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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion - July 2019 - Thomas Kincade - Kitsch or Classic?

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minniev
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Monthly Masters' Discussion - July 2019 - Thomas Kincade - Kitsch or Classic?

Post by minniev » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:01 pm

Introduction

Those of you who’ve followed the Masters posts from the beginning knew I’d get to Thomas Kincade one of these days. His work is too well known to ignore. Whether you find his idealized scenes inspiring and heartwarming or kitschy and laughable, you know he is “iconic” in the literal sense: he has become iconic by his sheer popularity, sustained over time. He has produced a massive body of work comprised mostly of idealized, nostalgic scenes meant to tug on the heartstrings of the viewer. HIs biggest fan base is the baby boomer generation (the generation to which I and most of you belong), who tend to find triggers to memories in his paintings.

In my study of Kincade, I came across questions about how to photoshop images to look like his paintings, and conversations about who might be the Thomas Kincade of photography (Spoiler: most seem to think it’s Peter Lik.) So I hope in reviewing this offering you’ll consider Kincade’s possible influence on landscape photography and offer your own thoughts. You may find especially interesting the pointers Kincade himself offered to videographers attempting to translate his painting style to the camera, because most of it pertains to still photography too.

The item I’ve selected for you to critique is “The End of A Perfect Day”. I chose it because it is neither the most or least sugary sweet of his images, and it features a scene similar to some that we may have photographed: a rustic cottage alongside a mountain lake amid blazing fall foliage. Please review the links below for more detailed information about the man, his rather conflicted life and death, and respond to whichever of the following prompts you find interesting.

Questions to Consider
1. What do you think of the painting? Composition? Subject matter? Lighting? Color? Level of detail? Mood? Would you want this on your wall? Why or why not?
2. What is your opinion of Kincade’s body of work? Classic or kitsch? Why?
3. Do you see any indication of influence of the Kincade style on modern landscape photography?
4. Some critics that cross the boundaries of painting and photography have ventured that HDR is the Thomas Kincade approach to photography. What are your thoughts on that “accusation”?
5. Any of us would probably have screeched to a stop if we passed such a scene as this on our travels, intent to capture it. Have you run across similar scenes? Share one if you will, and tell us about your experience and your editing. Then tell us if the Kincade approach might have influenced your choices. (Extra points if you use Kincade's suggestions to craft your own Kincade-ish image).

Links for Study
https://thomaskinkade.com/?gclid=CjwKCA ... Q0QAvD_BwE
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kinkade
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesig ... th-painter
http://sfaq.us/2015/03/on-the-despised- ... s-kinkade/
https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-edi ... rica-loved
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-drunk ... te-painter
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/11 ... stuff-suck
https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/cultur ... itics.html
Attachments
Thomas-Kinkade-Signed-and-Numbered-Litho-Print-The-End-of-the-Perfect-Day-III-262668189602-2.jpg
fair use https://thomaskinkade.com/
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Karen
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Post by Karen » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:43 pm

Thanks, miniev, for this tour guide into the art of Kincade. My very first split-second reaction to his painting was, “oh, sweet.” I had no other interest. But because you provided links and a reason to explore, I did. I began to see a mystery unfold as I read through the linked content. When I returned to the painting, the mystery became evident, to me. Awesome leading lines, skilled visual accents, and the place is all perfect, peaceful, happy and safe. Except his life wasn’t. And here’s the mystery: all the leading lines led to a small far-away misty bluish patch of fog ill-defined. Kincade accomplished all 16 artistic tactics he set out to paint—kudos for that! Would I buy the artwork? No. I’ve moved beyond those searches for perfect places where reality is made small and hidden. Would I aspire to achieve the power of those leading lines, visual accents and mood color? Absolutely.

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Post by minniev » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:43 pm

Karen wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:43 pm
Thanks, miniev, for this tour guide into the art of Kincade. My very first split-second reaction to his painting was, “oh, sweet.” I had no other interest. But because you provided links and a reason to explore, I did. I began to see a mystery unfold as I read through the linked content. When I returned to the painting, the mystery became evident, to me. Awesome leading lines, skilled visual accents, and the place is all perfect, peaceful, happy and safe. Except his life wasn’t. And here’s the mystery: all the leading lines led to a small far-away misty bluish patch of fog ill-defined. Kincade accomplished all 16 artistic tactics he set out to paint—kudos for that! Would I buy the artwork? No. I’ve moved beyond those searches for perfect places where reality is made small and hidden. Would I aspire to achieve the power of those leading lines, visual accents and mood color? Absolutely.
Thanks for jumping into the Masters thread, Karen! I found the contradictions in his life fascinating. Made me wonder if he was painting these peaceful scenes because he needed his own peace. That faraway patch of fog works as a metaphor in several ways.

