Saturday, April 7, 2012

'Is this your first Kinkade?'

Some things just blindside me. For example, an artist named Thomas Kinkade just died. This was apparently big news. And in one of the stories, I read a line that said it was estimated that a Kinkade painting was hanging in one of every 20 U.S. homes.

I'd never heard of the guy. 

So naturally, when a Susan Orlean profile of Kinkade from 2001 showed up in my Feedly, it became my lunchtime reading.

What a reward. Orlean's use of detail and dialogue creates a profile of Kinkade before you actually meet him in the story. And when you do meet him, she lets him characterize himself with long, interview-y quotes that might not work were they not set up so well. 

But the greatest parts, I think, are Orlean's descriptions. A gallery, she writes, is set up to make you feel like "you had entered Thomas Kinkade's world, where it is always a dusky autumn evening in a small but prosperous English town."

 Kinkade paintings, she writes, are difficult to tell apart "because their effect is so unvarying -- smooth and warm and romantic, not quite fantastical but not quite real, more of a wishful and inaccurate rendering of what the world looks like, as if painted by someone who hadn't been outside in a long time."

 Of Kinkade himself, she writes: "If you see his paintings before you meet him, you might expect him to be wispy and pixie-like, but he is as brawny and good-natured as the neighborhood butcher. He has the buoyant self-assurance of someone who started poor and obscure but has always been sure he would end up rich and famous."

Go read for yourself. It's time well-spent.