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Painter sheds some of his light on fans

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Amber Tanille Woolfolk]
Artist Thomas Kinkade talks to the crowd gathered to see him at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
BRANDON -- At Thomas Kinkade's appearance at Brandon TownCenter on Sunday, the question was asked of the audience: Who has one Thomas Kinkade print?

Hundreds raised their hands.

Who has 10 prints? 20? 40? 60?

The woman in red in front kept her hand up. Finally, the announcer asked: "How many do you have?"

"105," said Brenda Morgan, 47.

The audience cheered.

"The paintings just takes me to a happy place," Morgan said.

Critics who call Thomas Kinkade's work cheesy, heavy on the lavender and commercial should beware the Thomas Kinkade fan. In full force, they appeared at Brandon TownCenter and Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg on Sunday to see him in person.

It wasn't your Armani-wearing, champagne-sipping art crowd. This group wore "I Love Grandmother" necklaces and clutched plastic foam cups of coffee from Barnie's.

Naomi Davis, a Lakeland seamstress, has four Kinkade plates, the perpetual calendar and a computer screen saver. "My whole house is Thomas Kinkade," she said.

Pam Henley-Johnson, who works with adult and juvenile offenders, has four prints: Rose Garden and Pools of Serenity in her living room, Creekside Trial in her family room and Spring Gate at work.

"They make me feel peaceful," she said.

Chuck and Joy McCullers have 27 prints. They installed dimmers in their home so the cottages and lighthouses -- Kinkade calls himself "The Painter of Light" -- seem to glow.

Chuck McCullers is retired from the military and was not much of an art buff, he said, until three years ago when he saw his first Kinkade at WestShore Plaza. "I just fell in love with it," he said.

Now, he and his wife make it a point to stop at Thomas Kinkade galleries wherever they travel. "You just can't help it," said Joy McCullers.

Kinkade, sporting a tan blazer and goatee, was in front of the Brandon audience for about 30 minutes.

He talked about his philosophy of life, about staying close to family. "If you can, bring your children on business trips," he said.

He introduced his wife, Nanette, and told the audience to get ready for a Kodak moment; he gave her a kiss on stage.

Kinkade talked about the world and how it is full of darkness and noise. "I've never seen a noisy Kinkade yet," he said.

And he sketched "a tribute to Tampa" in carbon pencil on white paper, he said.

It was a picture of a lighthouse on a rocky shore.

The audience also was told how to join the Thomas Kinkade collectors society, which "keeps you up to speed with everything Kinkade," said Rick Barnett, senior vice president of retail. They were also filled in on which paintings to buy, such as Stairway to Paradise, said Barnett.

"It's a sure-fire collectors piece."

To learn more

To learn more about Thomas Kinkade, see his Web site at www.thomaskinkade.com.

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