Thomas Kinkade was an American artist who died in 2012, but his work continues to generate millions of dollars in print sales. In fact he was undoubtedly one of the wealthiest artists of the modern era – and certainly one of the most collected.
Sure, his work has come in for a lot of criticism from highbrow art critics, who call it “sentimental” – and that’s one of the kindest comments! Fact is, however, Kinkade spent his entire life doing what he wanted, and he made loads of money doing it.
The Kinkade website, which continues to sell prints of his work, makes it clear that Thomas knew from an early age that painting was his calling, his right livelihood.
All through his life, he painted the way he liked – and people loved it! Breaking the bounds of convention he was able to use the income from his paintings to support many charitable causes and promote his Christian faith.
All because no-one ever told him how it “should” be done!
One critic on Wikipedia observes: “Looking just at the paintings themselves it is obvious that they are technically competent. Kinkade’s genius, however, is in his capacity to identify and fulfill the needs and desires of his target audience – he cites his mother as a key influence and archetypal audience – and to couple this with savvy marketing.”
So what can we learn from Thomas Kinkade? The power of deep self-belief, a belief that overcomes all criticism and obstacles? Maybe. Or perhaps he never believed he was unlikely to make money from his craft. Perhaps he ignored the nay-sayers, the doubters, and the critics, of whom there would, I am sure, have been plenty.
In any event, Thomas was pursuing his own dream, his own calling, his own passion. That alone may have been all the fuel he needed.
He was a man who doesn’t seem to have regarded fame and fortune as motivation. His motivation seems to have been the simple act of painting in a heartfelt way. He was putting onto the canvas in front of him the natural wonders and images of the world which moved him most.
It was this dedication and single-minded focus that made Thomas Kinkade, “a simple boy with a brush from the small country town of Placerville, California”, the most collected living artist of his time – and one of the richest too!
And if he’d been discouraged by the criticism of highbrow art critics, would he have persisted? Who knows?
My guess is that Thomas didn’t have any limiting beliefs about his capacity to succeed. He simply had faith in his ability to spread his own particular Christian message by means of his painting. And that self belief, that passion, that purpose, ultimately helped him to make millions of dollars – easily, with no struggle whatsoever.
And finally, consider the story of JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels.
Her compelling series of books, the films made from them, and her other income derived from sharing Harry’s antics with us has made her the richest women in the world, and at one time the richest author in history. What kind of experience did she have while she was writing the books?
According to JK Rowling herself, “An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless … By every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”
What does it take to take control of a situation like this and become such a successful author? A clear vision, certainly – in this case the image of the story of Harry Potter, the teenage wizard, who seems to have been fully formed in JK Rowling’s imagination on a train journey from London to Manchester.
And a strong desire, for sure. On her website biography, you find these words: Jo wanted to be a writer from an early age. She wrote her first book at the age of six – a story about a rabbit, called ‘Rabbit’. At just eleven, she wrote her first novel – about seven cursed diamonds and the people who owned them.
But her first Harry Potter book was rejected a number of times. In an interview, when asked what kept her going, JK said: “That’s such a good question because you know I was not confident then at all. But I wanted it so badly, I wasn’t going to give up. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt, before or since, anything like the elation of realising I was going to be published.”
This is the power of intense desire, supported perhaps by an absence of limiting beliefs which might have got in the way. Would she have continued writing without having intense belief in herself, without believing that one day she would be published? Of course not.
JK Rowling had a young daughter and was living on welfare in Britain while she wrote the books. So perhaps we have a clue to her deepest motivation in something she wrote on her website.
She wrote that the very best thing her wealth has given her is the absence of worry. “I have not forgotten what it feels like to worry whether you’ll have enough money to pay the bills. Not to have to think about that anymore is the biggest luxury in the world.”