Ryan Robson’s Lady-like exhibit at the College – my take

Recently, a number of people asked me to comment on Ryan Robson’s “Lady-Like” exhibit and what happened in those subsequent weeks.  I’ve taken some time to think about the events and the subject and for what it is worth, here are my thoughts.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the story is documented here:

http://www.vernonmorningstar.com/news/240912791.html

and here:

http://infotel.ca/newsitem/Controversial-art-exhibit-stripped-from-Okanagan-College/IT7297

and here on CBC is the interview with Ryan about the show (7 minutes long):

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/Local+Shows/British+Columbia/ID/2430385542/

From the infotel.ca link:

“After receiving a number of concerns, we thought the time frame for this exhibit maybe should be left at two weeks. During that time almost all of our college community would have had time to experience the art,” Lister says.

So here are the facts as I see them:

  • Ryan Robson is a local Vernon artist.
  • Gallery Vertigo, an artist run gallery, has an agreement with the Kalamalka Okanagan College satellite campus in Vernon to have artworks on display for one month, so by my math, that is four weeks.
  • There was no financial cost to display the art.
  • Robson creates sincere and genuine works with the intention of helping herself, and helping others by opening a dialogue on a very distressing and confrontational subject.
  • The artworks are on display for a very, very short period of time (days?) before complaints come in to the Okanagan College administrators.
  • The artworks are no longer able to be up for the agreed amount time with the administrator citing the “complaints”.

Based on the actions of the administrators of Kalamalka – Okanagan College, my take is the following:

  • The Okanagan College failed in its role as a centre for expanded learning.
  • They don’t understand the value of art as a vehicle for education and understanding, compassion and empathy.
  • They see art as “conditional” rather than a “necessary”.
  • They should have stood up to the complainers and stood up for the art.
  • I believe that as long as the art is landscapes and flowers and fairies or objective abstracts then art is welcome on their walls.
  • Ryan Robson is a local artist.
  • Local artists are not taken seriously or their genuine work is seen as valid.
  • If this was an outside exhibit that they had to pay to display then the artworks would have been up for the agreed amount of time.

The College had an opportunity to expand consciousness and understanding of such a highly charged area of human life, and I am certain sexual molestation happens to more children and people than we know.  I am sure they could have taken advantage of this artist’s sharing by having her come and speak to the psychology classes, or other subjects they teach.  Speaking from the experience of someone who is coming to terms with my own identity and exploring the same in my work, the actions of the College are reprehensible considering that this area purports itself to be so culturally aware.

Instead, they shut her down and gave the message “we don’t want to see that”, or “we don’t care about what you went through, it isn’t valid art”. Regardless of what was said, actions speak louder than words, and that was the message, very clear to all.  And again, I think it is because she was a local artist.  If this was an artist from Toronto, or Vancouver, or if they had to pay for the exhibit, then this outcome would be very different.

Too bad the College succumbed to squeaky wheels and whiners instead of telling them to stuff it.  They could have made themselves the example of strength and leadership by standing up for the principle and needs of art.

But they didn’t.

 

 

Sketched Out Studio Sale

Sketched Out Studio Sale
Sketched Out Studio Sale

Three artists are joining forces to try to get their works out to the community. We are making room for new projects, new beginnings, and it is your chance to own an original artwork.

Trying to make the situation a win win for all involved, and fully aware that Christmas is coming, too,  Julia Trops, Trina Ganson and Angela Bonten will be at Studio 113 from 9 am to 4 pm on Saturday December 10th offering their work at hugely discounted prices.

For a preview of what I will be offering, please see the Facebook Album for works that are presently available. Or you can go to VenusIsRising.com and see if there is anything else that appeals to you.

From my latest newsletter:

The next step in my artist career:

I am going to Italy for a residency in June 2012.  The port town of Otranto will be my studio for the month where I will be researching and creating works based on the myths  and stories of the female.

In order to raise funds for the residency,  I am holding two specials:

The first way is through works from 2010 to present.

