Thomas Kinkade: He Deserves Some Respect

As I find myself writing this post I’m deeply saddened at not only the death of Thomas Kinkade but even more so at the lack of respect shown him on Facebook over the past couple of days.  Though I haven’t read any blogs about his death I’m sure there’s some pretty distasteful blog posts as well.

I worked for Thom’s company for 10 years.  I’m not here to comment on the work he became known for, I can’t say that I’m a fan of that particular genre. I believe Thom spent much of his time wanting the respect of other artists.  He spent a lot of time in art rich Carmel, he even owned a home there.  I know for a fact he visited many galleries in town to see what was new, perhaps even be inspired, he appreciated good art.  He even took the time to visit my gallery, New Masters, to see my work and comment on it to the people working there, he always had good things to say. I’m sure it anguished him to know that so many painters had little to no respect for him, for what ever reason. Many people disliked him for what they would consider the commercialization of his work, or maybe they just didn’t like the quiant little cottages with all the lights on or maybe, dare I say, envious of a man who got to paint for a living and make a very good living doing so.  Isn’t that what many of us want, to make a living doing what we love, doing what we dreamed of since we first had a crayon in our hands? Who gets to the draw the line and say when something has become “commercialized”?  I certainly don’t want to.  I feel very blessed doing what I get do for a living, am I commercial simply because I’m making a living selling my art? Are you?

I’ve had the chance to visit Thom’s studio in Monte Sereno, CA on a number of occasions. I can tell you, again, that the man appreciated good art.  He had an original Thomas Hill and Albert Bierstadt along with many others hanging in his studio.  It was like walking into a museum.  He appreciated good art.  He was also a very good painter.  Some of you might find that surprising, I did. Most of us are only familiar with what made him famous; cute cottages, lighthouses and idyllic scenes that seemed to capture a simpler time. I had the chance to see another side of Thom the artist, a side very few have seen.  There were paintings around his studio, his paintings, that were beautifully painted.  They were “painterly”.  His plein air work was very well done, big juicy stokes of paint layed down with confidence. Studio paintings that anyone would enjoy just sitting in front of for awhile. Thom was a very good painter and he simply wanted his fellow artists to see that.  But we were too blind. We couldn’t see past the cute cottages, past the corporation, past his sins, or maybe past our own envy, to see a man and an artist that simply wanted respect.

For years I was very careful about how people found out that I worked for Thomas Kinkade. What would they think of me? Would they think less of my work? For that I’m truly sorry. Thom supported my family for 10 years and many other families as well. I can’t say that all my years there were good, they weren’t.  The last 5 years I was miserable.  God used those years to get me to where I am today. I am very appreciative to Thom for giving me the chance to work for his company. To  visit his Studio. I even had the opportunity to paint with him at Point Lobos near Carmel many years ago.

I guess what I want to say the most is that Thom was a human being, a son, a father, a husband, a friend.  I’m not here to say he did any of those things perfectly, he didn’t.  He was simply another broken human being just like the rest of us, just like me. I’m very grateful that my mistakes, my sins aren’t written up in all the newspapers for all to read, aren’t you?  His were. Lets remember this before we write some snide or “funny” remark on Facebook or our blogs.  Let’s remember a human being lost his life. A mother lost a son, a wife lost her husband, a few kids lost their dad and many people people lost a friend. You may not like his art, you have that right but lets respect the life of another human being, let’s take the high road.

I hope and pray that Thom gets the respect he so longed for one day, he has mine.

Thom painting at Point Lobos

Painting with my friends Raffi Minasian, Andre Baylon and Thomas Kinkade.


19 thoughts on “Thomas Kinkade: He Deserves Some Respect

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Kevin. I, too, never understood the persecution Kinkade received. Twenty years ago I remember staring at “End Of A Perfect Day” and wanting so badly to be sitting outside that cabin, legs dangling off the pier as the sun set behind me. That series made me believe in something, made me want a kind of a peace, which I’m still searching for. Every time I see that painting/photo (and yes, I have trinkets here around the house of that work), I’m reminded to keep trying.

