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Thomas Kinkade Styles

Thomas Kinkade’s Artistic Styles and Techniques

While much of Thomas Kinkade’s worldwide acclaim stemmed from his well-crafted use of luminism – A painting style that emphasizes a unique clarity of light – Kinkade was an adeptly skilled artist whose talents spanned many genres and artistic styles.  Like all great artists who were not content to create in the status quo, Thomas Kinkade garnered controversy along with critical acclaim.  He used symbols and uplifting imagery to communicate his point of view and veered away from many of the popular postmodern styles of art that denigrate the human experience.  By forging his own path and developing his own distinct styles and techniques, Thomas Kinkade has come to be recognized as a great American artist.


Early Works

Dawson - Limited Edition Art

Thom’s first published image:  Dawson, 1984

Early in his career, Thomas Kinkade partnered with fellow artist and friend, James Gurney, who shared Thom’s love of sketching. Together they illustrated and authored, The Artist’s Guide to Sketchinga book filled with numerous sketches and instructions on sketching techniques that demonstrated a skill level far beyond their years. Thom often used his finely detailed and remarkable sketches as a basis for paintings.

The Hudson River and Rocky Mountain Schools of painting heavily influenced Thomas Kinkade’s early work. His paintings during this period often feature vast, epic landscapes and open vistas where he played with the use of shadows and contrast, but did not yet reveal an intense source or use of light. These paintings were created with a romantic palette and grandeur, and were defined by tighter brush strokes and detail.


Old Watchmaker, Circa 1980

Classic example of Thom’s Portraiture: Old Watchmaker, Circa 1980

Figures and Portraits

 Thomas Kinkade sketched and painted innumerable portraits throughout his artistic career.

          “What make one portrait or figure drawing stand out from another is a feeling of character. That’s something you find in abundance when you’re on-the-spot – people of all shapes and sizes, no two alike…”

-Thomas Kinkade on sketching people from The Artist’s Guide to Sketching

Robert Girrard Winter's Dusk

Inspired by Renoir and Monet, Thom painted this Robert Girrard piece, Winter’s Dusk, in 1987.


Robert Girrard

In his earlier years, Thomas Kinkade experimented under the brush name Robert Girrard in order to have absolute artistic freedom. During his experimentation period, he employed the styles and techniques of the French Impressionist movement – both subject matter and brushstroke. This experimentation and freedom resulted in numerous breakthroughs and advances in Kinkade’s artistic techniques and talents.


Example of an award-winning Thomas Kinkade Chiaroscuro: Moonlit Sleigh Ride, 1992

Example of an award-winning Thomas Kinkade luminism: Moonlit Sleigh Ride, 1992


Over the years, Thomas Kinkade’s painting style evolved and became quite distinct and representative. His use and play with Luminism became more defined. And as he started to incorporate multiple sources of light, he would become known as the Painter of Light™.

His subject matter would often utilize sources of light to suggest the presence of people but without the actual figures present in the painting. This technique diffused the focus from a defined human figure and allowed those who viewed his work to place themselves in the tableau.

The artist was often quoted as saying that his art was meant to uplift and inspire. With these goals as his mission, the Thomas Kinkade style and use of light for which he is most known, is often described as idyllic, serene and uplifting.


Thomas Kinkade Yawkey Way

Example of Thom’s Watercolor: Yawkey Way, 2008


Even with such wide-ranging variables as brush techniques and media substrate – watercolors were also an endeavor that Thomas Kinkade mastered. He took advantage of quick drying times to capture outdoor light in French landmarks and Italian countryside scenes, and in simple bouquets of flowers.


Thomas Kinkade Catalina Marina

Example of a Thomas Kinkade Plein Air: Catalina Marina, 2000

Plein Air

Thomas Kinkade adored plein air, or open-air painting, and used it to further his understanding of the luminous effects of natural light. It was known to be his favorite style of painting and he compulsively painted en plein air wherever he traveled. He used what he learned in those settings to illuminate many of his studio works.

In the open air, natural light is always changing, and therefore many artists find it difficult to master. Kinkade’s plein air paintings demonstrate his ability to capture and play with that light, and testify to his adept and masterful skill as a painter of many styles. These plein air paintings are widely and critically acclaimed.


Thomas Kinkade Snow White Discovers the Cottage

In 2013, the Thomas Kinkade Company released the award-winning Serigraph Edition of Snow White Discovers the Cottage.

Serigraphs and Other Media

Thom also delved into all types of art media and frequently introduced these media into his artistic process. Early on, serigraphy was of particular interest. He continued to use this process to screen his remarque sketches and replicate original art throughout his career.

After his death, the Thomas Kinkade Company realized his dream of creating award-winning images using serigraphy.  In 2013, Thom’s fan favorite Snow White Discovers the Cottage was released in a Serigraph Edition, winning two Golden Image awards presented by the Speciality Graphic Imaging Association.


Video Resources

The Thomas Kinkade Video Library contains hundreds of documentaries chronicling Thom’s career and his use of various techniques and styles.  From his signature use of luminism to his Impressionist Robert Girrard works, Thom recorded hours of footage explaining his techniques for his collectors and fans.  Below are key videos that highlight the styles that Thom was best known for.