Some of these are available in person  at my studio in the Rotary Centre for the Arts, and  others are available to be viewed and purchased online at my Ruby Lane shop:

Venus is Rising

Or you can come and see me at the Rotary Centre for the Arts on Saturday November 26th, 9 to 3 pm during the Sketched Out studio sale, for the second special.  You can see most of these works on Facebook:

Look for the painting called Blueberry Bliss. These works are a whopping 66% off. I mean business!

If you see anything you like, send me a note. Or if you have seen the work already and you want to reserve it, then paypal is just fine, please send to julia@juliatrops.com, and indicate which work you want. It’s a great time to support an artist’s career, a Christmas gift for you or your loved ones, or a CyberMonday purchase…. once the $5000 is raised, all prices return to normal and your investment has just increased!

Thank you for helping me reach one of my goals. I have a ten year business plan, and the residencies are one of the things on my check list. Cross your fingers!

Artwalk 2011 – a preview

Artwalk 2011 is just around the corner! This year the theme is Eye Tunes… and as you know already most of my work is centred around music and dance….

If you would like a preview of some of the works that will be in the show, please go to my Facebook artist page http://www.facebook.com/artistjuliatrops

The album is called Artwalk 2011, and will have a range of works, from extremely large charcoals, to tiny 3×3 inch watercolours. I have tried to cover all the price points, so if you have wanted to get a work for a while, please consider this weekend!

Remember, I do not do prints, only originals, so once a work is sold, it is sold.

Also if you see something in Ruby Lane but it is not in the album, let me know, I can bring it with me.

Any questions, as always, please ask.

Gallery Vertigo’s Almost Famous Auction

Gallery Vertigo in Vernon is an artist run centre that does an auction every year for their gallery.

The goal is to raise funds, support their programs and to get their artists involved in their community, and at the same time provide some education to Joe Public and other artists about various works in Art History. While Vernon is a bit of a distance as I live in West Kelowna, I enjoy contributing to this fundraiser because it gets me back in to the history books, to re-look at art, it gives a new way in, it involves my brain, my ability and skills and my awareness, which only enhances my work further. I look at how I can re-interpret a work that maybe I did not necessarily appreciate before, or how I can show how a work was impactful either on me or on the artworld itself. It is a win-win for all of us!

You know, I wish this was an assignment that would be incorporated in to the Art History programs at the university and the college. There is nothing that can help with the understanding of an artist quite like getting involved in their methodology, and their work.

Some of the things I consider when choosing a work to ‘re-create” for Almost Famous:

Try to do an artist, and or subject, I know nothing about. ie Wolf Kahn from 2008- I never paint with orange and yellow, and thought this would be a good opportunity to do so. I also never painted trees, but two years later, in my own work, the tree influence made itself felt:

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Wolf Kahn 30×22 oil on canvas for Almost Famous Artist Run Centre Gallery 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Try to do a work that is not in the same medium ie I did a Tiffany Stained Glass in acrylic and oil from 2011:

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Tiffany Stained Glass re-created to Acrylic Oil Pen and Ink 8×8 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try to do the same dimensions and medium as done originally,  for example the Emily Carr from 2007:

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Emily Carr Oil Painting Skidegate Pole Gallery Vertigo Almost Famous 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or I will try to do the same dimensions but smaller, such as the Renoir from 2010:

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Woman Reading Renoir Oil Painting Almost Famous Gallery Vertigo 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also try to add my own twist, so that the work is not an exact copy but has my own personality, ie if done originally in pencil, I will do in ink, or I will change the surface as I did in the Renoir above. The Matisse below was originally done in willow Charcoal:

 

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Matisse Conte, Pencil and watercolour pencil Drawing Gallery Vertigo Almost Famous 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One word of caution though – changing the colours is a tricky, because if the original work depends on colours for its substance, and is based in colour theory, it may be more difficult, but not impossible.  Changes like these are where I, as an artist, become challenged and really enjoy. Here is an Ingres from 2009:

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Ingres Oil Painting The Bather Gallery Vertigo 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bidding

I have noticed some trends in bidding – the average price is between 50 and 70 dollars, with very few works going over $100 . and even fewer works going over $150.

