An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for March
by Drew Dernavich
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.
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.