#BookReview Together by Luke Adam Hawker @Kyle_Books @Octopus_Books @RandomTTours

Together - BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Together by Luke Adam Hawker, with words by Marianne Laidlaw. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Kyle Books for my review copy.

Together Graphic 3About the Book

Used to drawing out on location, the lockdown of 2020 suddenly limited artist Luke Hawker’s day to day work. Like many of us he spent months at home, and, unable to go out and about found himself inspired to depict the day to day effects of the extraordinary challenges unfolding across the world.

Together takes a gentle and philosophical look at the events of 2020. Using the metaphor of a monumental storm, we follow a man and his dog through the uncertainty and change that it brings to their lives. Through their eyes we see the difficulties of being apart, the rollercoaster of emotions that we have all shared, and the realisation that by pulling together we can move forward with new perspective, hope, and an appreciation of what matters most in life.

Format: Hardcover (64 pages)         Publisher: Kyle Books
Publication date: 18th March 2021 Genre: Art, Fiction

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My Review

This is my first experience of reviewing a book of illustrations and I have to admit to being a little daunted at the prospect. It was reading the following details about how the book was produced that gave me a clue to a possible approach.

‘Together is very much a product of the new ways in which many of us have learned to work during lockdown. Having seen a beautiful depiction of the 8pm applause for the NHS, Editor Marianne Laidlaw approached Luke, asking him to illustrate the emotional rollercoaster we were all on. They started collaborating on the book, Luke mapping out images and Marianne writing words, while not having met – everything took place over Zoom for many months. The book’s creation mirrors its message that we are better joining forces and working together through adversity. Even in difficult times, there are silver linings, and beauty can be found.’

Inspired by the collaborative process described above, I concentrated first on the illustrations alone, reflecting on the feelings and thoughts they evoked. Then I returned to the beginning of the book, this time reading the words and looking at the accompanying illustrations together. By the way, I highly recommend checking out Luke’s Instagram feed where he shares insights into his work and the inspiration behind some of the images in the book. For example, I learned that one of the drawings, of people gathered outside a brightly lit store window, is a homage to Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks (held by the Art Institute of Chicago).

The publishers summarise the themes of the book as empathy, kindness, an appreciation of nature and of the people around us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t start out that way, as a striking drawing near the beginning of the book shows which depicts people wheeling loaded trolleys as supermarket shelves are emptied.

Scale is a frequent theme of the illustrations with tiny figures shown against a background of towering building or tall trees. I also liked the use of contrasts – between light and dark, empty and full.  A good example of the latter is a drawing of people crowded together on the platform of an underground station and then in a tube carriage (I think it will be a while until we experience that again!) followed by the image of a deserted tunnel.  This is reflected in Marianne Laidlaw’s words which accompany the illustrations. ‘Quiet, where once there was an orchestra of noise. The busiest of places stood empty and still. Normal things began to feel strange. Strange things began to feel normal.’

My favourite drawings were the double page spreads because they were so rich in detail. I enjoyed spending time observing the individual figures and spotting the little touches included by the artist. A good example is a drawing showing people at their windows, as happened during the weekly ‘Clap for Carers’. Luke Hawker’s background in architectural design is clear in the details of the windows: their different shapes – square, round, arched; or their decorative features – shutters, balconies, porticoes.  Another drawing I particularly liked was a full page one humorously depicting some of the activities people have taken up to occupy them during lockdown.  Pillow fight anyone?

Throughout the book, the figures of the old man (inspired by the artist’s grandfather) and his dog (inspired by the author’s own dog, Robin) evoke a sense of companionship and generosity.  Occasionally, they appear as a solitary pair of onlookers or observers, such as a drawing in which they are seated on a bench high above a city.

The joyful final illustration encapsulates the book’s title and the anticipation of long-awaited reunions.

Together is a short book but one well worth lingering over. It is beautifully produced and would make a wonderful gift. It’s certainly going to be a treasured addition to my own book collection.

In three words: Tender, heartfelt, profound

Try something similar: A Drawing A Day by Edward Carey

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Luke Adam HawkerAbout the Author

This is the debut from Luke Adam Hawker, who worked as an architectural designer before becoming a full-time artist in 2015. He lives just outside of London with his partner Lizzie and dog Robin. Luke ships his prints and originals to buyers all over the
world and has been commissioned by brands such as Soho House Hotel Group, Annabel’s Club, and Eventbrite.

Connect with Luke
Website | Instagram | Twitter

Together Graphic 7


#Extract The Caroline Paintings by Arthur D. Hittner

Arthur D. Hittner’s novel Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse, set in the art world of prewar New York City, is unfortunately still languishing in my review pile (although it is gradually getting closer to the top!) A while back, Arthur was kind enough to write a fascinating guest post about the challenge of capturing in words the inspiration that drives the creative process of an artist.  Arthur has recently published a new book, The Caroline Paintings, also set in the art world, and I’m pleased to be able to bring you an extract from the book.  If you like the sound of it, you can find purchase links further down this post. 

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Extract from The Caroline Paintings by Arthur D. Hittner

Chapter Two

Longmire, Virginia
September, 1968.

No one ever accused Caroline McKellan of reticence. She marched right up to the studio door and rapped loudly, like the wolf in the nursery rhyme. Irritated at the interruption, the artist sighed. He deposited his brush in the paint-spattered coffee can he’d used for decades, rose as quickly as his arthritic knees would allow, and opened the creaky wooden door.