If you are looking at maximizing the amount for your artwork consider the following:

  • works of some periods tend to go for more ie art deco, art nouveau, impressionism, expressionism, der Blaue Reiter
  • abstract work of certain periods tends to go for less ie abstract expressionism, deStijl
  • if you are going to do realistic work in a realistic expression, then be meticulous in the reproduction
  • some specific artists do very well ie (not limited to) Matisse, Klimt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Monet, Carr and Group of Seven
  • some specific artists don’t do very well ie Bacon, Mondrian
  • colour always does well
  • size matters ie
  •     small works always do well
  •     large works (over 30×20) have challenges because of space
  • include a short writeup for the work – why did you choose it, how does your rendition change it from the original (if applicable)
  • include a picture and include a short bio (about 250 words max).
  • FINISH the work! it does not mean it has to be framed, but include a varnish of some sort, to make the colours pop – spray, or gloss medium to unify the surface, that sort of thing.

Just because I include the above as cautions, does not mean that the artists, periods and expressions listed will never do very well, it just means that the public (perhaps) is not all that educated in the value of those expressions. If YOU are drawn to those artists, there is a reason, and perhaps you can use this opportunity to show others what you see as important and impactful. Use this opportunity to educate. With understanding comes appreciation and that is what this exhibition is all about.

Look upon the Gallery Vertigo Almost Famous exhibition as a way to help your fellow artists and the general public understand about various times in Art History. If you could visually express something about a specific work, what would it be? How can you incorporate what you learned about these works in to your own work, or your outlook…? For me, it is interesting to see how these works, whether I painted them, or viewed them, affect my own work later on down the road, whether in subject, or colour or expression or all of the above. Any education is never wasted.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Gallery Vertigo Almost Famous Auction, mark your calendar for June, as the call usually comes out then, with a deadline of delivery of mid to end July. The actual auction happens about the second/third week in August. Why not do an artwork or two or three during the year, and then you will have something ready for when the call comes out.

Any questions on the blog post, please do let me know – and on Gallery Vertigo’s Almost Famous, please contact Gallery Vertigo info@galleryvertigo.com.

All the best! Julia

Artist Interview – some insights into this Canadian Artist

About a month ago, a UBCO fine arts university student asked me via email for an interview. The following are her questions and my answers….

Have you been living in Kelowna for long? since Dec 2001.

Where were you living before now?
In Medicine Hat area, Alberta for a short time, in the military before that where I have lived all over Canada and did a peacekeeping tour of the middle east.

Because of your studio in the Rotary Arts Centre, you must spend most of your time there. Do you like being in the middle of downtown Kelowna?
When the studio was just mine (for eight years) I did spend a lot of my time there. I liked the studio, but too many people came in and interrupted my work – I would be painting, and they would just walk in and start talking like I was not doing anything. That was frustrating.  Yes, I like being in the middle of Kelowna, but I would be fine anywhere. It is 10 minutes from my home, and I live on the other side of the lake.

What influences your work? What inspires you?

Whatever I am going through at the moment. I do a lot of compression and expansion poses (crouching and then the opposite, arms flung wide). New colour relationships, or rather, new relationships to me. Sometimes what I read – I read a lot of Joseph Campbell, and he has cultural concepts that I really enjoy. I don’t like orange and I don’t like yellow. I don’t know why. I’ve used the same palette pretty much since 2005.

Do you like to work in your studio all the time or do you enjoy working outside in more spontaneous areas?
I like in the studio most – I don’t do bugs. Sometimes I will do small paintings while listening to the tv – it distracts my left brain so my right one can work.

Whats your favourite medium?
Absolute favourite is charcoal and then graphite and pastel. Then oil, sculpture is still pretty new, but I enjoy that too. Acrylic is okay, but I don’t like the plastic-y look that it can have without the mediums.

What is your favourite thing to focus on in your art?
Drama and mystery, joy and laughter. I get that by the attitude and placement of body and colours and lines. Formal elements are still a big part of my work.

You are an organizer of Livessence. Was this your idea?

Yes. I was in an FCA meeting one night and overheard some people talking about having a life drawing session downtown, because the university was so far away (OUC at the time). Since I was missing life drawing too, I decided to create the class, and see who was interested. I initiated and managed two classes a week by myself  (about 15 attendees each time) for about two years, and then asked if any of the attendees would be interested in incorporating as a non-profit. The answer was yes, and here we are. (Livessence Website which I also manage)

Do you like the artistic community in the Okanagan?

