Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Late Afternoon Light at Artist's Point, Yosemite Valley" by Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012)

"Late Afternoon Light at Artist's Point, Yosemite Valley" by Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012) - Click for larger image (

"Late Afternoon Light at Artist's Point, Yosemite Valley" by Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012)

For years, a hand-retouched, signed and numbered, Thomas Kinkade 1992 cotton-fiber artist’s canvas print of “Late Afternoon Light at Artist’s Point, Yosemite Valley” hung in our hallway. With its dark location and short viewing distance, I often passed it by without notice. When some filigree scrollwork on the Brandy frame required repair, for the first time in almost a decade, I brought the 18" X 24" canvas into the light.

Another view of Thomas Kinkade's "Late Afternoon Light at Artists Point, Yosemite Valley" - Click for larger image ( the original painting, Thomas Kinkade wrote, “Nowhere on Earth am I more aware of the sheer awesomeness of God’s handiwork than Yosemite Valley. This painting depicts the valley as seen from the little known place called ‘Artist’s Point’, named in tribute to the many 19th century artists who favored it as a sketching ground. In 1989, the National Park System selected ‘Yosemite Valley’ as their official print. I was thrilled with the honor, but after all, God alone deserves the credit for the beauty and majesty of Yosemite Valley”.

On the back of our frame, I found a Collector Fact Sheet and a Certificate of Authenticity. Our Kinkade is “No. 533/980 sn Canvas”. On the lower right corner of the print is the lithographed signature of Thomas Kinkade (1958-2012). Below that, hand-signed is the unintelligible signature of the artist who highlighted our canvas in oil. The net effect is a canvas print that looks like an original Kinkade oil painting.

In subdued lighting, this detail of Thomas Kinkade's "Yosemite Valley" appears to show the Alpenglow of sunset - Click for larger image ( a Master’s Canvas Edition of twenty hand retouched, signed and numbered prints was available in 1992, Kinkade’s own retouch and signature in oil made them too expensive for us at that time. In comparing our “sn” print with a Master’s Canvas Edition, the two look uncannily alike. That was part of Kinkade’s appeal. Through the economy of scale, and with added handiwork, Kinkade marketed “original art” at affordable prices. Since Kinkade personally trained all of his retouch artists, each of them retouched within the master’s concept. Thus, a well-kept “sn” can look every bit as good as Kinkade’s highest price offering at the time.

With Kinkade’s original art often retained in his own collection, lithographs and canvas prints are the only way for most of us to own a “Thomas Kinkade Original” painting. With its customary dryness, Wikipedia describes Thomas Kinkade thus: “Thomas Kinkade was an American painter of popular realistic, Detail of "Brandy" frame on Thomas Kinkade's "Yosemite Valley" - Click for full-frame view (, and idyllic subjects. He is notable for the mass marketing of his work as printed reproductions and other licensed products via The Thomas Kinkade Company”.

After examining our own Thomas Kinkade “Yosemite Valley”, I could see both sides of the Thomas Kinkade legacy. Upon close examination, our Kinkade is indeed a hand retouched canvas print. Yet, when I photographed the print in natural light, it became a painting before my eyes. In the warm light of afternoon, the canvas shone with yellow, orange and brown. In later light, the sunlight faded and the Alpenglow of sunset displayed upon the clouds behind. With fuller light, the painting exhibits "morning light".

Certificate of Limitation & Authenticity for Thomas Kinkade's "Yosemite Valley" signed & numbered print - Click for larger image ( one canvas could take on so many different visual aspects was at first a mystery to me. Then I remembered that early in his career, Thomas Kinkade had dubbed himself, “The Painter of Light”. Although the moniker had sounded pretentious to me at that time, my story is different now. I realize now that even a reproduction of Kinkade’s work can reflect light in interesting ways. With my renewed interest, our Thomas Kinkade now hangs lighted, in a place of honor on our walls.

With a collection of other paintings now crowding our wall space, we have decided to sell our Thomas Kinkade to an appreciative new owner. With only nine hundred eighty original canvas prints of the “sn” type ever produced, our “Late Afternoon Light at Artist’s Point” has since moved to grace the walls of a new living room.

Friday, February 22, 2013

An Energy Bridge to the 1930's Opens at Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland

The Wise Family Costantino Proietto original oil painting of Lago di Lugano Gandria, Switzerland, painted circa 1951 - Click for larger image (

An Energy Bridge to the 1930's Opens at Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland

Accompanying a recent email from Julia and Lowel Wise of Huntsville, Alabama were images of their Costantino Proietto original oil painting. While stationed as a service member in Stuttgart, Germany during the 1950’s, Lowel’s parents had purchased the painting. Lowel went on to write, “I was excited to see this on the Internet. We had searched back in 2006, but could not locate the artist by name”.

We live in Huntsville, Alabama. The Space & Rocket Center are located here, along with NASA, at the government military installation Redstone Arsenal. It is there where my father was last stationed, and then retired here.

