Thomas Kinkade on Making Stuff Suck

This is terrifying… yet lucrative! According to a memo captured by agents of Vanity Fair, it seems Thomas Kinkade and I share similar ideas with respect to capturing the interest of viewers. Let us examine this awful coincidence more closely!

11) Hidden spaces. My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc. The more we can feature these devices to lead the eye into mysterious spaces, the better.

Here, Mr. Kinkade clumsily alludes to a technique employed by artists since art began: create a setting, but leave room for the viewer’s imagination. In opening avenues leading to unknown and unseen places, the artist encourages viewers to imagine what might be around that corner, down that pathway, or through that open gate in the presented context.

12) Surprise details. Suggest a few “inside references” that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings — for example, a “teddy bear mascot” for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I’m aware of normally have hidden “inside references”. In the realm of fine art we refer to this as “second reading, third reading, etc.” A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study.

Is Mr. Kinkade speaking of parasignals? I’ve never run across the terminology he employs (“second reading, third reading, etc.”) but I don’t read a lot of art criticism. In any case, parasignals are intended to appeal to the viewer’s innate curiosity about the messages conveyed in a given work of art. I would argue this technique is only effective if viewers are attracted to the surface message or aesthetic appearance of the work. Someone who despises the visual appearance of your work is disinclined to decode parasignals included within it.

There’s surely more to discuss from this memo, but I’ll leave it there for now. Thanks to for highlighting the article.


3 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. Thomas Kinkade has blanded himself to a millionaire (oh crap, just read more of the article – he’s a freaking BILLIONAIRE? I am doing something wrong in my life), I guess. For a while, there was a whole freaking boutique devoted to his paintings in my town. It went out of business as soon as their lease was up, really, how many people want to buy poster art of ‘fine art’ paintings made to look like poster art in the first place.

    And speaking of poster art, I thought he was just doing the art on some schmalzy christmas movie, until I started reading the article and learned to my horror it’s a schmalzy christmas movie based on fine art that looks like poster art – an idea enhanced by the fact it’s a movie poster to be sure, but it looks so natural there, unlike his art in any other settings.

    He’s very technically accurate, using painting techniques handed down over hundreds of years, but just so freaking boring. It’s like this flavor of “frozen yogurt” they used to have at TCBY (I actually think they just had soft serve ice cream in buckets, yuck!) – it was all these crazy-ass mouth staining colors, really eye catching and wild, and I was like “wow that looks like a crazy ass flavor, I want to try it.” And it was cream flavored. The color was just a trick to pull you in and waste your money. I threw it out after two licks.

    Now that I’ve realized he’s a billionaire, I want to go cry myself back to sleep instead of going to school, which is never going to make me a billionaire.

    Oh by the way, thanks for all the (totally awesome) pictures of cats (that I’m jealous I’m not able to draw). It’s my anti-Kinkade.

  2. Oh god, sorry to spam, but this just caught my eye and almost made breakfast re-appear:

    “After painting for nearly 40 years, I still wake up every morning daydreaming about new ways to make paintings.”

    O rly? Then WHY DO ALL YOUR PAINTINGS LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME?!?!? I think I need to join some Kinkade group hate-therapy.

  3. ratchetcat,

    I’m with you on the assessment of his work — technically accurate but incredibly bland. I don’t see the appeal, but perhaps it’s simply that he’s employing a lot of marketing muscle, the paintings don’t look awful, and people feel comfortable with the content and consistent style of his work.

    The same effect drives people to eat at the “restaurant” with golden arches vs. a good local place. Bland is safe. Bland sells.