Agree with you about not choosing it for my wall, but if I rounded the corner and spotted that cabin with that red canoe, I'd sure stop and grab a shot.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Duck » Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:56 pm

One of my earliest memories of Thomas Kinkade's art was from my grandmother's house. She was an avid jigsaw puzzle aficionado and I clearly recall helping her complete a puzzle that featured one of his iconic cottage paintings. While I never really paid much attention to his work at that time of my life, I also remember seeing his work all over the place, mostly on the shelves of the Hallmark stores that were everywhere when I was a kid. From puzzles to calendars and ceramic recreations, they all had that signature Kinkade look.

Image
It wasn't until my later teens, as I began taking my art studies more seriously, that I started looking at his work in a more purposeful manner. While I thought his paintings were 'pretty' I never gave them a second thought, instead turning my attention to that subject matter that caught my adolescent attention more; comic book superheroes. As my interest in art matured and I began experimenting with various mediums I began taking a closer look at contemporary painters. While Kinkade's work had a vast market appeal and could be found everywhere, the artist himself was not a prominent figure. As a matter of fact, he was grossly overshadowed by a more significant figure in my early training, Bob Ross (who also overshadowed even his own mentor, William Alexander).

While one can argue that both artists were prolific in the number of paintings they generated, there is no argument that Kinkade's work had a more sophisticated and technical aspect than Ross' looser, "anyone can paint" approach. Then again, each was targeting a different segment of the market. Kinkade gained commercial appeal for the "sentimental and nostalgic" themes he painted while Ross appealed to the "artist within" by creating a systematic approach to painting landscapes. Kinkade licensed his images and Ross licensed painting products. As a young artist consuming anything I could get my hands on in the late seventies and early eighties, Ross' televised half hour lessons won my heart. (Disclosure; I still enjoy watching his show, specially now that they are available on youTube.)

While Bob Ross ended up capturing my artistic interest, I placed Kinkade's work on a higher level than Ross. I'm sure it was partly due to the anonymity of Kinkade in comparison. That and the fact that I subconsciously categorized each artist's work differently, placing Kinkade on a higher level than Ross. Thinking back I recall placing Kinkade's quaint and nostalgic landscapes of idyllic scenes on the same par as Norman Rockwell's quaint and nostalgic images of idyllic Americana. In my young eyes they both shared similar sentiments but presented through different subjects. Rockwell painted people, Kinkade painted landscapes.

How is Kinkade's work reflected in today's world of photography, you may ask? Well, the old adage of, "copying is the highest form of flattery ," definitely rings true with Kinkade's work, even if you can't initially spot it.

Let's go back to Norman Rockwell for a minute. Over the past several decades there have been a number of high profile photographers who have been directly influenced by Rockwell's work, whether it's his painting style or the subject matter or the message it speaks. Most recently, Maggie Meiners' images have received some notoriety for their social statements. For me, it was Dave Hill's composites that I clearly saw a direct influence from Rockwell's style. There are plenty of others as well; Adrian Someling's whimsical portraits of kids being kids and Joel Grimes with his striking celebrity portraits.

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Norman Rockwell's Americana has been ingrained in us (specially those of us of a certain generation :D ) much like Kinkade's pastoral landscapes. So it only follows that his work would have influenced photographers similarly to how Rockwell influenced the above mentioned photographers. The first that comes to mind is French photographer and educator, Serge Ramelli. Likewise, Trey Ratcliff can potentially be placed into this category though he relies more on the look of highly stylized HDR than Ramelli does. I would say his cityscapes tend to have that 'paint the light' feel than any of his other works.

While the critics and pundits may dismiss Kinkade's work as sentimental kitsch there is no denying his commercial success and wide appeal. Specially for the large majority of the people who enjoyed collecting his work in all its forms. As a photographer with a background rooted in more traditional arts, I will always expound the benefits of studying painters as a way of finding inspiration, gaining a deeper understanding of art and perhaps being influenced, in some small way, by their works. Hopefully after learning to see Thomas Kinkade's work in a new light (pun intended) you will find his work influential in your own work.

Image of Notre Dame by Serge Ramelli
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Post by minniev » Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:02 pm

Duck wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:56 pm
One of my earliest memories of Thomas Kinkade's art...

Thanks for a thorough and thoughtful review. I enjoyed following the links you shared for other artists, too. I confess to having fallen under the spell of Bob Ross as a kid, too. I was the non-artist in an artistic family so I was always chasing any source I thought might make art more accessible to me.

I agree with you on Ramelli being a Kinkade-esque photographer, pushing light and color for effect. Jaewoon U is another that seems to have developed a way of editing that seems Kinkade-esque. https://500px.com/photo/235548135/anoth ... =jaewoon+u

After spending some time developing this thread, and especially after reading Kinkade’s photographic advice, I accept that I have been influenced by this soft, dreamy style more than I realized.
Last edited by Duck on Sun Jul 07, 2019 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Edited for content
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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