This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 18,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Artist Thomas Kinkade, known as the 'Painter of Light', has died. If you have followed my writing over the years, you know that I've been critical of Kinkade for a number reasons. That said, I won't deny (for better or worse) the impact his art has had on the public in general. After all, it has been estimated that Thomas Kinkade prints can be found in 1 out of 20 homes in the United States. Like him or not, Kinkade established a brand that many people within the United States embraced -- he accomplished something that few artists have been able to do... and he did it without the support of high profile NY art dealers, art critics and other professionals who, more often than not, can make or break the career of an artist. I, for one, respect that... even though I'm not a fan of his work.
The mainstream art world ridiculed Thomas Kinkade. IF any major art publication mentions his passing, it will likely be done with a 'bite' of sarcasm -- OR will be written in a way that outright mocks those who enjoyed his artwork. That said, Kinkade -- when alive -- took all the criticism in stride. He knew that he had a legion of fans, millions of dollars from his art (some estimate that he was making over $100 million from image merchandise per year), and was a household name. Point blank -- Kinkade was (most likely) more known -- at least by the overall public -- than all of the art writers criticizing him combined.
That kind of name recognition is rare. Again, Kinkade achieved that all while going against the grain of the mainstream art world. He did not follow the unwritten rules of success that dominate the high profile gallery world in general... he did not comply with the dictations of art world 'gatekeepers' -- or with the traditional routes of becoming famous within that 'world'. Again, I'm not a fan of his paintings -- but I respect the fact that he was able to become a household name while defying the 'unwritten rules' of those mainstream circles.
Think of it this way -- If you say Warhol... people know you are talking about Andy Warhol. If you say Kinkade... people know you are talking about Thomas Kinkade. Two very different artists... two very different directions in art... yet both artists are recognized by your average citizen. Like it or not, Kinkade is one of the most recognized artists in the United States. Very few artists have reached that level of public recognition.
I know that some readers may scoff at what I'm about to say... but, independent artists (those not represented by an art gallery) -- OR, those who create artwork that the mainstream gallery world will never accept -- could probably learn a few things from Thomas Kinkade about art marketing. True, he was not always an upfront businessman according to some reports. In addition to that, his character (compared to the persona he cultivated for himself) had been called into question a number of times over the years. Those factors aside, he was able to establish a persona that helped his artwork to be sold -- and he explored alternative exhibit spaces when the big art galleries ignored him. He refused to be ignored. He made opportunities for himself. In that sense, Kinkade was brilliant at marketing his art.
Take care, Stay true,