Text and Image: How My Art Comes Together

I think that art that includes text these days is being talked about a little bit…I mean…some people judge text to be a bit of a ‘device’.  It’s important that script be used like salt and pepper and that it engages the compositional elements appropriately…connecting with the images contained within the picture plane…but also leading the viewer to an engaging experience of a broader concept/issue/exploration.  Hmmm…and as I type this, I’m thinking, “Really, this is balogne!  There are NO RULES…so why are you writing this?”  What I’m saying, I think, is that this is how I use text with images.  It certainly is not how all artists use text.

When I met William MacDonnell, I first engaged (REALLY noticed) work including text.  Prior to that, I had seen text used by a variety of local artists and of course, several pop masters including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.   I was most moved by Frida Kahlo’s journal pages as illustrated in the book, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait.  I first noticed in her sketches that words and images created links for one another and I thought that it was a very powerful thing to include both.  When I went to ACAD, I first included text in my Library Club series and knew then that the gilded script transcribed from my high school year books enriched and activated the surface.

Tragedy on a Country Road – 1994 by William MacDonnell Photo Credit: Legion Magazine

Patricia Kirton…one of three panels from the Library Club Series. Painted by Kathleen Moors

An entire wall in my main bathroom…people are confronted with affirmations whenever they sit down. :0)

I remember the day when I began to write on walls.  My artist-friend, Bobby, shared an on-line project posted by a conceptual/false-conceptual artist regarding writing/attaching a set of affirmations on bathroom walls. I had only, days before, lost my fourteen year old Laurie-dog and so was in need of some powerful self-talk in order to transcend the huge loss and so I dug out the affirmations that I had printed off months prior and began to write on my wall, making additional affirmations as I worked.

Similar Affirmations: Another Artist’s Efforts With the Project

And another blogger’s efforts…

My studio space includes the written words of many friends and family members.  I am surrounded by their wisdom, food for thought, song lyrics and I’m continually supported by these.

Today, when I incorporate text, I do so with Covenant in mind.  I seek out discarded bibles from garage sales and second hand shops, feeling as though the words have need of harvesting.  I also find it interesting that because scripture arrives in an unexpected place (in art) sometimes the viewers can be found engaged in the words.  If I do not apply the pages directly to the piece, I write them out and they always inform the subject in the work.

I am also fond of embedding poetry, information and reactions, depending on what I’m thinking about at the time.  Recently, I’ve parted with words from three beautiful leather bound partner journals, I’ve cut up all of these into two inch squares that are being embedded into various pieces in progress.  Ultimately, I will be using them for a Bride-Groom collage that has been in the planning phase for some time!  You can see two squares in a recent LIVE ART battles composition.

As an example…this piece is titled Psalms and contains the entire book of Psalms as its underpinning.  The pelican, historically, represented Eucharist (the Body of Christ).  J. Lee Jagers writes about it eloquently here.

“The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. — Fr. William P. Saunders in a column from the Arlington Catholic Herald (2003).”

This meaning, interestingly enough, emerged after exploring the concept of my own father, saving a single pelican that had lost its wing and was likely going to lose its life once winter hit.  I felt at the time, and still do, that my father exemplified the concept of ‘covenant’.

Sometimes the text that I incorporate into my pieces is more or less obvious to the viewer.  Presently, I am embedding journal pages and other sources, as well as biblical texts.  Every day I learn more about my enthusiasm for collage and there are always experiments at work.  Thanks for asking about the text, John…a good question!

I Forgot My Camera at the Gorilla House, Drove 17th Ave West and Wrote This Poem at a Red Light, While Listening to CBC Radio

Quintessential family
sitting at the Bravo Bistro –
I sit at a red light.
Mom and Dad, red wine in glasses at their hands,
Three children in a circle.
(blond children wearing sunglasses,
hiding smiling eyes).
As I move on,
the tattooed man
smiles through the open window of my mini van.
Red Toyota Corolla ahead.  Red brake lights light up.

Behind me, the children
order penne pasta in alfredo sauce; mother, calamari;
father,  the steak sandwich, medium rare.

And I was listening to this…The Neon Light of the Saints by Shawn Colvin.

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. Tennessee Williams

Gorilla House LIVE ART: August 29, 2012

Last night a large contingent of artists waged LIVE ART battles in front of a generous and enthusiastic audience!  I found the three energizing concepts a tad challenging, but then again, I enjoy the complete surprise of these each and every week.  One topic was definitely going to be helpful to me…’transparent layers as achieved with tissue paper’.  Wowsers!  This was the first night I thought to pack a bit of tissue in my back pack!  So…PERFECT!

