Thom (on left) and his brother Pat, 1967

Thomas Kinkade was born in Sacramento, California on January 19th, 1958. He was raised in nearby Placerville, a small town in the former gold fields of the Sierra foothills. At the tender age of five, little Thomas Kinkade and his two siblings were left fatherless after their parent’s divorce. They were impoverished and lived in the most run-down house on the street. His mother, Marianne, tried to make ends meet on her modest secretary’s wage, but being a single working mom was a tough job. Often the three children came home to a dark empty house. Kinkade recalls, “There wasn’t much stability.” Despite the tough times, Thom’s family encouraged his interest in art. Kinkade dreamt of the future and that someday, he would make his living as a painter and would have enough money to build a nice family home and not worry about paying the bills.


Thom and his Mentor,Glenn Wessels

In Placerville, he was a boy with crayons, a kid who could draw. He was also the local newspaper delivery boy, an avid swimmer and loyal friend. As a child he constantly read biographies of artists, including those of painters and illustrators like Norman Rockwell, Maxwell Parrish and Howard Pyle. At age 11, he had his first “apprenticeship.” Charles Bell, a local painter, instructed him in basic techniques. It was that year that he sold his first painting for $7.50. The woman who bought it remembered thinking at the time, I’d better hold onto this picture. In high school, Kinkade came face to face with twentieth-century modernism in the person of Glenn Wessels, a former professor in the art department at the University of California. Wessels encouraged Kinkade both to tie his art more directly to emotion (rather than observation alone) and to experiment with highly personal forms of expression. He also influenced Kinkade’s decision to attend the University of California at Berkley, where he enrolled in studio art and art history classes with a vision of himself as a counterculture nonconformist who would use his art to change and challenge convention. But Berkley in the 1970’s gave Thom a culture shock of his own. He discovered he was indeed a nonconformist in his dislike of their system of art education. “My professors would say art should be all about you,” Kinkade recalls. “That’s a very self centered approach.” After two years of frustration, Thom decided it was time to move on and he transferred to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. The fierce competition with other students pushed him to an intensive development of techniques for creating effects of light and mood. His work at the Art Center helped him to get hired to paint backgrounds-700 of them-for Disney’s Hollywood animation studios on the animated film Fire and Ice. After one year he decided to move on.

In 1982, Thom and his high school sweetheart, Nanette, were married in a small church in Placerville. The church became the subject of his painting “Blossom Hill Church.” The young couple had moved back to their hometown and decided to go into business on their own. They began making limited edition prints of Thom’s work out of their garage. Their first piece was Dawson, a beautiful tribute to early Alaska. Nanette helped to take orders and then pack and ship the prints from their garage. Immediately, they were a success and Dawson was a complete sellout. Light post publishing was born. The corporate philosophy of Light post remains the creation of art that will communicate with people and whose message “uplifts people.” With help from investors he opened 10 galleries across the country to display and sell his artwork. By early 1998 he had more than 100, and has since tripled. The little boy with big dreams had grown to become the World’s Most Collected Artist.

Now, Kinkade is living his dream, and is still in awe of his success and what God is doing in his life. I am not a special man, he says, but God has blessed me.


Thom in his Studio, 2003


• The Letter “N” is hidden in his paintings in honor of his wife, Nanette. The number of “N’s” is indicated below the original oil signature in the lower right or left hand corner of the painting.

• Below Thom’s signature is a bible reference, John 3:16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (chapter 3, verse 16 of the Gospel of John) is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible. It has also been called the “Gospel in a nutshell” because it is considered a summary of some of the most central doctrines of traditional Christianity:

• Next to John 3:16 is a fish (ichthus-a Christian symbol).

• Most of Thom’s studio works contain a Bird/Eagle symbolizing peace and freedom.

• The “light” in the paintings “represents God’s presence and influences”. It also “illuminates and guides.”

• Boat – Adventure

• Bridges – Cross over from dark to light.

• Dogwoods – There is a story that has been passed down for generation regarding this dogwood. Supposedly during Jesus’ time, the dogwood was a strong, thick, and straight tree. When Jesus was crucified on this tree, God cursed it into a weak and crooked tree so that no man could ever be crucified on it. When the tree blossoms, there are five petals on the flower symbolizing the five piercing. The center of the flower is a red representing the blood of Jesus. Pink dogwood represents passion, white for purity.

• Gates – Many passages we face in our lives everyday and the many discoveries we have yet to make. It also can mean that heaven is open to all that is faithful. They are open to welcoming us in to a house or even heaven.

• Lamp post/light post – Reminds us to share the light or to light our way. Also, welcoming friends and loved ones.

• Lights on in the houses – Family values. As you can read in Thom’s bio, he was raised in a single family home and often came home to a dark empty house. So a brightly light home where someone is always there waiting for you is his ideal.

• Smoke of a chimney – Warmth of home.

• Pathways, Trails & Tracks – Path of life. Also the paths are lit so God can show us the way.

• Stairways – Struggles through life.

• Windmills – Biblical symbol for the untamed human spirit.

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