Can you identify the author of this quote?
“My mission as an artist is to capture those special moments in life adorned with beauty and light. I work to create images that project a serene simplicity that can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone. That’s what I mean by sharing the light”.
Give up? It is Thomas Kinkade, referred to by many as the painter of light. He has painted over 1,000 masterworks covering topics that include nature scenes, beautiful gardens, classic cottages, lighthouses and powerful seascapes. Many American homes have a Kinkade hanging on their walls.
I recently spent an evening with Thom, viewing a movie about his life called “The Christmas Cottage”. I had seen this movie before but this time I “saw” if differently. It had all the saccharin, small town pulling together moments, silly comedy and the predictable happy ending. For me it rose above the mundane as it focused on the relationship between Thom, his mentor Glen and the true star of the film…THE LIGHT.
It’s a story of a talented yet lost young man who comes home to find his “old” life falling apart. The town is tired and struggling. His single mom has lost her job and is losing their cottage. His deadbeat dad is still not there for him. His mentor, a famous and successful painter who lives next door, is in poor health and losing his mind to dementia. Merry Christmas!
Our hero rises to the occasion and takes a job painting a mural for the town. They want to promote themselves as the Christmas tree capital of the country. He is not thrilled with the assignment but needs the money to help his mom.
We meet Glen, his mentor and “ideal” father figure. He is old, frail, drifting away and very bitter. He still mourns the passing of his wife and tries to capture her essence in what he calls his last painting. His hands won’t cooperate. He gives sage wisdom to Thom telling him that art is about life, beauty love and emotion yet he is spiraling down into an emotional and physical darkness. He lives in the past, remembering being in Paris with the woman he loved, feeling strong and alive. He talks about the light in summertime, surrounding the leaves on the trees and holding them somehow. “God is like the light; His hands holding the whole world together”. Glen has these beautiful moments of clarity when he retreats to his past. When he is pulled back to the present he is at first confused then so bitter:”you’ve made me an old man. I was young a moment ago”.
Glen asks him if he ever did a painting he didn’t believe in. Thom tells him about the mural project. Glen gives him a different point of view. He explains that this is an opportunity to change how people see themselves. If he is willing to see the town with his heart-that one image could change lives. “You can introduce men to their souls”.
Christmas Eve comes and Thom visits Glen. He has no money for a present; just love for his mentor. He lights a candle trying to pull Glen back from the abyss. It works. Glen makes peace with the present moment and begins his final masterpiece. When he gives it to Thom he shares his epiphany: “When you brought me the candle I realized that it’s the light-that’s what lasts. The leaves are transient. They grow and die. But behind them the light lasts forever. Paint the light”. Then he stared off into his preferred reality. His mind went away; maybe to a place where light burns brighter than we can imagine.
That Christmas Thomas Kinkade discovered that all we can do is our best to find that light and share it with others. He painted the people he knew just living their lives and they were deeply touched by how he saw them. His mural told their story and it was filled with light. It has filled his paintings ever since.
I love movies. Life gets resolved in about two hours. Tidy. But this story stayed with me. What is it about the light that has drawn us from the beginning of time? Einstein said “there is no darkness, only the absence of light”. It only takes a speck of light to change everything. Even our perspective.
Love is the brightest light of all. We could all use a little extra light right now. I have an idea. This Christmas season, whether you celebrate the birth of Christ, or the change of seasons, lets share the light. Let’s all buy one candle that is made right here and give it to someone. Someone in darkness. Someone in your family or community that is struggling and needs hope. You can become the bringer of the light. A small gesture that is filled with significance. You might just change someone’s life….imagine that! Merry Christmas, Ardis