Simpler Times, by Thomas Kinkade with Anne Christian Buchanan
I had not seen this particular book on the shelf beside me until the book (along with a puzzle) fell off of the bookshelf into my dirty laundry hamper and startled me awake in the middle of the night. When I saw the book in the morning, I figured that it looked like a book well worth reading. After all, I am a fan of the art of the late Thomas Kinkade  and was curious to see what he had written in a book where he got to lay aside his brush and easel and take up the pen and keyboard to express his thoughts in words, to defend his own personal philosophy and his view of art. In light of the fact that his feelings of tension and stress led him to commit suicide, I figured it would be a poignant book to read in light of the author’s death, and the fact that the author’s work has long been an inspiration to me made it rather touching to think about how the author conceived of his own life and his own work. Being a somewhat sensitive artist type who tends to appreciate reading about the lives and thinking processes of other artists, this book seemed like a natural one for me to enjoy, despite it nearly falling on top of me in the course of a night of troubled sleep.
This book, which was published in Oregon, consists of nine chapters where the author expresses his love for simpler times. The author urges readers to make a separate peace with the difficulties and stresses and anxieties of the contemporary age, encourages readers to keep their perspective, welcome themselves into their own lives, heed the simplifying voice of creation, engage in unhurried imagination, keep a balance between work and play, add romance to their lives whether they have romantic partners or not, cultivate a hobo’s heart of exploration, and let their light shine by living not only for today but for tomorrow as well. In reading this short book of a bit over 100 pages, the reader gets a great sense as to who the author is a man as well as an artist, and the picture is largely an appealing one. The book contains prints of more than thirty of Kinkade’s own beautiful and light-filled paintings and also contains the author’s expression of his love for his wife and daughters, for his desire to overcome his upbringing in a broken home, and his own highly romanticized realism as an artist. He expresses his longing to be remembered for his work despite his knowledge that changing artistic tastes may threaten that longevity, and his hope is certainly a noble and worthy one.
This is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to readers who appreciate art and who like to hear artists defend themselves and their own moral and creative worldview. The art is, as expected, beautiful and romantic, the text is filled with its own romanticism and its own longing and concern, and one feels the tension and stress of the artist trying to overcome the push for empire, dealing with the tedium of signing thousands of prints because of their appeal to a mass audience he appears not to have directly courted. The artist as a conflicted soul striving for love and peace is here displayed in elegant touches, artistic turns of phrase, and passionate intensity. A fair-minded reader who has an interest in the author’s art will likely view the author’s death with a fair amount of sadness, especially as the author himself broaches the subject of suicide and comments that his art has prompted others to choose life rather than death, even if he was, in the end, overwhelmed himself by the despair that he fought against so bravely. Let us hope that at last he has found the peace from the turmoil within that he sought for so long through his art and family.
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