    That is art.

    Great tribute to not only Thomas Kinkade, but your own love for what you do.

    ~ Kymberlie

  2. Thank you, Kevin Courter!
    Well Done.

    I was hoping there would be some praise and acknowledgement for the man he was. I, too, as a young artist, fell into the trap of judging his art
    a bit harshly although I could have never painted so masterfully.
    … never did any of us put ourselves in his shoes and think of the value and need for acknowledgement from our peers. We just didn’t.
    Then one day I spoke with someone who knew him well, knew his sensitivity and that he was like the rest of us. I think for the most part there might have
    been a little Marketing Envy.
    Regardless of your level of skill or attainment as an artist, nothing means more than respect from our peers. Can we learn from this?

  3. Bless your heart. It warms mine to read a post filled with wisdom and compassion. It isn’t about whether you liked the man or not. We are so judgemental! You are a good man Kevin Courter. Thom was lucky to have a friend like you!

  4. Kevin, thank you for your compassionate words. I, like so many other artists, was judgemental about the art Thomas Kinkade was known for. Reading your words, I have to face the fact that I had no right to judge. There was much more to this man. I have learned a lot today. I am humbled.

  5. Thank you for saying this so eloquently. I too have been a little shocked by the flippant tone of many comments I’ve read. I hope you are right that the talent behind his commercial work will someday be respected by his peers. His public already has given it to him

  6. Kevin,

    That was beautifully written, moving, sincere and very respectful. I appreciated reading it very much.


  7. I admire you being a TRUE friend to Thomas Kevin and with the right perception that we artists have to coexist and have respect to each other no matter what – just like normal human beings.

  8. Well said, Kevin. Seeing others lambaste him has always made me feel sorry for him. I’ve chalked it up to envy, plain and simple. Not many of us could have lived under that microscope of public opinion and not be affected by it. Thank you for standing up for him.:)

  9. Thank you Kevin. Your sentiment is spot on. I am guilty of looking at Thomas Kinkaid’s work as schmaltz. Some of his stuff was crap and for mass consumption. So what? He obviously had an immense amount of talent. He obviously had an eye like very few. And he was a human being. Not perfect. None of us are. Many artists and art “aficionados” like to think of themselves as having tastes above that of the “middle class”. Fine. Learning about something and seeing something can bring you to a place where you are better able to discern good from so-so work. So what? Really. So what? Thomas Kinkaid was an artist. Was everything he produced great art or even art at all? No. So what?!….bless him on his next journey and may the people who love him that he left behind find peace and healing.

  10. Kevin, I confess that I have fallen into the mocking, etc. I know he had some problems with franchisees, etc, but who are we to judge? There have been countless artists reviled and ignored by the established art elite down through the ages, many having been lately recognized for the craftsmen they were. We illustrators can identify, for sure. Trends, and “schools” and fads come and go, true art is hard to pin down, emerging only with the passage of time. Bach was ignored for over a hundred years after his death, it was only the efforts of a couple people that brought him back to life…

  11. Regarding Thomas Kinkaiid’s death. I think all good art makes you look twice at the world while “other” art makes you look away or away from the world. He was very successful at tapping at our inner Disneyland and that is a talent in itself, no question. He delivered what we wanted just like TV shows and car commercials do and he did it well. May he rest in peace.

  12. Pingback: Donald Neff Weblog » Blog Archive » So, Which One is “Art”

  13. I just like what the old gospel preacher said, Don’t look down on a man unless yo goin’ a pick him up.” Well written article. Thank you.

  14. Any artist worth his or her salt could see that Thomas was a terrific painter. Most, however, wouldn’t be caught dead speaking well of him, for fear of being ostracized by his or her peers. Hats off to you, Kevin, for having the courage and humanity to take this stand. The fact is that YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT !! As a painter, myself, I wasn’t enamored with the sentimentality of his paintings. I never knew the man, but beyond the sappy pictures was a solid, talented painter. Well said, Kevin !

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