It’s okay. Lots of little clicks in the community but I suspect it is like that anywhere. I am fairly involved with the community because I feel that there are a few people here that could do really good things if they only believed in themselves more. I know what that is like, not believing in oneself, so I try to help out when I can. I don’t look for anything in return, because my reward is seeing them expand and grow, this is not something that can be hidden. That’s good enough for me, and means I am making a difference.

Do you enjoy working with nudes?

Yes, I see the figurative form as a way to communicate life, experience and energy in a visual sense.

Have you been creating art to sustain your living or do you have something else to support you?

I have a goal each month to bring in x amount of $. Sometimes I reach it sometimes I don’t. My husband also works, but we need my income too.

Do you make art for a gallery or for public to make your profits?  Do you find that your creative ideas suffer because of the production of art to earn money?
I have always made work for myself. If someone else likes it too, enough to buy it, then I consider myself lucky. Because I have been self-driven, I’ve done almost 4000 works in the past 8 years – over 1000 I have sold. I feel that if I do work for myself without the taint of being done for money, it will always be pure. That is important to me. The same reason why I will not do reproductions, to keep the art unique and itself.

Do you have your own private collection of your work?
Yes, I have some favourite pieces that I will not offer for sale or for tremendously high amounts.

Do you travel at all for inspiration?
If I had more $$ I would. All travels are inspirational, though the farther away, the more inspiration can be found. 😉

Did you go to school to learn skills in the arts or did you learn them on your own throughout the years?
I went to life school for life skills first before going to university for the degree. Let me explain: Kicked out of U of C when I was 17, tried a number of low mind jobs, then joined the military. Best thing I ever did. Was trained, got to travel around the world, learned some tremendous things, including time management and self discipline. That 20 years made me grow as a person, and this translates, I believe, in to my work. University in 98 part time when I left the military. Went thru a nervous breakdown due to the loss of identity, a severe depression and I truly believe it was the drawing class that pulled me back to some small sense of sanity. In late 2009, I felt I was out of it.

When did you begin to look into the artistic field and when did you decide to persue being a professional artist?
I closed the door after being kicked out of U of C. My gpa was .5 and I felt I was a failure in terms of being an artist, and that it would never happen. Joined the military. Always did some sort of painting during that time, whether with thread in cross stitch, or pottery. In 91, I took a night course in Ottawa in oil painting. I still have the works, they are quite bad. In 95, my husband and I went to Hawaii, and when we came back I was compelled to do a drawing of a postcard I bought. One of the Captains saw it on my desk and said “what are you doing here?” That made me start to think again. Two years later, events lined up to allow me to leave and pursue art in university full time. Graduated in 2001 with BFA Great Distinction, I think my gpa was 3.97 or something like that. Moved to Kelowna, applied for a studio at the RCA within three months of getting here. The RCA was not built yet, but was close, and I was in the office every week asking if they had made up their minds yet, and if I made the cut. I think they said yes just so I would stop bugging them. Eight years later, here we are.

When were you established as a professional artist?
2004 when I decided to take the leap from a job at the 9-1-1 Call Centre to pursue my art career full time. That was scarey but I did it. Within two years I was making more than 60K. Still paying off the student loan though.

Have you had many exhibits?
Yes, many. Most have been at the RCA or in coffee shops, some have been in commercial galleries or shows that I have made up myself. The thing with exhibits, is that you can control how much you do or don’t do. If there is a show idea that you would like to do, but isn’t happening, then put it on yourself. That’s what happened with the Okanagan Erotic Art Show. Three of us got together and said we wanted to do it, so we did.

Do you enjoy working with university students?

I never really have.

If you had one piece of wisdom to pass on to students struggling with art and the “real world”, what would you tell them?
Learn self-discipline, time management, and tell anyone who says you can’t do “something” to screw off. Don’t take no for an answer. If you can think it, you can do it. Find your own solutions to problems. Make your own rules. Take responsibility for your life, your work and your thoughts. Read (really read with comprehension!) Sir Ralf Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Do not avoid struggling as there is nothing wrong with it, it is the heart of creative thinking. Face your shadow and your demons, they are a rich treasure of understanding and inspiration. Okay I guess that’s more than one.

