Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Portraits: A Novel about Art, Artists, and the Art Revolution is a contemporary fiction novel written by Tom Hendricks. Jack Labas lives for his art, but he’s not been able to find a means to get his work out into the public eye, nor does he have the wherewithal to support himself as he paints. So, he works part-time jobs, sometimes two or more, while he continues creating: pencil sketches, oil paintings, nearly always portraits, which seem to be what art is all about for him. He wishes he had a way to afford the huge pieces of canvas that would be able to contain the grand images he has inside. His somewhat solitary existence is broken by the arrival of a letter from an admirer named Missy. She knew his name, and, as her continuing correspondence indicated, she was familiar with his work. Missy even mentioned a favorite portrait of a smiling girl. He had no clue how she had seen his work, and her typewritten letters gave him little help with deciphering the motivations of his mysterious friend. The only time he’d exhibited his work in recent years had been when he joined a Dallas-sponsored artists’ association. His fees had covered a week-long exhibit which seemed to have gone unnoticed for the most part. When Missy finally sends him her address, one which Jack finds is just a mailbox drop, he can’t help but correspond with the woman who’s somehow captured his imagination and his heart.
Tom Hendricks’ contemporary fiction novel, Portraits: A Novel about Art, Artists, and the Art Revolution, is an art lover’s delight. The author’s story captures the essence of the lifestyle and struggles of artists, especially those who’ve not been discovered or found by the gatekeepers of the art world. I loved how he develops the Deep Ellum Co-op and enjoyed the way he builds up each artist’s character, artistic influences and personal style. The correspondence between Jack and his mysterious friend is compelling reading, and I began to look forward to each new missive. Each letter builds beautifully from the last, and the love and friendship that develops between the two of them is genuine and believable. Jack’s life after he joins the Co-op changes so much for the better and the reader gets to watch him and the other artists working together to build something, to make their own stand in the art world on their own terms and it works so well. I had a marvelous time reading this novel and am looking forward to rereading it soon. Portraits: A Novel about Art, Artists, and the Art Revolution is most highly recommended.