One of the other topics…red knife (hmmm). I decided to interpret the red knife as a person’s bloodline…where culture and family take us.  This was going to work well with the concept of layering and finally, I incorporated all sizes of bike wheels, in order to somehow capture the third topic, “midnight bike riders”.  I thought of the wheel as representing travel, growth, mobility and change…going places.

Small details included the incorporation of a small bit of collage that exemplified a gorilla in a house…a gang of bikers, riding…and a discarded poster of a beautiful woman that I had picked up, water damaged, at a Women In Need shop.  I used the image of the heart…something that artists and audience members wear as a FOIP release each evening at the Gorilla House.  In my piece, I included three of these hearts within the composition.  Finally, I included the moon and a pocket watch, both capturing a sense of time passing.  The time, in Roman numerals, reads midnight.

I went about using red to create concentric and parallel lines over the contours of the woman’s body…beginning with the water mark that has its origin in the bottom third.  I wanted to surround her in her ‘bloodline’.  To create a dynamic, I then used my pthalo blue in various tints and shades to create the circular wheel structures.  It is always a fun thing to explore balance and composition while incorporating paint and collage.

Thanks to Janice Beaton Fine Cheese for providing an assortment of treats again.  That is a welcome treat after two hours of focused painting!

This week, my piece was purchased at auction, by Vilimiria.  Thank you!  Photo Credit goes to friend-artist and blogger, Belinda Fireman.  I’m grateful to have met you!

Other folks…I really treasure each of you for the fun we are having, creating together!  I regret that I didn’t capture a photo of each and every piece…it was so fantastic.

Last week, we enjoyed the inclusion of dancers during our LIVE ART battles.  This week, we had a visit from musician and blogger, Ethan Collister. I enjoyed the privilege of propping up his lyrics (LOL) as he sang an original piece of music titled Midnight Riders for performance AND auction.  Excellent writing and a truly beautiful performance!  Thank you, Ethan!

Photo Credit for this image is once again, Belinda Fireman, with her awesome i phone.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Summer Comes to Endings: Gorilla House Magic

Aaron McCullough
Red Dot Photography

…provided the next couple of photographs from LIVE ART August 22, 2012 at the Gorilla House.  You can’t tell I’m having fun! (nah!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012…a particularly awesome evening at the Gorilla House.  LIVE ART included the appearance of my own daughter and two of her dancing friends.  It added yet another dimension to a consistently amazing experience.  Thank you, Vincent.  It was wonderful getting to know you over this summer’s painting.  Rich and the Gorilla House have brought many very cool people together.  Sometimes I wonder if our lives would have intersected otherwise.  For you and your talents, I’m grateful.  Enjoy this Vincent Varga/Rich Theroux video happening!

Driving South Through Forestburg

When Max and I arrived at W.H.Webb Studios late Saturday afternoon, the sky was dramatic and the wind, more than blustery!

Central Alberta has had a good year for crops.  Driving south, the farmers were at various stages of taking in their crops and the rolling hills appeared lush for as far as the eye could see.

But inside the studio, Bill was painting winter and  Max was more than a little interested in the process.  Thanks to Virginia who hosted a huge feast at her home, gathering neighbours together for an evening of good wine, good conversation and wonderful food!

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Postcards by E. Annie Proulx

Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 199, Annie Proulx.

I have completed yet another E. Annie Proulx novel, Postcards.  Over the course of the novel, I began to carry Loyal Blood around with me…fearful for his life choices, the anguish of his life, and curious about the challenges of his work.  During the daytime, I wondered over and over again if he just might at some point include a return address on one of his postcards to his family.  I wondered if he would return home.  This book, like Accordian Crimes, is NOT for the faint hearted.  I ached for the characters in this 1940s Vermont farming family.  ‘Proulx wrote me there.’  I anticipated each postcard from Loyal because each one linked the struggling family with other struggling individuals across 1940s America.  This was yet another tale of misery and the strength of the human will.  It was just a most hostile and ‘tough’ time in the United States, whether that be in a rural or urban community.  The writing was compelling; the imagery, authentic.  I grieve Loyal, his life, even as I type.

Above, I’ve included a link to a very thorough interview with Annie Proulx.  I thought that some of my readers may wish to look at it.  Proulx’s work is not light reading.  It is necessary to plough through her stories.  It is, I think, important that the reader bring their personal views/ knowledge and experiences to the reading.  At times it is a question of whether to be angry at the ‘stupid’ motivations of characters or to feel ’empathetic’…I think both reactions are ok.  Proulx doesn’t seem to hold any expectations.

I am saddened by the loss of the farm.  I am saddened when Jewell sets out in her car into those mountains.  I fear for the miners as time seems to tick in the dark wet chill.  This is another dark story.  Don’t say that I didn’t warn you! I’ve read a number of reviews and David Bradley’s is, by far, the strongest…so make certain that once you’ve spent time with Postcards, you look this one over.



