Behind the Artist: Thomas Kinkade

 In Art & Gallery News, Articles, Artists & Special Collections, Thomas Kinkade

Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light

Thomas Kinkade

Few contemporary artists are as ubiquitous as Thomas Kinkade, whose luminous imagery adorns more than 10 million homes worldwide.

Born in Sacramento County, California on January 19, 1958, Kinkade knew from an early age that he would become an artist. He grew up in the town of Placerville, where at the age of 12 artist Glenn Wessels began mentoring Kinkade.

Glenn Wessels Thomas Kinkade Park West Gallery

A teenage Thomas Kinkade with his mentor, Glenn Wessels (Photo courtesy of Art Brand)

Kinkade attended the University of California at Berkeley in 1976 and later transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Despite not graduating from either school, Kinkade still found work in the art industry—he co-authored a book about drawing and worked as a scenic background artist for a movie studio.

Inspired by the skills he developed as a background artist, Kinkade began exploring the use of light in his own artwork. This led to the development of the signature Kinkade style collectors have come to love: Idyllic depictions of cottages, gardens, streetscapes, and churches infused with whimsical pastels and an ethereal sense of light.

“Mountain Majesty (Large)” (1998), Thomas Kinkade

Kinkade went on to paint more than 1,000 works of art during his lifetime and industriously created limited editions of his paintings. He has been featured in more than 120 books, writing and publishing several of his own.

Kinkade died unexpectedly at the age of 54 in 2012 and continues to be admired around the world.


Becoming the Painter of Light

In the 1980s, Kinkade gave himself the moniker “Painter of Light,” symbolizing not only his technical understanding of light, but also a set of spiritual motifs in his work.

Thomas Kinkade young Park West Gallery

A younger Thomas Kinkade in his office (Photo courtesy of Art Brand)

For example, the light emerging from his homes represents family values, while the overall presence of light in his paintings symbolizes God’s guiding influence. Even the light posts found in his paintings represent the need for all of us to “share the light” and to be welcoming to friends and loved ones.

Forest Chapel Thomas Kinkade

“Forest Chapel” (1998), Thomas Kinkade

The “Painter of Light” nickname (which Kinkade trademarked) went beyond his paintings. In 1980, Kinkade became a born-again Christian and attributed God as a source of inspiration for his work. He proclaimed that his goal as a self-described “warrior for light” was to bring light to all people, regardless of their faith or creed.

Ironically, Kinkade would begin his famous “light” paintings by coating canvases with layers of dark glaze. Kinkade’s rationale was that “because of the darkness, the light I add has more impact.”


Honoring His Family

Thomas Kinkade Park West Gallery

Thomas and Nanette Kinkade with their four daughters (Photo courtesy of Art Brand)

Kinkade emphasized the simple pleasures of life in his artwork, which included devotion to his family. The artist often hid the letter ‘N’ in his paintings in honor of his wife, Nanette, as well as the number 5282 as a tribute to their wedding date of May 2, 1982.

For instance, examine his painting “Carmel Sunset on Ocean Avenue.” If one looks closely on the left side of the painting, a heart with the letter ‘N’ is carved into the wood just above the bell.

Thomas Kinkade Nanette

Detail from “Carmel Sunset on Ocean Avenue” (1999)

Kinkade’s penchant for weaving his love for his family into his art extended to his children. Following the birth of each of his four daughters, Kinkade created a painting bearing that daughter’s name. These paintings are “Evening at Merritt’s Cottage,” “Chandler’s Cottage,” “Winsor Manor,” and “Everett’s Cottage.”


Winning Awards and Commissions Around the World

Due to his immense success, Kinkade became a popular artist who was sought after for many important commissions. Kinkade created artwork for Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Daytona 500, and Yankee Stadium’s farewell 85th season, among many others.

The artist also painted the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. twice. The first time was in 2000 and the second in 2004 for the annual Pageant of Peace.

The National Association of Limited Edition Dealers recognized Kinkade’s limited edition work with numerous awards over the years. In 2004, the association awarded Kinkade as the “Most Award Winning Artist in the Past 25 Years.”

Thomas Kinkade Park West Gallery

Thomas Kinkade at a gallery event (Photo courtesy of Art Brand)

Two years prior, the California Tourism Hall of Fame inducted Kinkade for his efforts to highlight the beauty of his home state.

