Of all the months we've looked at so far, the August image in the Thomas Kinkade 2012 calendar may be the most quintessentially Kinkadian. The lighthouse. The cottage. The trademark glow. This one should have been effortless to critique. But when I started typing out notes, I realized that I was done with critiquing his work. No more Kinkade analysis! Could I possibly say anything new about a man who basically painted the same thing hundreds of times? The mere thought of the task started to bring on a headache. Since it's summer, I decided that it was time to have some fun with him for a change. It was time for the Kinkade Drinking Game.
Before you reflexively shout at your monitor screen, "That's in such bad taste!" please realize that this need not be an alcohol-laden event. For the Kinkade Drinking Game, I've created my own Kinkade-themed beverage without a drop of booze in it. I call it MasterAde. Here are the ingredients:
1 12 oz. glass filled with room-temperature ice
5 scoops Country Time lemonade drink mix
3 more scoops Country Time lemonade mix
an additional pinch of Country Time lemonade mix, to taste
2 scoops Tang
1 8 oz. Mountain Dew
1 oz. actual mountain dew
1 strawberry, plastic
the text from the inside half of an American Greetings greeting card (optional, as garnish)
I combined everything in a Thomas Kinkade "Beginning of a Perfect Day" mug—it seemed only fitting. Of course, you're free to choose any drink you like to play this game, and whatever container, too. Final thing: You'll also need to have a Kinkade painting of your choice. May I suggest the August painting of the calendar presented above?
Once you've got your image and your libation, begin:
*drink* if you got this painting confused with another Kinkade painting
*drink* if the paint looks so much like cake frosting that you could stick your finger in it
*drink* if there are no human beings anywhere in the painting
*drink* if there are human beings, but they're so unconvincingly rendered that you wish he would have left them out
*drink* if it looks like it just rained
*drink* if the sun is about to set
*drink* once for every light source: the sun, a lamppost, a lighthouse, God, vintage car headlights, the glow from inside a Thomas Kinkade Signature gallery, nostalgia, the Higgs boson
*drink* if you sense any of the following: the light of faith, the faith of light, the faith of hope, the peace of light, the peace of peace, the smell of strudel, the rush of ennui
*drink* if you see two sets of footprints in the sand, but other places you see only one set of footprints
And there you have it. I test-ran the game the other day and when I finished, I felt an enormous sense of relief at being done with Kinkade, tempered only by the fear that I had probably acquired diabetes. But then I found myself asking, who is next? Where is the next Thomas Kinkade? Does the man have an obvious heir or successor in the art world? Now that he's gone, is there anybody alive who could possibly fill the strangely glowing void?
Oddly enough, one possible successor to Kinkade… could have been Kinkade himself. Did you know that Kinkade once painted under another name? From 1984 to 1990 he created several dozen works as Robert Girrard, a pseudonym that he and a friend came up with because it sounded vaguely French and Impressionistic. The intent was to create a bit of artistic freedom for himself. It appears, though, that having an alter ego didn't do much to unburden him from the need to cover every painting with the whipped cream of sentimentality. Yes, there's an appealing looseness to the works. What is laughable is that he perceived the need for a new identity for something that’s hardly a departure from the realm of the “Painter of Light.” It’s not as if he was experimenting with Mark Rothko-like abstractions, or channeling H.R. Giger. Did he think so little of his audience? Did he think so little of art? Was he really putting his entire reputation at risk if he painted a landscape that wasn't a swag bag full of feel-goody bric-a-brac, de rigueur spiritual symbolism and cheeky hidden-word tricks? If he just, you know, painted an actual landscape?
At any rate, that doesn't matter now. Robert Girrard died along with his creator. So is there anybody alive who is fit to fill the cultural role once occupied by Mr. Kinkade? The answer will have to wait until September.
Previously: January, February, March, April, May and June and July
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.