The Los Gatos, CA arts community was mourning the death of America's "Painter of Light" Friday with news that Thomas Kinkade had died.
"Thom," as he was dearly called by friends and fellow artists in Los Gatos, is being remembered for bringing art to mainstream America, regardless of income levels and socio-economic backgrounds.
"He had come to be an extremely affable man," said Los Gatos painter David Stonesifer, whose paintings grace local homes along with those of Kinkade's. "He was acting like a free spirit ... it was sort of like the kind of thing you wish would have happened to him years ago to have it reflected in his paintings."
Stonesifer said he was "deeply saddened with the news."
Millions of his "Kinkade paintings" adorn walls throughout family rooms across the country—his paintings trying to capture small-town Americana.
Kinkade, 54, attended UC Berkeley and worked as an artist in the film industry. He began publishing his images so that he could share his passion for beauty and art.
A quarter of a century later, Kinkade had painted more than 1,000 masterworks covering topics that include cabin and nature scenes, beautiful gardens, classic cottages, sports, inspirational content, lighthouses and powerful seascapes, impressionists, and classic Americana, his website said.
"Hidden in his paintings are messages that speak to Thom's inspiration for each image. Whether including the initials of family members, hiding Disney characters, or imbedding hearts for special occasions and loved ones, each image contain treasures that add to their mystique."
Sources, who declined to be identified, said Kinkade was estranged from his wife Nanette and had changed his lifestyle considerably in the last three years.
They also said Kinkade was no longer living at his Ridgecrest Avenue home in Monte Sereno and had grown a beard, sported a hat and wore more casual clothing.
Longtime friend Curtis Wright, former mayor of Monte Sereno, expressed his condolences and said Kinkade used to say he didn't make art, but heirlooms for those who bought his works.
"He was a young guy and a great person. I really liked him," Wright said, adding that he knew his wife and family well and remembered Kinkade donated large sums of money to his children's schools and supported the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Plein Air art show held annually in Los Gatos.
"He really tried to do a lot of stuff for the community and I really admire him for that," Wright said. "He had some frictions between being the cool artist and being a father and husband, but when you look back on it, he did amazing things for the community and the world."
Similarly, Monte Sereno Councilwoman Lana Malloy said she was shocked with the news. "I didn't know him personally, but I have seen in at council meetings. It's great loss to Monte Sereno because anyone who is well known passing away is tragic and he was such a famous painter," Malloy said.
Editor's note: See also:
"Thomas Kinkade Dies Suddenly at 54" (Associated Press)
"Thomas Kinkade, 'Painter of Light,' dies at 53" (The Daily News of New York)
"Thomas Kinkade dies at 54; artist was called the 'Painter of Light'" (Los Angeles Times)
"Landscapes by the Carload: Art or Kitsch?" (New York Times article, Nov. 7, 1999)
This article originally was published by Los Gatos Patch. On Darien Patch, this article was initially published at 5:39 a.m. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page.