Comments and or questions are always welcome.

When is Art Marketing just marketing?

And when is it about the artist, the locality, the artwork, or the economy?

Hard questions.

I Just Have a Big Mouth

In the last six months or so, I have had so many people come up to me (mostly other artists) and say what a terrific job I am doing in marketing. Marketing?! What marketing? I just have a big mouth, that’s all.

If I am doing something, I say so. If I am involved with other groups, I say so. If I am involved in your group, it is because I believe in it, and/or I am proud of it. I wouldn’t be hanging out with you if you didn’t have something positive to offer the community. I wouldn’t be hanging out with you if I didn’t have something positive to offer YOU! These days it seems it is really hard to get people involved in outside artist activities… So be happy that anyone is involved in your project, whether it is me, or Joe the Plummer! Be happy that I’m blabbing (or blogging) about it! You should be too, why aren’t you?

Some people have done their blasting of their work through the charities, and their donations. Very commendable, but when do you draw the line and say, “okay you guys, you’re bleeding me dry?” Some people have done their blasting of their work through galleries, or through exhibitions, or through their activities or their organizations they belong to (ie Rotary, Red Hats or __Fill_in_the_Blank__). That is great! What you are doing is utilizing the greatest asset that we have at our disposal, that of cooperation and community!

Is it marketing? Sure. Any time you open your mouth to say what you are doing, you are marketing. For example, even when I am not marketing my art, if I am doing a unrelated activity, I am still marketing my art, because I am known as an artist. The art is seldom separated from the artist, how can it be, really, when you think about it. The art is a reflection of what is inside of you, you are a walking advertisement for your work. So walk tall!

Three Main Groups of Artists

The way I see it is that you have three main groups of artists.

  1. The first group are hobbyists, and they put on an artshow to hopefully make a few sales, show people what they’ve done, have a good time. It’s a pleasure based activity, not one that is really grounded in personal achievement and ambition.
  2. The second group are what I call commercial artists, usually full time but not in all cases, who create a specific type of work for a specific type of clientele. Still pleasurable, painstaking, but these artists are in love with what they do, and shows that they have are very targeted towards the needs of these clientele, very much a niche market.
  3. The third group of artists are those who are full time artists, but again not in all cases, who create work just because they love to create and are always on the look out for new ways in to their ideas. These artists look at their artworks like they are diamonds, with many facets of expression and interpretation. These artists love to have shows so they can interact with the public and share their discoveries. The artworks do sell, but not usually right away – in my cases, I’ve had works sit for about six years before anyone saw the same potential and excitement that I did.
  4. There is another group of artists who show in artist run centres who rely on art marketing by the galleries, and rarely sell, so for that reason, I am not going to include much about them here. Having said that though, there are many artists who combine two or three of these “categories”, simply because they can, and they have that ability.

Buying from an Art Gallery vs Buying from the Artist

Let’s talk about the locality – where the shows are. Are they in a town who supports artists, and who buy a lot of art? Or are they in a town whose residents go to art shows, but rarely buy anything. Are the art shows in a gallery or with other artists? The benefit of being in a gallery is you have the apparent blessing of an establishment stating “this artwork is worthy of purchase.” Am I supportive of galleries? Absolutely. My work is in galleries, why wouldn’t I be supportive of them? Galleries take the guess work out of an art purchase. Galleries have already done the homework in terms of the artist, the artwork and the potential future. In my case, the galleries I am in are in a different place than I am, and I know that my reputation is a strong one, strong enough to carry to be where they are – and I know they sell my work because I receive a nice cheque every now and then. But, having said that, I believe it is a wise and daring client who would be more interested in purchasing the artwork from the artist – these clients have the time to do their own homework, and while they may purchase from a gallery from time to time, they enjoy the pleasure of hunting out new blood. These are the types of clients that I like, as they are explorers themselves. They aren’t afraid to go off the beaten path of the regular gallery route to discover a hidden nugget – they are cultural hikers.

