Artist Ann Rea
The Painter of Light files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
[caption id="attachment_819" align="alignleft" width="576" caption=""Bambi's First Year" Thomas Kinkade"]"Bambi's First Year" Thomas Kinkade[/caption] Thomas Kinkade, I loath, and I used to actually admire him.  Artistically, an average professional painter.  Entrepreneurially, ground breaking.  But in my never to be humble opinion, he had it comin'!. Let’s start with what I admired.  He clearly defined his market, conservative Christians, and he “delivered” (no pun intended) a unique value proposition, and in a way that they would appreciate.  How?  This particular physiographic is quite literal.  So Thomas Kinkade scattered lots of graphic symbols throughout his paintings to celebrate this group’s values. Little hearts signify the sanctity of marriage and the “Painter of Light”, a not so subtle reference to the light of Christ, used an over abundance of artistic devices to convey light.  The result.  Saccharine sweet paintings that make my teeth hurt. Where it all went wrong was that he also leveraged the general ignorance of this market.  A market that is not typically a group educated in arts and culture.  By saturating the market with “limited edition” prints of 250,000, or more, he was out of integrity.  In the state of California, Mr. Kinkade's domicile, only 250 prints are considered “limited”, legally. His genius? He used the franchise model to build his empire, a la eMyth’s approach to building a business.  That’s right, all those Thomas Kinkade galleries that you see closing are franchises, like McDonalds.  Many of these franchise owners sued him, forcing the company to delist from the New York Stock exchange. Imagine.  An artist with a company listed on the New York Stock exchange.  I had to know more.  So I actually interviewed one of his CPAs and he shared the basic mechanics and history of Thomas Kinkade's empire. Horrified and fascinated, I thought, "What if I learned from his success but I applied these lessons in a way that I’m proud of and with integrity?"  Isn’t that what Jesus would do?
Wine, Conversation, and Memories at the Calistoga Ranch
calistoga_01_bigCalistoga Ranch graciously invited me to show my oil paintings last evening during their Friday evening wine tasting.  And I had the pleasure to mix and mingle with the staff and their guests. The first guest I met was Ron Kuhn, the proprietor of Pillar Rock Vineyard.  Ron is a dapper gentleman from Chicago with a handsome mane of white hair that matched his beautiful wife Teri’s shoulder length white hair.  The first thing Ron did was hand me a generous glass of the Pillar Rock Cabernet Sauvignon.  I swirled and sipped it, and I meant it when I said to Ron, “this wine makes me tingle.” It was supple, balanced, and full of complex flavors that my friend Christopher Sawyer, a Sommelier, wine critic and writer, does a much better job of describing than I. I also met an urologist and his new bride visiting from Austin who were visiting his sister, a San Francisco jewelry designer.  We chatted about color and aesthetics. Then I met a venture capitalist and his wife. By way of mentioning Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light”, who is now filing for bankruptcy, we made our way to a conversation about integrity and ethics in business.  I suggested that this was the simple source of “Painter of Light" troubles.  This was on this guest's mind because he was dealing with an unscrupulous former business partner.  So I recommended my brother’s book, translated into several languages, “Integrity is a Growth Market”.  Even if you don’t buy the book, it would be great if everyone in business just remembered the title. And I met a mother of two who was reluctantly turning 40.  Her husband surprised her with a lavish trip to Napa from Baltimore.  I encouraged her to celebrate and appreciate all of the gifts that she has, and to consider the alternative to having a birthday. I meet interesting, intelligent, gracious people at events, and Calistoga Ranch is again no exception.  The people I mentioned above were just a few lovely folks I met last night.   Our paths may never cross again but we shared some wine, conversation, and maybe a memory.