By Hudson Sangreehsangree@sacbee.com
The painter of light is having a dark period.
Thomas Kinkade, the Placerville native who became one of the world's wealthiest artists with his sentimental landscapes and Christian motifs, has had a string of legal troubles.
His company owes millions of dollars to art gallery owners who successfully pressed fraud claims.
Earlier this month the firm filed for bankruptcy protection from those gallery owners and hundreds of other creditors. And on Friday, the 52-year-old Kinkade, who calls himself "the painter of light," was arrested on a DUI charge outside Carmel, where he owns a home.
Kinkade could not be reached for comment Monday. But a company spokesman insisted all was well in the artist's empire.
"Tom is still painting and the business is still strong," said Dave Satterfield. He said Kinkade would not comment on the DUI arrest on the advice of his lawyer. Officials at Kinkade's corporate offices were still reviewing the allegations, Satterfield said.
"We will have more to say once we've completed that review," he said.
According to the California Highway Patrol, a Monterey County sheriff's deputy stopped Kinkade's Mercedes- Benz for a vehicle code violation Friday night.The deputy suspected Kinkade was under the influence and called the Highway Patrol for assistance, said CHP Officer Robert Lehman.
A CHP officer performed tests to determine if Kinkade was impaired and arrested him just after 10 p.m., Lehman said.
The arresting officer reported that Kinkade was "very polite," during the exchange, Lehman said. The painter was booked into the Monterey County jail on suspicion of misdemeanor drunken driving, Lehman said.
Kinkade submitted to a blood test, but the CHP is not releasing his blood-alcohol content, the officer said.
It was the second time this month that Kinkade had been embroiled in legal woes. On June 2, his company Pacific Metro, formerly known as Media Arts and the Thomas Kinkade Co., filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court.
The company, one of Kinkade's two major corporate arms, produces the paintings sold at galleries around the world, Satterfield said. Another corporation handles licensing, he said.
Satterfield said reorganization under bankruptcy laws was needed because outsourcing had left the company with a fraction of its former work force but still holding long-term leases.
"The company is in serious financial condition and is unable to continue without debt relief," the bankruptcy filing said.
The company owes 1,000 to 5,000 creditors a total of $10 million to $50 million, according to court documents.
A list of creditors more than 100 pages long was appended to the bankruptcy filing. It included a cardboard-box company in Sacramento, the state Board of Equalization and small art galleries in Folsom, Auburn and Elk Grove.
At the top of the list were Karen Hazelwood and Jeff Spinello, art gallery owners from Virginia to whom Kinkade's company said it owed almost $2.4 million.
The debt stemmed from a fraud claim the couple won in arbitration in 2006. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award last June. The couple and their lawyer could not be reached for comment Monday.
Second on the list were another set of art gallery owners who won a $1.4 million award in a similar case. That case is still being appealed, Satterfield said.
There had been a number of similar claims against the company which had failed, he said.