The Economy

The economy has been really tough in the past year and a half on those of us who pay our bills from the results of artwork sales. I mean, really tough. Talk about going in to a black hole of nothingness. So what do you do? Do you complain and sit back and say, it’s the economy…? or do you adapt? For me, I adapt, and I make sure other people consider adapting too – for example: if big works aren’t selling, make small ones. If paints cost a lot of money, learn to use another medium that doesn’t cost a lot. You are creative!! Explore, be inventive, go beyond the apparent barriers, and you will surprise yourself. Make noise – eventually it will turn into song.

Does Artwork Really Sell Online?

Yes, it does. There is no other way to say it. I remember back in 2004 when I was looking for a way to get my work out of Kelowna, and I started to sell on ebay. Sure ebay wasn’t the regular route, but it has never been my path to go the regular route. I was doing very well – my first piece was $900 30×40 oil painting to a fabulous woman in Ontario, and it only increased from there. I remember going to a marketing course “Are you Export Ready”, put on by the Alternator Gallery, the local artist run centre, in 2004 or 2005. I was told at that time I was not export ready, even though I had already sold more than a few thousand in the few months that I was online. I attended the course to learn about exports and regulation, and learned enough to find the rest of the way myself. Anyway, I digress. There was a discussion about where to put artworks for sale, and someone at the back said “you can always sell on ebay!” Everyone laughed as if it was a big joke. I was very hurt by that, as these were people I admired and respected. It is now 2009, and I have five years of online sales, a huge number on my email list and I could not ask for any better clients. These are people who really connected with my work and appreciated it. What more can I ask for?

The point that I am trying to make is that don’t dismiss the oddball ventures. Be courageous. Don’t follow the crowd. Gallery owners troll ebay, because it is a nice snapshot of what is going on in the world. As a result of my sales and exposure on ebay, I was able to move over to Ruby Lane in 2007, which is where I am now. With my start on ebay,  which includes over 700 artworks sold literally around the world, in the past five years, being published in a book about life drawing by University instructor Harold Stone, picked up by a gallery in Hong Kong, and met some tremendously savvy business people in Tom King’s The Business Group, (also on ebay, gold and platinum Power sellers) people whose business is selling online – millions of dollars a year. How better for me to learn than to be with outstanding people? And I am proud to say that I have been able to help them too.

None of this would have happened if I listened and was intimidated by the people I respected and admired, and allowed their behaviour to modify mine. What I did consider was why I respected and admired them, I guarantee you that this has become less.

The Artwork

If you do some artwork and don’t tell anyone about it, that’s all fine as well. Some artwork is very personal. There are a lot of works I have done that no one knows about because quite frankly, I don’t think they’d “get it”. I don’t even “get it” at least not yet, maybe in a few years things will become clear as to why etc. That’s usually how it works, hindsight and all that.

The Last Word

All I can say is that 80 percent of marketing is being strong enough to stand up and say something out loud to many people who may or may not be listening. It doesn’t really matter if they are listening, it matters that you are standing up and saying it.  People are going to remember your name because they either:

  • really love your artwork, or
  • really hate it, or
  • can’t believe that you are telling others about it, or
  • because they can’t believe you’re such an unrealistic dreamer.

All of the above are completely acceptable, because they are going to remember your name.

The enigma of yellow and orange

Oil Painting Julia Trops Canadian Kelowna Artist Maya Gaia Hera Female Nude
Oil Painting Julia Trops Canadian Kelowna Artist Maya Gaia Hera Female Nude

is completely foreign to me, but I am working it out. Yellow and orange are the two colours that I have seldom used, and I am not sure why – but typically, when I am confronted with a reality of why something is not working, or not being used, I want to know the reason…
So… yellow and orange are going to be worked out.

They are happy colours – and I see them as being more of a happy, as in ecstatic. They are “hopeful” colours, and perhaps that is what I am trying to access and reach. But having said that, I also see that each colour can have an “extreme” personality – fanatical, neurotic ….

Each painting has its own personality, its own depth, explanation – each painting is its own person, and some are harder to get to know than others, some are open books, easily understood at a single glance, and some can be thought to be understood, but really, they are quite the enigma when you go below the surface.

For me, I like enigmas, they are intriguing, rich, and curious… like the colours yellow and orange.