Thomas Kinkade and the Use of Scenes in Landscape Photography

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Capturing Scenes that Evoke Emotion in Landscape Photography

At first glance, it may seem that there is little in common between a fine art landscape photographer and the American painter, Thomas Kinkade. But as we explore Kinkade’s artwork, I think you will see we share certain aspects and similarities.

Thomas Kinkade – the Beginnings

Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012) was an American painter known for his paintings of idyllic scenes and landscapes. He wanted his paintings to convey hope or inspiration to those that viewed them.

Kinkade was born in California and grew up in the town of Placerville. He studied art history and took studio classes for two years at the University of California, Berkeley, before transferring to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

After graduation in 1980, he and a friend traveled across America riding boxcars from California to New York. While on this trip, they sketched the American towns and landscapes they saw along their journey. Once in New York, they signed a contract with Guptill Publications and two years later, published the book The Artist’s Guide to Sketching (1982).

Kinkade and his friend then began working for Ralph Bakshi Studios where they helped paint and create backgrounds for the 1983 animated film Fire and Ice. It was during this time that Kinkade began working with images that depicted light.

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How Do You Define Kinkade’s Art Style?

There are many kinds of artistic themes and styles that can be used to define artwork. Much of Kinkade’s paintings are reminiscent of a style called American Scene Painting. This style of painting emerged in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s.

The emphasis of American Scene Painting is on depicting everyday scenes of American life. This style was a response to modernist movements that were taking place in Europe. The focus was to create artwork that would convey a sense of nationalism and romanticism in depictions of everyday American life. They often emphasized American cities, small towns, and rural landscapes. A sense of returning to a simpler time of life is often conveyed in the paintings. These same themes are evident in Kinkade’s paintings.

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What Did Kinkade’s Work Emphasize?

Kinkade’s artwork often emphasized tranquil cottages, gardens, churches, bridges, and small-town streets. He used both glowing colors and pastel colors. His style emphasized light and atmosphere and worked to create a romantic feeling with a touch of nostalgia. His paintings created a sense of coziness. The viewer was often drawn into the scene – wanting to walk along the streets or enter the cottage for a cup of tea. It is interesting to note that most of the time there are no people in his paintings.

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Why Was Kinkade Called the Painter of Light?

His paintings showed scenes that were “bathed in light”. The light could be from the windows or streetlights. He gave himself the name - the “Painter of Light” – and even had the phrase trademarked. One could recognize a Kinkade painting from across the room as the imagery of light was so strong.

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Similarities Between Kinkade Paintings and Fine Art Photography

As noted at the beginning of this article, it may seem odd to say there is a relationship between these two very different art forms. But as you look at the end result for the art admirer, a pattern of similarities can be seen.

Fine art landscape photographers focus on creating artwork that encourages the viewer to stop and see the beauty in the world around us. Kinkade did the same. He painted straight from the heart and tried to put on canvas images that touched him deeply. As a fine art photographer, I share the same passion. I am always looking for scenes that inspire me with their beauty. I then try to capture that same feeling with my fine art photography prints.

Kinkade’s paintings were created with the goal of making the viewer slow down and take the time to appreciate the little details in life. The same with my fine art photography landscapes or close-up pictures of trees and flowers. I want the viewer to see the reflections in the lake; the field of flowers; to see the smaller details in the photograph—to stop and admire the picture in front of them.

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Kinkade’s paintings were often scenes where you found yourself wishing you could be there. Scenes where you could walk over the bridge or stand next to the lighthouse. His scenes were ones you could relate to – more so than a colorful but cold abstract painting. A fine art photograph should be able to create the same feeling – the same desire to walk down the forest path looking for the next adventure.

Another similarity I and other fine art photographers share with Thomas Kinkade is the love of light in the artwork. I get up before dawn and stay out after sunset to capture those magic moments of sunlight as it crosses the horizon. There is great joy in photographing a sunset that lights up the clouds with various shades of orange, yellow, and gold. Capturing the sun as it peaks out from behind rock arch formations is always a magical moment for me.

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The bottom line is

Thomas Kinkade created a style of painting that touched the hearts and minds of viewers by making the ordinary world beautiful. He encouraged a feeling of connection to nature. He used light and colors to draw you to the painting. He made you want to go there. Fine art landscape photography – even though the end result is not made using paints and oils – creates the same desire for the viewer. Both Kinkade and a fine art photographer are simply trying to share the beauty found in our world and to help us take the time to appreciate it.

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