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2008-11-18

Thick, Rich Kinkadey Goodness

For those of you unanointed, Thomas Kinkade is the Painter of Light ™ . And, yes, he does own the trademark to that phrase. He describes himself in such legally protected terms because he infuses his works with light and love. Art critics think them infused with crap.

His Lightly Painterly [note: trademark that phrase] self now extends to the straight-to-video holiday market with the film The Christmas Cottage.

Vanity Fair [via Slog and Mrs. Librarian, (who keeps me Playful)] have uncovered and gleefully reprinted a memo from Kinkade to the film crew detailing "sixteen guidelines for creating the 'The Thomas Kinkade Look.'" It's a great lesson in just how manipulative imagery and other visual triggers can be.

All 16 points follow, interspersed with my commentary.

1) Dodge corners or create darkening towards edge of image for "cozy" look. This may only apply to still imagery, but is useful where applicable.
Is it me, or do dodging corners and darkened edges seem more "creepy" and "Halloween" than "cozy" and "Christmas"? And what happened to all that Painterly Light you're famous for?
2) Color key each scene to create mood, and color variation. When possible, utilize cooler tones to suggest somber moods, and warmer, more vibrant tones to suggest festive atmosphere. In general, create a color scheme for each scene that can be accentuated through filtering, DI treatments, or through lighting. Most of my paintings feature an overall cool color envelope, into which warm accents are applied.
I suspect "cool color envelope" is code for where Kinkade keeps his money after several lawsuits.
3) Create classic compositions. Paintings generally utilize a theme and variation compositional motif. Heavy weighting of the image towards one side, with accented areas of interest balancing it on the other side. Allow the eye to wander into the scene through some entry point. Be aware of where the viewer is standing at all times. Utilize traditional eye levels for setting the shot -- that is, no high vantage points, off-kilter vantage points, or "worms eye view" vantage points. Generally focus on a standing adults viewpoint of the scene at hand.
And by "classic compositions" he means "don't challenge your audience with any artsy shit."
4) Awareness of edges. Create an overall sense of soft edges, strive for a "Barry Lyndon" look. Star filters used sparingly, but an overall "gauzy" look preferable to hard edge realism.
Edges: dark and soft. Got it. And does anyone else think that the "gauzy look" was the only way they got leathery Peter O'Toole to agree to this shitshow?
5) Overall concept of light. Each scene should feature dramatic sources of soft light. Dappled light patches are always a positive, glowing windows, lightposts, and other romantic lighting touches will accentuate the overall effect of the theme of light.
There's the Light &trade he's famous for!
6) Hidden details whenever possible, References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N's throughout -- preferably thirty N's, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened.
The drinking games this tidbit will inspire might be cause enough to put it in the Netflix queue.
7) Overall sense of stillness. Emphasize gentle camera moves, slow dissolves, and still camera shots. A sense of gradual pacing. Even quick cut-away shots can slightly dissolve.
"Slow" is not an adjective most directors want to build a production around.
8) Atmospheric effects. Whenever possible utilize sunset, sunrise, rainy days, mistiness -- any transitory effect of nature that bespeaks luminous coloration or a sense of softness.
Luminous and soft atmospherics for all your cinematically bespoke needs.
9) A sense of space. My paintings feature both intimate spaces and dramatic deep space effects. We should strive for intimate scenes to be balanced by deeper establishing shots. (I know this particular one is self-evident, but I am reminded of it as I see the pacing of the depth of field in Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon".)
Um, you might avoid referencing a consensus top 100 film of all time in relation to your own straight-to-video release.
10) Short focal length. In general, I love a focal plane that favors the center of interest, and allows mid-distance and distant areas to remain blurry. Recommend "stopping down" to shorten focal lengths.
Funny, I would have called it a "fecal plane."
11) Hidden spaces. My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc. The more we can feature these devices to lead the eye into mysterious spaces, the better.
Again with the dodgy corners. Is this A Very Freddie Krueger Kristmas?
12) Surprise details. Suggest a few "inside references" that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings -- for example, a "teddy bear mascot" for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I'm aware of normally have hidden "inside references". In the realm of fine art we refer to this as "second reading, third reading, etc." A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study.
Okay, "in the realm of fine art," iconography has a long and rich tradition. And the Old Masters didn't have to stoop to "teddy bear mascot[s]," you twit and charlatan.
13) Mood is supreme. Every decision made as to the visual look of each shot should include the concept of mood. Music can accentuate this, use of edges can accentuate this, atmospheric effects accentuate this, etc.
More edges and atmospherics. But with music.
14) The concept of beauty. I get rid of the "ugly parts" in my paintings. It would be nice to utilize this concept as much as possible. Favor shots that feature older buildings, ramshackle, careworn structures and vehicles, and a general sense of homespun simplicity and reliance on beautiful settings.
Kinkade reserves his "ugly parts" for pissing on Pooh.
15) Nostalgia. My paintings routinely blend timeframes. This is not only okay, but tends to create a more timeless look. Vintage cars (30's, 40's, 50's, 60's etc) can be featured along with 70's era cars. Older buildings are favorable. Avoid anything that looks contemporary -- shopping centers, contemporary storefronts, etc. Also, I prefer to avoid anything that is shiny. Our vintage vehicles, though often times are cherished by their owners and kept spic-n-span should be "dirtied up" a bit for the shoot. Placerville was and is a somewhat shabby place, and most vehicles, people, etc bear traces of dust, sawdust, and the remnants of country living. There are many dirt roads, muddy lanes, etc., and in general the place has a tumbled down, well-worn look.
In other words, film in Havana.
16) Most important concept of all -- THE CONCEPT OF LOVE. Perhaps we could make large posters that simply say "Love this movie" and post them about. I pour a lot of love into each painting, and sense that our crew has a genuine affection for this project. This starts with Michael Campus as a Director who feels great love towards this project, and should filter down through the ranks. Remember: "Every scene is the best scene."
Camera? check.
Lights? Check.
Mics? Check.
Love Filter? Check. ...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess this means I won't be inviting you over to see my signed, enhanced, Kinkade canvas?

The.Effing.Librarian said...

11) Hidden spaces. My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc. The more we can feature these devices to lead the eye into mysterious spaces, the better.

immediately, I thought of the hedge maze in The Shining.

I don't think he understands that we make moving pictures now... that the eye doesn't need to follow paths around corners becasue the camera can do that. it seems like he want's the camera in one spot, at eye level, with all his elements in frame. maybe he'd be happier directing a play or a holiday display at Woolworths.

librarian@play said...

You're giving away our age with that Woolworths reference, Effing. And he wouldn't be happier at Woolworths because, as guideline 15 tells us, he doesn't like shopping centers in his "timeless" universe. Which is interesting because 1) shopping centers have been "contemporary" for about 60 years and 2) Kinkade's own "galleries" can be found in just about every major mall in the South and Midwest.

If I parse this any more my head will pop.

librarian@play said...

I'll come see your signed, enhanced Kinkade, Anonymous, as long as it's in the same room with an open bar.