Thomas Kincade and Oreos

In both commercial art and fine art, there are good works and bad works; good art and bad art; aesthetic triumphs and inaesthetic failures. This morning I found a fascinating article on the commercial/fine art of Thomas Kincade over at First Things. Joe Carter's post is a criticism, yes, but an interesting one and I recommend it to you. (Note how Joe manipulates when he compares these two paintings. I love it when writers do something to me, and here he does just that.)

Several questions come to mind. One involves how we poo-poo commercialized art. Advertising has its share of sins, but how often do we throw out its good art when we berate the industry in general? Another question is, How do we encourage commercial artists to refrain from selling out? What is required to maintain integrity as a creator of beauty and goodness while also selling, say, Oreos? (This, IMHO, is how: Limited Edition Strawberry Milkshake Oreos. Got milk?)

Listen to Joe's response to one of his readers (you can read the rest in the article's comment section): "My criticism is not that Kincade is a bad artist but that he is a very good painter who has decided to squander his God-given gifts in order to sell mass-market kitsch. The waste of his talent is what really irks me about him and his work. If he couldn’t produce anything better than it wouldn’t be nearly so bad."

I'm eager to hear what you think about all this. Check out the article and report back.


L.L. Barkat June 24, 2009 at 3:26 PM  

Gosh, I love the title of this post. :)

Glynn June 24, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

I'd read Joe Carter's article and have seen reports about it in several places. I wonder if the culprit here is Thomas Kincade or the rest of us who prefer the kitsch to the real.

Anonymous,  June 24, 2009 at 4:07 PM  

i think it is strange how people expect so much from art and from those that are called artists.

why the expectation, why the need for it to meet a certain feel or worthiness? why did it have to be just oil paintings, and now it is anything goes?
who makes the rules?
why do people care so much?

what is this connection with art that makes it so

then... there is that money thing, again.

Sam Van Eman June 24, 2009 at 5:08 PM  

Thanks, LL.

There's the rub, Glynn. Kincade is simply holding our hand into a utopian world. His success reminds us that we prefer kitsch that beckons us to better places, and as long as the real is "unavailable" we'll settle for the next best thing.

nAncY, good questions. We do expect quite a lot. I'm not sure we could always name how, but we (I think) have an innate sense of truth and beauty. Then we either call artists to speak them accurately (Kincade's critics) or we settle for kitsch because it's close enough (Kincade's fans).

Note: This assumes Kincade actually produces low art. I'm no judge of that.

Bradley J Moore June 24, 2009 at 5:54 PM  

Sam - interesting post - I don't know why those Kinkade works have always turned my stomach. It's art, but it's..not? I guess it depends on your taste and preference, (kitsch being perfectly accpetable, I guess), so who am I to say? (I recently bought a piece by Hessam. Maybe he turns the stomachs of someone else.

PS I just got the book. Also, I just discovered another book "Ignore Everybody and 39 other keys to creativity" by High Macleod. Check it out.

Sam Van Eman June 25, 2009 at 9:10 AM  

Brad, thanks for telling me about High's book. On his blog he has an excerpt of maybe ten chapters. Fun, practical stuff. I'll wait for the paperback.

Author: Bob Robinson June 26, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

It sure makes me think about what Kinkade is attempting to do, and why so many are buying his paintings. Perhaps its because we have a warped understanding of "heaven on earth," and understanding that makes heaven a different, secluded place where individuals find their bliss, protected from the evils of God's good creation.

Sam Van Eman June 26, 2009 at 5:00 PM  

Interesting thought, Bob. I see your quotation marks around "evil." This sort of picture excludes movies, cities, cars and plenty of other products resulting from our call to cultivate God's good creation.

Maybe if all of us lived in those secluded cottages, we'd paint pictures of movies and cities and cars and...

Red Letter Believers June 9, 2010 at 4:57 AM  

I think what bothers us is when an "artist" gets popular...then he/she has "sold out"

Karyn June 9, 2010 at 7:48 AM  

Wow! I really love the original paintings of Thomas Kincade! I have never been a fan of the painter of light ones because they seemed to overdone and fake. That article was really enlightening and thought provoking about how maintaining genuineness is better than selling out. Thanks for the reminder Sam.

Sam Van Eman June 9, 2010 at 8:18 AM  

RLB and Karyn, thanks for stopping by. I think selling out bothers us because it's a point at which one of two things happen. Either the artist finds a formula that works and locks into it. The formula may be genuinely his or hers but subsequently it becomes the only formula used at the expense of all other expressions of talent.

Or, the agents working with that artist (marketers especially) lock the artist into the formula that works, not allowing him or her to express talent in other ways. (These "other ways" may present too great a financial risk to everyone involved.)

Whether the artist settles with the formula or the marketers do, we don't like it.

Hmm. I wonder if this is why we often buy memoirs and biographies of pop culture "sell outs," and why we tune into scandals that involve them. It makes them three-dimensional again.

Sam Van Eman June 17, 2010 at 8:37 AM  

I just realized this morning - nearly a year late - that it's "Kinkade" with two k's.

Sorry, Thomas. Just consider how many misspellings I get for "Van Eman."

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