The painting has traveled to many locations with us; from Germany where it's acquisition took place to Ft. Polk, Louisiana (my birth place) and back to Germany, and then back to Ft. Rucker, Alabama, and then to Ft. Wainwright, Alaska for five years, and finally here to Huntsville, Alabama. The painting was purchased on my father’s first tour to Germany, before I was born in 1956 and my older sister’s birth in 1955. She was born in Stuttgart, Germany where my father served two tours in the Army. My father (David J. Wise) Another view of Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland, as painted by Costantino Proietto, circa 1960's - Click for larger image ( in the Korean War and then the Vietnam Conflict/War where he was an Explosive Ordinance Disposal instructor. After returning from Vietnam at the end of 1972, he retired. My father and mother (Gwinda A. Wise) are deceased. We acquired the painting after my mother’s departure in 2001, and my father’s passing was in 1988.

Since I was a child, the painting has been of particular interest to me. Sometimes, I would sit and stare at it and then wonder… What it would have been like to live in that location and what life would have been like there… Just a simple way of dreaming as any child would do. My father and mother would tell all four of their siblings how they struggled to save and buy one of C. Proietto's paintings while he was on his first tour to Germany. Again THANKS for the information.

Signature from previous painting reads "C.Proietto", standing for the 20th century artist, Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image ( 2006, little if any information about the artist Costantino Proietto (1910–1979) existed on the internet. Not until 2011, when I began writing a series of eleven articles and founded a website about the artist did C.Proietto become widely known. I also met Mr. Nunzio LoCastro, first cousin to the artist, now living in New Jersey. With Nunzio’s help, I compiled an accurate biography of the artist, now published on

Since then, several owners of C. Proietto original oil paintings have sent images to me. Via internet searches, I discovered other examples of the artist’s work for sale in Europe and the United States. Since the Wise family C.Proietto represents the fourth known painting of the same village, I am now publishing images of all four paintings.

Image of a Costantino Proietto original oil painting at Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland - Click for larger image ( July 2012, I purchased a Costantino Proietto painting identified only as “Villa di Lago”. Although my new painting bore strong resemblance to two C.Proietto paintings of “Lago di Lugano Gandria”, which I had found on the internet, I could not be sure. The artist’s Italian and Swiss lake scenes often contain ancient villas, snowcapped mountains and villages on far shores.

Using the Wise family C.Proietto painting as a guide, I can confirm that both their and my paintings are of Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland. By comparing landscape and architectural details with those from the internet images, we now have four confirmed C.Proietto paintings of Gandria Village.

The Wise Family C.Proietto displays the 4:3 width-to-height ratios (27" X 18.75") typical of the artist’s early works. Yet, both it and one later example of the artist’s work depict the same stairs and doorway on the right side of the image. Other old photos show letters above that archway reading, The side-wheel steam ferry "Italia" departs Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland circa 1930's - Click for larger image (“Ristorante Crivelli, Lago di Lugano-Gandria, Switzerland, 19”. The later C.Proietto painting, probably from the 1960’s, displays a wide-angle format, similar to a Cinemascope movie screen. Even so, because of a near-identical point of view, both paintings likely used the same 1930’s photo as their model.

From Nunzio LoCastro we know that the artist painted in his Stuttgart studio, using photographic prints to model his scenes. During the late 1930’s, the artist traveled extensively in northern Italy and Switzerland. During World War II, Costantino Proietto emigrated to his future lifelong home in Stuttgart, Germany. Using his German-made Leica camera, Costantino Proietto documented a soon to be bygone era. Having seen and photographed the major peaks and lakes of Italy and Switzerland, Tino Proietto was later able to depict with accuracy a simpler, more tranquil time and place. Although the simplicity of the artist’s work appears fanciful to some, I have yet to see evidence that Tino Proietto painted from anything other than real life, or his own photography.

From the author's collection a Costantino Proietto original oil painting of Gandria Village, Lake Lugano, Switzerland, circa 1960's - Click for larger image ( its lack of markings on the back, the Wise Family “Lugano Gandria” painting (top) is clearly the oldest of the four paintings pictured here, probably dating to the early 1950’s. In the late 1950’s, the artist affixed paper tags to the backs of his paintings. By then, he would often write the subject matter on the frame, in pencil. Later still, he affixed wax seals to the tags, indicating their authenticity. By the late 1960’s, the artist also wrote descriptive captions on the frames, often using a red felt-tipped pen.

With the publication of each new painting, we expand the body of work attributed to twentieth century master impressionist, Costantino Proietto. To keep this expansion going, I invite owners of Costantino Proietto original oil paintings to forward images (front, back, signature and details) to me via email. Please identify purchase location, past and current ownership, plus any details that might help to tell the story. Over time, I will be happy to authenticate and publish images of any newly found C.Proietto impasto oil painting.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

At Castoro Cellars Tasting Room, Discover the Charm of Cobblestone Creek Vineyard

The Castoro Cellars Tasting Room is nestled in the Cobble Creek Vineyard in Templeton, California - Click for larger image (

At Castoro Cellars Tasting Room, Discover the Charm of Cobblestone Creek Vineyard

In early February 2012, we hooked up our travel trailer and headed north on U.S. Highway 101. Our destination was the Wine Country RV Resort in Paso Robles, California. Arriving before dark, we finished our setup and then sat down to dinner. Accompanying our roasted turkey breast and trimmings was a bottle of Castoro Cellars Paso Robles 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. With a foggy chill setting in outdoors, the red wine and white meat became perfect Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy is ready for a wine tasting adventure at Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles, California - Click for larger image ( partners.

