Monday, March 5th, 2012

An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for March

March’s image is titled “A Peaceful Time.” And indeed it is a peaceful time for you, because you are not the unfortunate owner of this cottage. Take a look at it. While there's certainly much to recommend it as a residence—the picturesque location, the flowers so lush you could eat them—this level of immaculate rusticity is surely financially ruinous to maintain. When a stone wall requires repair, the owner cannot simply summon a mason, but must instead ask the Historical Society to appoint an art restorer. The savings that would ordinarily go toward the kids' college fund instead must go to updating the plumbing. I count one, two, three, four, five wisps of smoke, which means five fireplaces, and five fires that need constant tending to. (This does not include the kitchen table nor the living-room furniture, which also appear to be on fire.)

The lawn—let's face it—is a little unkempt, because the owners have had to make sacrifices somewhere. And when will they pave the path to let a vehicle that's not a horse-drawn carriage through? Never, because the money that the USA Network fronted them to film a Katherine Heigl rom-com here was spent paying an army of locals to keep the property shoveled through winter (naturally, the wheel chains on a snow blower are forbidden to touch the 600-year-old flagstones). Thankfully, the movie money also paid for some Zoloft. So yes, the actual house in this scene is a stress-filled albatross for its owners, but you get to enjoy this picture in peace.

Peacefulness, however, is not the same thing as monotony. Kinkade knows this, which is why he painted this picture with such a vibrant palette. How does the artist choose his colors? We know that Kinkade doesn’t paint from nature; he’s too smart for that. The actual world of creation, in all its terrifying rawness and spontaneity, is far too dangerous. Better to draw inspiration from the tamer kingdom: the world of the indoors. After all, what better way to convey a sense of homey contentedness than to use the same colors found in such ordinary household objects as Cracker Jack boxes, Trivial Pursuit wedges, American Girl packaging, junk mail flyers for the President’s Day sale at your local Chevrolet dealer.

Interestingly, in this March painting, we can’t help but notice the appearance of that rare phenomena in Kinkade world: people! Yes, they’re there, in the form of what looks like a mother and son ambling up the road in the distant foreground.

Who are they? Gypsys? Carnies? Historical reenactors? Perhaps this is the owner of the cottage retrieving her son, who, desiring to be included in a different painting (maybe even an abstract expressionist one), made a run for it out of the frame. Perhaps they are locals looking for relief from the blazing brush fire that we can see glowing from behind the trees. Scratch that—I just realized that’s the sun. But whatever the reason, the decision to deemphasize the people was probably the correct one, because people kind of suck. They are unreasonable and full of anxiety and this is, after all, supposed to be a peaceful time.

Previously: January and February

Drew Dernavich is a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine (not that cartoonist – the other one) and the co-creator of the cartoon improv show Fisticuffs! He is on Twitter.

15 Comments / Post A Comment

Aloysius (#1,808)

I love this feature.

SeanP (#4,058)

@Aloysius I'm only now just discovering it!

SeanP (#4,058)

@SeanP Oh, I take it back… I saw the January one. Off to bone up on the February edition.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

The little runaway who was caught at the frame of a Thomas Kincaid painting and retrieved, forever to remain — I can hear the Rod Serling voiceover, intoning with set jaw: And indeed it is a peaceful time for you, because you are not the unfortunate owner of this cottage. Take a look at it ….

LanaDelMeh (#207,596)

Why do these people have so many fires burning? ITS OBVIOUSLY SPRINGTIME!

@LanaDelMeh Yeah but springtime in the moistest place on earth.

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

I like how all of the flowers that you only see blooming during Easter and 4th of July are all ablaze at once, along with the autumn leaves, against the winter sky.

laurel (#4,035)

@Pandemic Endemic When the light comes from every direction at once, all things are possible.

It takes a true "master" to combine all four seasons into one painting. And that special effect of having the interior to appear to be on fire from every window; simply noble artistry of the type that hasn't been seen since photoshop was invented. Collectors who frequent shopping malls must be fighting tooth and fist to acquire this beauty.

DNAGirl (#223,837)

That's not the sun, that's the neighbour's house on fire.

What happened was that Wendy discovered Jack had typed up pages and pages of "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy" and made a complete mess of the living room, so she took a baseball bat to his head. Then she found Danny had defaced the bathroom door by scrawling REⱭЯUM on it, but she didn't have it in her heart to bash his head in too. Fed up with maintaining the house, she set the typed pages on fire, using artisanal cedar kindling, of course, grabbed Danny and her Luis Vuitton Bowling Monogram Etoile Satchel handbag (only $2,495) and marched out.

Jack made it out of the fire too, but then got trapped in the maze just barely visible to the left of the house.

What horrors played out at the house in the foreground is a story for another day.

Pop Socket (#187)

@DNAGirl It's those little unseen details that make these such works of genius.

SouthernQuebec (#212,438)

While your analysis is bang on in most respects, I beg to differ on the time spent maintaining this quaint, though creepy, cottage. The owners of the cottage would have more than enough time because they are (if you look carefully) not hooked up to the grid. No Shopping Network, or old Bob Ross programming for them!

I really do feel we all should take a moment to appreciate the "talent" required to make a cottage creepy and quaint at the same time. True talent! We salute you Tom Kinkade!!!

Pop Socket (#187)

@SouthernQuebec It does add a nice Stephen Kingian sense of foreboding.

sigerson (#179)

Dude, that is a THATCHED roof (popular in places like Surrey). Do you have any idea what that kind of antique detail costs to maintain? Hundreds of thousands of pounds right there.

To me, the sky is the creepiest thing. I think it's supposed to convey "placid sundown," but it looks more like "nuclear blast in nearby city." Complete with streamer clouds.

Also, if the sun is setting behind the house, why is the lawn illuminated by a strong noonday sun?

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