a preliminary hearing Frank Frazetta Jr. was bound over for trial in Monroe County Court on charges of burglary, criminal trespass and theft, reports the Pocono Record, though the date must still be set.

Frank Jr. was arrested by police in December after he allegedly broke into the family museum using a backhoe and removed about 90 paintings worth an estimated $20 million.

Frank Frazetta Sr., making his first public comments since his son was arrested, told the Record on March 26 that he never gave Frank Frazetta Jr. permission to take his paintings.

…Frank Sr. talked Tuesday from his home in Boca Grande, an island off the southwest coast of Florida. Despite claims to the contrary, he was lucid and feisty — just what you’d expect from an 82-year-old Italian grandfather from Brooklyn.

And Frank Sr. got personal.

“My son is an alien,” he said. “There’s no telling what he’ll do. He’s been like that for, I don’t know, how many years. We played baseball in the old days. He always chose the opposite side from me.”

Coincidentally, March 26 was the day Frank Jr.’s supporters held a candlelight vigil “to save Frank Frazetta Sr. and his artwork.”

The defense has been justifying Frank Jr.’s attempt to take the paintings with a letter supposedly dictated by Frank Sr. asking for help. It was witnessed by notary Adeline Bianco, who testified in a preliminary hearing that a little more than a week before the alleged burglary, the elder Frazetta, 82, told her he wanted Frank Jr. to protect his paintings by any means necessary. 

The letter, in somewhat fractured language, said in part, “I Frank Frazetta … of sound mind and body of this date hereby order nothing and not the 2 daughters or 2 sons who can sign take or assume none of my possessions either tangible or monetary. I will have a will and list what each is to have. Until then, I hereby put a end to them using me.”

[Via Andrew Porter and Joe Siclari.]

Frazetta Jr. Update

More details about Frank Frazetta Jr.’s arrest on arrest on December 9 by Pennsylvania state police have appeared in a local paper.

The Morning Call, which covers Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, ran this except from the arrest affidavit:

Alfonso Frazetta told police he began trying to get into the museum using hand tools, but then asked Frank Bush, 69, to use the backhoe, breaking the door off completely. Alfonso Frazetta moved 90 paintings from the museum into the back seats of his sport-utility vehicle and an attached trailer.

Another trooper called Frazetta Sr., who told the trooper his son did not have permission to be inside the museum or to remove the paintings. Geiger, Frazetta Sr.’s attorney, came to the scene and said there were 90 paintings insured for $20 million in the museum.

 Frazetta Jr.’s lawyer has made a statement, too:

Attorney T. Axel Jones, representing Alfonso Frazetta, said his client and siblings — a brother and two sisters — have had an ongoing squabble over their father’s estate, which began about five months ago when their mother died. They are doing an accounting of his estate, Jones said.

Alfonso Frazetta, also known as Frank Jr., had previously been the caretaker of the museum, a job that ended about five or six months ago, Jones said. He now runs an Internet business for his father, selling reproductions of his artwork, Jones said. The family also owns two businesses in East Stroudsburg, a costume shop and a golf store, he said.

 [Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story, via Mike Chomko.]

Frazetta Jr. Busted
for Stealing Dad’s Paintings

Frank Frazetta Jr. was arrested December 9 by state police for stealing 90 of Frazetta Sr.’s paintings worth $20 million. A backhoe was used to break through the door of a family-owned museum where the paintings were kept.

Frazetta Jr., the backhoe operator and a third accomplice were arrested after the  paintings were loaded on a trailer but before they could flee the scene reports the Pocono Record.

Frazetta Jr.’s bail has been set at $500,000. His wife, Lori Frazetta told a reporter that the incident resulted from family infighting that began after the death of Frank Sr.’s wife, Ellie.

A Publishers Weekly blogger points out:

While we are not privy to the family dynamics that created this sad episode, Ellie Frazetta, who managed the museum and most Frazetta Sr. business, passed away in the summer. It isn’t hard to draw a line between that event and evident sprawling family turmoil.

[Thanks to Moshe Feder and Taral for the story.]