A day before, I had visited our local Costco. My mission was to buy provisions for our Paso Robles wine country adventure. Although I had never purchased a bottle of Castoro Cellars wine before, the simplicity and elegance of their label attracted me. At less than ten dollars per bottle for an estate-grown, produced and bottled “Paso Cabernet”, the Costco price was exceptional. As it turned out, my instincts were correct. Unlike many Central California Cabernet Sauvignon of yesteryear, from the first sip to the last, this 2010 Cab was a multifaceted jewel.Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy points ot the Castoro Cellars hours of operation - Click for larger image ( following morning, we awoke to cloudy, cool weather. Undaunted, we planned to go out for wine tasting that day. By noon, the weather had warmed to almost sixty degrees and the sun shined lightly through a winter haze. Heading west on California Highway 46, also known as “Windy Way”, we soon saw a billboard featuring Castoro Cellars and their motto, “Dam Fine Wine”. In Italian, castoro means beaver. In this case, the “dam” refers to that industrious animal as well.

After a brief jaunt south on U.S. Highway 101, we regained California 46 West, known there as “Green Valley Road”. In the coastal live-oak parklandof the Paso Robles Wine Country, we found a profusion of small and medium 
sized estate wineries. As we turned on to North Bethel Road,Peachy Canyon The greeting committee at Castoro Cellars consists of one large red cat, here reading Carrie's energy - Click for larger image (, with its oak-studded vineyard greeted us. A bit farther along the road, we turned right at a driveway leading through an old head-pruned Zinfandel vineyard. Nestled there in Cobble Creek Vineyard is the Castoro Cellars Tasting Room.

After parking our car, I stopped to take pictures of the vineyard in its winter dress. With its leafless grape arbor, the path led gently uphill to the tasting room. At the foot of the path, a big red cat greeted Carrie and me. Immediately, I realized that this was no ordinary red cat. For that moment, at least he had adopted us and was leading us up the hill. Upon arrival at the courtyard above, the cat waited for us to open the door and then 
disappeared inside.
Two different vintages of Castoro Cellars "Zinfusion" Zinfandel Wine - Click for larger image (
While standing just inside the doorway, we surveyed the busy tasting room. Attracted to a flickering fire in the large stone fireplace, I spotted a love-seat that faced the glowing hearth. Thinking that it might be nice to rest and enjoy the fire, I moved toward the love-seat. Just before I sat down, I realized that a cat, camouflaged with the colors of the love-seat was sleeping there. Later, we discovered that both were “outdoor cats”, meaning that they stayed outside all night, even in cold, wintry weather.

Since the love-seat was off-limits, we entered the second of two tasting rooms within the building. Inserted neck-down in one of the large racks, I found a rare 1996 Paso Robles Zinfandel. Pioneers such as Ridge Vineyards and David Bruce Winery had made Zinfandel wines from Paso Robles vineyards as early as 1967. Because of their excellent reputations, current offerings from both David Bruce and Ridge include only recent vintages. Some will claim that 
Zinfandel does not A multicolored tabby cat blends well with the furniture at Castoro Cellars Tasting Room near Paso Robles, California - Click for larger image ( the longevity of Cabernet, but I disagree. If well vinified and cellared, an old Zinfandel can be every bit as good as an aged Cabernet. If the just released 2011 “Zinfusion” we tasted at the bar that afternoon is any indication, my old 1996 Zin should be quite an interesting wine.

In the courtyard, we found old head-pruned Zinfandel vines re-purposed as fanciful planters. Even with annual pruning and great care, some old vines must go and new vines must take their place. With an extensive array of solar panels on the roof of the tasting room and a commitment to sustainability, the “recycle, reuse and re-purpose” ethic at Castoro Cellars is strong. After seeing the beauty of dead grapevines sprouting a cornucopia of flowers, moss and succulents, weSpokesmodel Carrie McCoy admires a Zinfandel vine planter in the courtyard of Castoro Cellar, Paso Robles, California - Click for larger image ( purchased two bare vines. After “planting” the dead grapevines on our patio, I will write an article about planting our forty-year-old rustic sculptures.

According to a recent count, there are more than one hundred eighty bonded wineries in the Paso Robles Wine Country AVA. Any place named for a beaver and run by cats is my kind of place. With its beautiful setting, organic architecture and great wines, Castoro Cellars is now my favorite winery in Central California. If you visit “Paso Wine Country” and partake of a Castoro Cellars’ classic Zinfandel, be sure to tell them that Moab Jim sent you.