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image of Thomas Kinkade signing a painting at the El Dorado County Fair GroundsPainter of Light Annual Homecoming
By Eric Laughlin, Mountain Democrat
November 17, 2008

He’s surely the most famous person to come out of our small Gold Country town, and if you talk to him it’s clear he hasn’t forgotten us. After all, it was in Placerville and in the Mountain Democrat that Thomas Kinkade’s paintings were first seen by thousands of people. Fast forward 25 years to today and the Placerville hometown hero sits on top of a billion dollar art empire, one with enduring presence that spans the entire globe.

Prints that sold for $35 at card tables on Main Street, Placerville, in 1984 now go for hundreds and even thousands. And at least one of his originals has been said to be valued at $1 million. But the local native seemed very down to Earth Saturday as he spoke with his fans and old friends at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.

image of Thomas Kinkade pointing out his 2008 painting“It’s just been very fun,” he told the Mountain Democrat as he signed prints in a back area of the building. “I’ve seen people I went to high school with, I’ve even seen people I went to grade school with. It’s just wonderful to see all these old friends. “My heart will always be in Placerville,” he continued. “You can take the boy out of the country but you can never take the country out of the boy. The quality of life here that I had growing up was a wonderful preparation for my art.”

Kinkade and his wife of 27 years, Nanette, both graduated from El Dorado High School in the mid-70s and in their early years together poured their life savings into pushing his first paintings.

Kinkade’s high school English teacher Gordon Purdy, who has since passed on, hatched a plan to turn the paintings into prints, enabling them to be seen throughout the county. Once the Mountain Democrat printed one of those prints in color on the front page, a phenomenon was born.

image of lady looking at Thomas Kinkade paints for saleIn the months that followed the Democrat formed a business relationship with the young artist, one that included his artwork being sold in the form of Christmas cards in the front lobby.

It wasn’t long after that that the “Painter of Light” as he called himself, went on to become one of the top selling artists in history.

“That’s what’s great about coming back home,” he said. “Here in Placerville it’s a simpler way of life, one with core beliefs that I believe everyone shares.”

Prints and other Kinkade -signature merchandise seemed to be selling like hotcakes Saturday. The familiar paintings were on display for hundreds, if not thousands, who came out to get a glimpse of the artist in person.

“It’s just terrific to come see him and look at all the paintings,” said fan Pam Harder. “And it’s so nice that he’s in touch with his roots.”

Friends Marj Polgar and Mary Ware were all smiles as they walked out of the exhibition.

“It was a wonderful way to spend the day,” Polgar said. “He’s a very gracious man.”

“He has got places in his paintings that are very close to my heart,” Ware said.

In addition to the paintings, Kinkade was selling his new DVD, an autobiographical film starring Peter O’Toole.

“It’s about how we almost — but didn’t — lose our family home here in Placerville,” Kinked told his followers. “It’s about a real miracle that took place in my life.”

Kinkade said that after the event he and Nanette would be off to San Diego to continue his 25th Anniversary tour, one that started right here where he got his start, in none other than Placerville.

Courtesy of the Mountain Democrat