“Caroline?” he stammered. The visit from his young next-door neighbour was unexpected; she’d been in grade school the last time she’d appeared at his door. Wearing cowboy boots, a tight pair of blue jeans, and a low-cut sweater, her lips painted a lush ruby red, she looked every bit of her sixteen years – and then some.

“Hi, Mr. Elliott,” she said breezily, whisking into his studio as if entering her own living room.

Caroline McKellan had known Grant Elliott all of her life. Growing up on the small Virginia farm that had been in her family for generations, her parents had often hosted intimate dinners with their famous neighbours, Becky and Grant Elliott, whose eighteenth-century fieldstone farmhouse stood a mere two hundred yards from their own, nestled in the ancient ridges of the Shenandoah Valley in the rural climes of northern Virginia.

The McKellans traced their ancestry back to a hardy couple of Scottish descent who’d emigrated on the eve of the Revolutionary War, settling in Longmire, on the very plot of land on which their early nineteenth-century farmhouse now stood. They’d been there ever since, passing the farm down, as was custom, to the eldest son. But the enduring chain of patrilineal descent had come to a crushing halt.

“To what do I owe the honour?” Grant inquired, a smile spreading across his well-chiseled face. Tall, broad-shouldered, and ruggedly handsome, he looked more like the Marlboro Man than a world-famous artist. But his advancing arthritis, the deepening lines on his face, and the random specks of grey intruding upon his unruly mantle of black hair bore testimony to his fifty-eight years.

“I’d like to be your muse, Mr. Elliott,” she said bluntly.

Her boldness amused him. “My muse?” He laughed heartily.  “It’s not that simple.” She stared at him, undaunted, her eyes blazing with determination.

Ever since she was a child, Caroline had reveled in her proximity to the artist celebrated for his poignant studies of the denizens of the Shenandoah Valley, ordinary people to whom the verdant valley was a cherished birthright.  When she was eight, Grant had produced sketches of each of her parents, presenting them as framed gifts to the family that Christmas.  Four years later, he’d contributed another portrait to the family collection, a sketch of her brother done from a photograph.  But he’d never drawn Caroline.


“I’m deadly serious,” she said defiantly, challenging the artist’s resistance. “I know you want to paint me, you said so at dinner!” She deposited herself on the timeworn seat of an old Windsor chair, her outline silhouetted by the dim northern light filtering through the bay window of the once dilapidated outbuilding that the Elliotts had refitted as a studio.

Caroline was right.  Grant Elliott would have liked nothing more than to paint the precocious sixteen-year-old. A tinderbox of beauty, grief, and anger and rebellion, she was captivating and provocative.  He’d struggled to wrest his eyes from her two nights earlier, when the McKellans hosted the Elliotts for dinner.  It was his first glimpse of Caroline in more than a year and the changes were startling.  She’d grown into a beautiful young woman: tall, lithe and brash, with piercing blue eyes, porcelain skin and a luxurious mane of strawberry blond hair.  In passing dinner conversation he’d mentioned his interest in painting her, but his hosts were decidedly cool to the notion.  He’d pursued it no further.

But to Caroline, Grant’s remark was a summons – an invitation to pursue her covert ambition.  After all, she figured, she had nothing left to lose.

The Caroline PaintingsAbout the Book

A Florida retiree, dabbling in the art market, acquires the contents of a storage locker in a foreclosure sale. Included is a cache of unsigned paintings of a beautiful young woman by a supremely talented hand. Who is she, who’s the artist, and what gave rise to these stunning works? By what tortuous path did they find their way into an abandoned storage unit and who’ll prevail in the ensuing struggle for their possession?

The answers are revealed in the art-sleuthing novel, The Caroline Paintings, a bittersweet, fifty-year tale of art, love, duplicity, perseverance, and discovery featuring a troubled teenage runaway, a tormented artist, an illegitimate son, an unscrupulous attorney, a beer-guzzling widower, and a quirky Harvard art professor.

Inspired by the saga of the Helga Pictures by Andrew Wyeth, and in the tradition of art-centred fiction such as The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and The Art Forger, The Caroline Paintings is a must-read for lovers of art and partisans of historical and contemporary fiction.

Format: Paperback, ebook (225 pages)  Publisher: Apple Ridge Fine Arts
Published: 1st January 2020                    Genre: Historical Fiction, Art

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ  Amazon.com
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Find The Caroline Paintings on Goodreads


Arthur D HittnerAbout the Author

Arthur D. Hittner, author of the art-related historical novels, The Caroline Paintings and Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse, and the humorous baseball novel Four-Finger Singer and His Late Wife, Kate.

He is also the author of Honus Wagner: The Life of Baseball’s ‘Flying Dutchman’ (McFarland, 1996), winner of the Seymour Medal awarded by the Society of American Baseball Research for the best book of baseball history or biography published in 1996, At the Threshold of Brilliance: The Brief but Splendid Career of Harold J. Rabinovitz (The Rabinovitz Project, 2014), a biography and catalogue raisonne of a newly rediscovered master of American art of the Depression era, and the irreverent travelogue, Cross-Country Chronicles: Road Trips Through the Art and Soul of America.

Mr. Hittner has also written about fine art subjects for Maine Antique Digest, Fine Art Connoisseur and Antiques & Fine Art and has served as a Trustee of the Danforth Museum of Art and the Tucson Museum of Art.

Connect with Arthur

Website ǀ  Goodreads