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These strokes at Fenway Park paint a picture

Jim Bryant of Thomas Kinkade Company had a brush with greatness before Game 7: Fenway Park as pretty as a picture. Jim Bryant of Thomas Kinkade Company had a brush with greatness before Game 7: Fenway Park as pretty as a picture. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)

Thomas Kinkade, a baseball fan who can appreciate a good stroke from either side of the palate, piled up the innings at Fenway Park yesterday, opening up his equipment bag full of easel, paints, and sketch pads inside baseball's emerald bandbox at roughly 9 a.m.

One of America's best-known and commercially-successful contemporary artists, the 49-year-old Kinkade, best known as "The Painter of Light," spent the day working on a number of Fenway pieces, inside and outside the ballpark. His signature Fenway piece, a rendering of the 95-year-old park, took him some three hours to rough out while he sat in a nearly-empty ballyard, and he expects to have it ready for sale early in 2008.

"Ideally by the end of March," said the robust Californian, readying to head back into the park early last evening after sketching a busy pregame street scene across from Gate D. "It will get into the market as a preview of the 2008 season . . . you know, for the World Champions."

Kinkade's originals and prints, often featured in galleries bearing his name in shopping malls across America, by his own estimation are owned by upward of 15 million, most of them in the United States. But, he said, he also has galleries in Canada and the United Kingdom.

"Yes, 18 galleries in the UK," he said, the number seeming to surprise the artist as it rolled from his tongue. "So, go figure."

Kinkade, for good reason, is figuring that the passion of Red Sox Nation, which seems to know no bounds, especially financial, will perpetuate his vast commercial empire. He said he also hopes to partner with a local charity, perhaps the Jimmy Fund, as a means "of giving back" to a sport he loves.

"I like to do paintings like these that diehard baseball fans can enjoy," said Kinkade, pointing to his painting across the street from Gate D, the raucous Fenway crowd building by the minute. "And it makes me feel good when I see a guy come over like today, a guy with gnarled up hands, probably a mechanic, someone who's probably never bought a piece of art in his life, wondering where he can buy it."

Kinkade grew up near the Sierras, in Placerville, Calif., and said yesterday his love of art was initially inspired by a sports cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee.

"Babcock was his name," he recalled. "No idea whatever happened to him. But growing up, that's what I wanted to be, a cartoon artist. Art is what I did as a kid. That was my thing, and I was good at it. You know, in school, I was the kid who ran to the chalkboard before class, and drew some character on the board before the teacher showed up."

Awarded an academic scholarship to attend the University of California at Berkeley, Kinkade dropped out after two years to launch his career as a movie studio artist. By the time he was 25, he was publishing his first artwork. Nearly a quarter-century later he was parked at the far end of Yawkey Way, contemplating a night when he would work Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, hustling from his two working locations the Sox reserved for him, one along the third base side, and another on the first base side.

Kinkade and his wife, Nanette, have four daughters, ages 10-17. And, yes, his wife's name is Nanette, an irony not lost on the artist/baseball fan.

As all Sox fans learn from their first day as a member of the Nation, "No, No, Nanette" was the Broadway play, bankrolled by then-Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, that ultimately led the Sox to deal Babe Ruth to the Yankees following the 1919 season. In need of money to keep the ill-fated play propped up, Frazee sold the Bambino, in those days a blossoming lefthanded pitcher, to the Bombers. The Sox won the 1918 World Series under Frazee's ownership, but with Ruth and other stars of the '18 world champs sold off, they went 86 years before winning again.

"And you can look this up," said Kinkade, who grew up a San Francisco Giants fan and now lives not far away in Saratoga, Calif. "But in 'No, No, Nanette,' the name of Nanette's suitor is . . . Tom."

Sad but true. Tom Trainor was the man who wanted Nanette Smith's heart.

In real life, Tom Kinkade and Nanette Wiley, sweethearts from the age of 13, got married in their early 20s and have lived happily ever after. Their lives have imitated art, while he has made a career imitating life - some of which now includes one fine day at Fenway.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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