Father Lacombe Chapel: Mission Hill

This past weekend, I went in search of the resting place for the man who most inspired my faith development and taught with such sincerity and wisdom, that I became a Catholic in 1976.  On Saturday, it was a blessing to share this particular part of the journey with a friend who I have recently reconnected with, after thirty-five years…my dear friend, Hollee.  Another motivator for this trip was that I named my son after this wonderful and selfless Oblate of Mary Immaculate priest, Father James Carroll, and I feel gratitude for my boy every day.

Locating Father Carroll came with the help of a few wonderful people who I wish to acknowledge here.  Rene Georgopalis is the Archivist and Reference Coordinator for the Musee Heritage in St. Albert, Alberta. Among other bits of information, Rene told me about the Oblates at Rest book.

Most helpful to me has been the tremendous care and attention given by Diane Lamoureux, referring to herself as Oblate Archivist for Grandin Province.  I hope that by the fire lit in me regarding this history, others will be seeking the same.  It is a wonderful thing to understand our roots…family and faith.

Diane responded immediately to the desire in me to know MORE as I sought out any information about Father Carroll’s history and to build a context for my own faith development.  I have recently been very interested in looking back into the roots of my thinking and Diane had an authentic approach to supporting me in this.  The resources and information that she has shared with me are invaluable.

And finally, I wish to mention gratitude for the interpreter, Leila who gave us an exceptional tour of the historic buildings and spaces; the Father Lacombe Chapel, the crypt where Father Albert Lacombe, Bishop Vital Justin Grandin and Father Leduc were laid to rest, the grotto and finally, the cemetery where Brother Anthony Kowalczyk was laid to rest, followed by many of his brothers, including my friend and teacher, Father James Carroll.

Sculpture in Memory of Father Albert Lacombe at Mission HIll

An image of Father Hyppolyte Leduc OMI (1868-1895) from the Provincial Archives

Photo Credit: Alberta Provincial Archives Father Hippolyte Leduc, OMI (1868-1895)

The day was a blustery one, but it will remain one of my fondest days of summer.  First of all, to share time with a friend, can only be a magical thing.  We had shared a dreamy meal out the night before and did a generous amount of catching up as well as sharing our perspectives on pretty much everything.  So, we regrouped in the morning and headed for St. Albert.  The wind was strong and the clouds were drifting fast across the sky.  A wedding was convening in St. Albert Church as we pulled into the parking lot.  And, as we left, the bride and groom were on the front steps in great celebration.

St. Albert Church, Mission Hill, St. Albert, Alberta

We met our personal interpreter, Leelah, for the walk-about in the Father Lacombe Chapel and learned about its restoration, explored sacred artifacts and had the chance to ask several questions.

I highly recommend that if you are interested in early Alberta history, particular to Metis/French settlement along the Sturgeon River, then this is your go-to location.  The guided tours will finish up at the end of August, but once available again, this is an awesome place to visit!

Leila was the one who first spotted Father Carroll’s resting place.  For quite a long time the three of us, in circle, stood and visited about our lives, our choices and our faith.  It was a wonderfully rich event, one I will not soon forget.  I admire Leelah’s courage very much and I am so blessed by this meeting.  There is much more I could say…but a good part of this event, I want to keep in my heart.  I lifted up prayers…it was/is just that sort of place where a person feels very close to angels and to God.

Example of the construction. The Lacombe Chapel was moved a few times in its history and this system made that possible.

Altar: Sacred objects came from other parts of Canada, but represent vessels and written words of that time.

Father Lacombe Chapel Interior

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Religious Sisters: The Grey Nuns

Sharing Life and Positivity

Meeting Poet, Norman Henry Kendrick, and Dear Imogene

It was three years ago, in summer, that I stopped to chat with Imogene as she tended her most remarkable garden.  As luck would have it, I walked/walk Max regularly at the off leash park across from her home and so, with my love of gardens, I watched the progress of her amazing blooms throughout the summer and into autumn.  I became curious about many of her plants and so this one day, with a brilliant blue sky above us, I pulled my van over and got out to chat.

It was with a generous spirit that she welcomed my questions about perennials and nurturing gardens and she extended her good will to a wander into her back yard gardens and a most amazing and deepening conversation.  In my mind, she was brilliant…a truly remarkable, smart and witty woman.  Our chat in the back yard garden inspired me and I wondered, “How is this even possible that life should be this magical, one moment to the next?”

And then I met Norman.  What a blessing!  And I hope that my readers will take the time to read the publisher’s remarks and his biography here.

I write about Norman and Imogene because just two days ago, I had my annual summer chat with Imogene.  I stopped, as is usual, to remark on the state of her gardens.  I will respect her privacy and will hold myself back from publishing a photograph here, but suffice it to say that there are NO gardens in Calgary like Imogene’s and NO grass like Norman’s.