Despite his success, Kinkade’s mission was simple: He wanted to make people happy. To this end, Kinkade succeeded. His artwork is still enjoyed and collected to this day for its aesthetic beauty and hopeful message.

For information on how to collect the art of Thomas Kinkade, contact our gallery consultants at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 or

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Showing 26 comments
  • David Bussink

    I have many of KinKades works of ART. Including the Disneylnad 50th, Mountain Mejestic, Peter Pan, the lion king and many more Thank you TK

  • Vi Rieger

    Thomas is definitely one of my favorite artists.

  • Jo Ann Murphy

    Thank you, Thomas, for your incredible gift. I have prints, books and jewelry. Love your work!

  • Gladys Marie

    Thom should be here still; so much more to give.

  • Frank Yorita

    Thomas Kinkade is my favorite artist. I have collected many of his pieces of art and have even gifted a few to my daughters. He is no longer with us in body but his spirit will live forever in the beauty of his artwork.

  • James Merideth

    My first art purchase was a TK. Since then I have acquired three additional pieces. TK is definitely my favorite painter/artist.

  • Ian Hawkins

    Thomas Kinkade stayed at my small hotel in the Cotswolds about three months before his tragic death. He was a fascinating guy to talk with and was inspiring to watch him sketch Cotswold cottages. Such a loss to the art world, but he is at peace.

    • Janelle Singh Ramdial

      Please tell me the name and location of your hotel Ian. I plan to visit there and wouldn’t mind staying there and chatting some

  • Rick regan

    Thomas has become one of my favorite i spend a lot of time just looking in to the beautiful works of art we have 4 of his works. thank you park west for bringing my wife and i in to the art world

  • Colleen

    I have several of Thomas’ art pieces and they are all beautiful

  • Stephanie Guy

    I have 2 of Thomas Kinkades work of art and I will continue to seek them out to purchase. What a wonderful testimony to his faith and his family in his work. I always look forward to going on cruises to the art auctions. My next cruise is in May and I will seek out the Park Gallery art auction to purchase more of Mr. Kinkades precious art.

  • Helen Pritchett

    Love all his paintings!

  • Chere

    I have a few of his paintings and he is by far my favorite artist.

  • Meredith Jordan

    I have many Thomas Kinkade paintings. Most of them have been master highlighted and signed. Is your gallery interested in purchases?

  • Joseph Dunbar

    I met Mr Kinkade while at a convention in Seattle, Wa. Got his autograph and have been an amazing admirer for years. Truly he is missed and was shocked when I heard the news he had passed. One of those “never forget where you were” moments. He’s truly an inspiration for my artwork today

  • Carole

    I love Thomas Kinkades beautiful paintings, and he was such a blessing to America, and left us way too soon! 🙁

  • Gary W. Smoak Sr.

    I have a couple of his paintings that my wife and I purchased in his Gatlinburg, Tennessee gallery many years ago.There both signed peices. One is if Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC and the other is of the American Flag which we enjoy very much. He was one of my favorites.

  • Gary W. Smoak Sr.

    Loved his work.

  • John Earl

    My first purchase remains very special. Although only an AP, it was Master Highlighted, and is Signed on the verso by Thom, Nanette, Eve, and Windsor Kinkade. Thom and Windsor each did a sketch. Although I’ve moved more towards the RE and SP’s, all properly lighted, I am inspired by every stroke of Mr. Kinkade’s brush.

  • Harold C Smith

    Worked for his company for 11 years as a masterhightler and consider it the best time of my life.

  • Tom

    Where can we find out what our kincade paintings are worth for insurance ?

  • Katherine Turner

    I have gone on several cruises and one of my favorite events is attending the art shows where Thomas Kinkade’s painting are always a highlight of the show.

  • Brent Hungate

    My wife and I just purchased 12 Thomas Kinkade pieces this past week from Parkwest. They will be great a addition to our home.

  • Brent Hungate

    My wife and I purchased 12 Thomas Kinkade pieces this past week while on the Norwegian Joy. They will be a great addition to our home.

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Destino 81 Park West Gallery"Norwegian Norway" (2001), James Flood