Artist Thomas Kinkade's Words of Light
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
- Note: Thomas Kinkade got his start as an artist painting backgrounds for movie sets and went on to be one of the most successful commercial artists in American history. With his unexpected death, we look back on our conversation with him at the height of his popularity.
Craig von Buseck: What made you decide to write
these two new books, The Many Loves of Marriage, and Cape
Thomas Kinkade: I love audio books, and when I paint I'm
always listening to a book. I find that my imagination really
takes flight in the painting process when I'm listening to audio
books. Literature is the stringing together of pictures in words.
Norman Rockwell, in his heyday, hired an individual who sat and
read him books. This was before the advent of audio books. But
artists typically have always loved story telling, and I certainly
Craig von Buseck: Tell us about the story of your novel, Cape Light.
Thomas Kinkade: This is really the story of a community,
but more than that it is the story of community living. It's the
story of people's lives who intertwine and then unwind. The real
story is the story of an ideal world -- harmony that can be achieved
when a community becomes a source of support and a place of peace
for an individual. There's a minister who is the center of the
village. There is a Christian theme to it, but it's not exclusively
My paintings are similar. Though I personally have a strong Christian
faith, I don't paint biblical scenes -- or I haven't up to this
time. At some point I may. I view my paintings as messengers
of light that can go into the home that are attractive and
A painting has a lot of advantages over other forms
of communication. Unlike a movie, you don't have to put it into
a machine and turn it on. It's just there every day. It's not
limited by the element of time. It's a constant part of the home.
In a world that shouts at us, with moving pictures that shout,
and constantly grab for our attention, this is a still, quiet
It's like in a room full of shouting people, someone
whispers and you want to turn around and hear what to hear what
that person says. These paintings are quiet. I like to think the
stories in this book are not overwhelming, action-packed drama.
These are quiet stories of real people.
Craig von Buseck: There are many people who love your
paintings. How do the paintings relate to the story of the novel?
What's the connection?
Thomas Kinkade: The novel is a freestanding, creative
entity by design. Wouldn't it be disappointing for people who
have already projected themselves into a painting and told their
own stories to hear specific stories? And so I think what we try
to say is, this is just another creative extension of who Thomas
Kinkade is. It's not just like a strung-together illustration
of my paintings. We really took a broader approach, which is to
say, I'm a painter of core values -- faith, family, home, community,
the beauty of nature, and a simpler way of living.
I talk about those everywhere I go. I talk about family and home.
Interestingly, I grew up in a less-than-ideal home. An interviewer
from the Wall Street Journal recently asked me, "Isn't your whole
creative approach compensation? What you didn't have growing up,
you spent your whole life trying to achieve?" I think it's a great
psychological model. Walt Disney might be another example. I wouldn't
deny that in the deep part of motivation don't we all aspire to
create for ourselves what we might find comfortable, and comforting,
and beautiful, and enriching.
I grew up in a broken home. My Dad was out of the home when I
was five-years-old. I never knew him very well. If I were to define
success as a seven, eight, or nine-year-old, it would be that
I'm going to have kids and be with my kids. I don't want to be
a dad who leaves and is gone, and says, "Goodbye family, I'm going
to go chase women." I couldn't do that. Plus, I happened to have
married my dream girl, so that helps.
year I'm celebrating my twentieth anniversary, and thirty years
of our love. We met when I was thirteen and she was twelve. We
believe that we've made certain foundational choices that have
put us at odds with our mainstream culture. We don't surf the
Net -- if I need something of the Internet my assistants will
get it for me. I don't want to embrace a vicarious experience
like that, that would take me away from my family. We don't have
television in the home. We're a family of readers, because reading
is a group activity. Often I read to my kids. I intend to read
this book to them, because these are wholesome stories. When we
got married it was that ideology, or paradigm that we were operating
under where we just simply had those mutual values, and wanted
to live them out in our daily life.
I was a painter for backgrounds of films at that time, so my
values weren't extended into my paintings per se. I was painting
castles, and enchanted forests, and all kinds of weird stuff for
fantasy movies. I was painting fantasies, but they were someone
else's fantasies. As God really entered into my life, I began
to see that art could be a very compelling ministry.
has the advantage of not only being a silent messenger in the
home, but of being an imprinting value carrier. In other words,
a book you read, you remember some of the stories, maybe. Your
hope is that some core of the message might linger. But how long
does it linger? Until you read another book, and you forget about
the book you read last year, or ten years ago. The story does
imprint to some degree, but a painting is a visual imprint. I
believe there are two gateways to the human heart; the eyes and
the ears. What we smell and taste don't really change our lives.
But the eyes and the ears really imprint the heart, and of the
two the eye is really strong. That's why Jesus continually spoke
in visual pictures. He didn't just tell theoretical doctrine to
his followers, but painted pictures about farmers and harvest
and so-forth -- pictures in words. The goal is to paint a picture
of a better life, and that's really the goal of the book.
When I start a painting I'm aware that there's a vast audience
out there that will someday see this painting, and will find meaning
and comfort from it. The letters we get are astounding, to say
the least -- people whose lives have been changed in some dramatic
way; who have gotten hope in difficult times; those who suffer
from the loss of a loved one, and the painting gave them hope.
I got a letter from someone who told the story of a woman who,
on 9/11 was driving home in Philadelphia. As she's coming home
she's hearing on the radio about this terror attack, and she's
thinking, "Oh no, my husband and my oldest son were going to the
Trade Tower today for a business meeting." She got home and started
praying, but they never came home. In one fell swoop she lost
her husband and her oldest son. She was in absolute shock and
grief. Three days later she walked in to one of our galleries
and began telling this story to a staff person. The staff, as
a group, got together and purchased this painting that she had
seen. She was standing in front of one of the paintings with tears
saying, "That's kind of a glimpse of heaven. That's where my loved
ones are." The staff saw her a month later and she said, "That
painting is the only thing that's getting me through. I can
step into that painting and feel like I'm with my husband and
with my son."
We have people who share stories like this by the hundred. Another
woman came to me at an event and told me that she had adopted eight
children, but these were all handicapped children. They were not
only handicapped; these were mentally handicapped children. She
had two autistic children, three children with Down's Syndrome,
and one that was a brain stem baby -- a child that doesn't really
have any brain function, they're just sort of alive, but they
can't think properly. This woman was like an angel on earth. She
collects my work, and she said, "My little six-year-old boy, who
is autistic, has never spoken a word." He was sitting on her lap
and watching her work on the computer and one of my screen savers
came up, which happened to have a scene of a boat. Out of the
blue this little six-year-old turned to his mother and said, "boat."
It was the first word he had ever spoken. This woman said, "Can
you imagine the power that is resident in that work of art, not
because of you, but God used it in this child."
In Scripture, in the book of Acts, we're told that the Apostle
Paul prayed for little bits of cloth. They brought cloths to him
that he might pray a blessing for people in the district, and
they were carried throughout the district. People were healed
and miraculous events happened in their lives. Well, it wasn't
the bit of cloth that had anything to do with it. It wasn't the
Apostle Paul that had anything to do with it. He wasn't a miracle
worker. It was the prayer of faith, and this was a contact point
for faith. So we believe that these books and these paintings
are just like a little bit of cloth. We send these out as messengers
like the apostle did, that might, in some way, touch a life that
we will never hear the stories of what happens as a result of
Order your copy of The
Many Loves of Marriage
Order your copy of Cape Light
More from Craig von Buseck on CBN.com
von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com. Send
him an e-mail with your comments.
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