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.]