Around this time, Kinkade relocated back to California; became a born-again Christian; settled down with his wife, Nanette; and began painting the dreamy, saccharine landscapes that would bring him fame and infamy. In step, the young couple pooled their savings and started making limited-edition prints of Kinkade’s paintings, which they first sold in front of the local grocery store for $55 a pop; from there, his success snowballed. By the late 1990s, Kinkade had started a successful company and began franchising galleries in malls and shopping centers across the country, which sold his limited-edition prints by the thousands.
In almost every way, Kinkade’s shops were the complete antithesis to the fine art world’s sterile “white cube” galleries, which were thriving in megalopolises like Manhattan and London. Instead of white walls dotted with costly abstract art, Kinkade’s shops were plush, filled with big chairs and roaring fireplaces. “Our galleries are soft. You don’t echo when you walk in. It’s comfortable,” Kinkade explained to Safer. What’s more, prints were priced reasonably between several hundred and several thousand dollars.
In the process, Kinkade was creating spaces where communities that didn’t have access to the fine art world could buy work without feeling alienated. Kinkade collectors came in droves. While researching her book in the mid-2000s, Boylan met one of Kinkade’s many fans at an in-person signing by the artist. “She was so excited, so earnest, and even got a little teary-eyed in talking with me about what [his work] meant to her, and what [it] meant to her family,” Boylan recalled. “Regardless of how he made [his prints] or what people think about [them], there’s a large population of people who are also profoundly and deeply affected by his work,” she continued.