At our meeting, we had the most precious fifteen minute conversation that I have shared with someone in a very long time.  We spoke of flowers and Spain…health and sons…and then she spoke of her love for Norman.  I get chills as I type the words, ‘love for Norman’ because I remember the look in her eyes as she spoke to me.  Her thoughts are invaluable and are only paraphrased here. ‘Live for the present moment.  It is what we have.  Forgive.  Do what is healthy.  Work hard, but also let go of those things that are unnecessary.  Pay someone else to mow your yard if you are tired OR do it another day. (this, it seemed as she spoke, is a metaphor for all of our busy-ness).  Love passionately.  Grow flowers.’  I always feel to be a better person when I leave my garden-conversations with Imogene.  I will ask her one day if I can take her picture.  I can not possibly capture her face with words…she is beautiful because she lives beautifully.  Her last words to me two days ago were that she would write about our meeting in her night-time journaling…and so today, I am doing the same.

Trafford Publishing says about Norman,

“Norman Henry Kendrick was born in the village of Southwick, now part of the city of Sunderland in the county of Durham, in the North-East of England.

His father, a Liverpudlian of Scottish blood, was a petty officer, gunnery, in the Royal Navy from the age of 15 and saw action in the North Atlantic and with the Russian and Malta convoys.

His mother was a busy housewife, with three sons and an absent husband. She came from a long line of respected clairvoyants and was active in the spiritualist church.

His grandfather, on his mother’s side, became a coal-miner, from necessity, at the tender age of nine and, with determination and tenacity, became very well self-educated, sharing his knowledge with his grand-children.

Norman grew up, during World War II, to the sound of riveter’s hammers and the flash of welding arcs from the numerous, war-driven shipyards of the river Wear, with the resulting intense, industrial pollution and smog.

In the background was the constant, throbbing hum from the busy Wearmouth Colliery as it fueled the war industry. At night, he was kept awake by the menacing drone of hundreds of Nazi bombers, flying overhead to terrible destinations. On their return, dropping their remaining bombs on the town.

Yet, less than a mile away, the lush, green countryside began, reaching north across Durham, Northumberland and the wide-open spaces of Scotland. Excellent cycling country.

He became an apprentice, studied at night-school three nights a week, studied music, pianoforte, on the other nights and at weekends, walked and cycled to keep fit and eventually worked as a Marine Engineer, both on land and sea, then as a teacher. This wasn’t exceptional as most of his friends were working, and playing, just as hard, meeting the challenge of the post-war world.

He will always love the area where he was born: Hadrian’s Wall, the wind-swept, heather-covered moors of the Brontes, Wordsworth’s Lake District, Burns country – just over the border, the Viking-haunted coast-line, the ruined abbeys, the castles, the towering cathedrals with their beautiful, choral music and especially the warm, friendly people of the North of England.

Norman, his wife, Imogene – a State Registered Nurse caring for the severely injured coal miners and shipyard workers in the Monkwearmouth Orthopaedic and Accident Hospital – who shares his love of music, literature, drama and travel, and their three sons and grand-daughter, now live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, close to the beautiful Rocky Mountains, where they have lived, and worked, since 1969.”

Poems of Innocence

Norman Henry Kendrick
Trafford Publishing, 2007-03-01 – Poetry – 152 pages
At last, we have a new book of poems for readers with an open mind – a wide-open mind.
You might never have read a single poem since leaving school, but beware! You are looking back through the eyes of the child you once were. Look now, through the eyes of experience, at these fascinating poems by Norman Henry Kendrick.
If you have always been a poetry buff, then I envy you your first reading of, Poems of Innocence. You will feel your mind gently moved to places that you never dreamed of visiting. Poems which at first seem innocent, to the dreamer’s eye, open up layer by layer, when experienced by the more sophisticated reader.
If you happen to be a prude, and pretend an innocence that you don’t possess; if you are a snob, and never lower your standards to read ‘lesser’ books; if you are religious, and swear never to read anything irreligious; if you find life to be an excruciating bore, while sipping that glass of vintage wine; if you think that poetry is trivial – not for real men then, Poems of Innocence is definitely for you too. Imagine the fun you’ll have reading it. No-one will ever know!
Norman Henry Kendrick will take you on a journey through time and space, with an unexpected sense of deja-vu. You will think, dream, envy, desire, dread, hesitate, agree, disagree, doubt, wonder – and you can even ask a friend.
Visit an English village, ancient Britain, the age of dinosaurs, heaven, Rome, Tuscany, Calabria, Sicily, Spain, Malta, the Rocky Mountains, Calgary, the foothills of Alberta, space, the ocean, the sky, or simply walk with Norman through a remarkable field.
Rub shoulders with the living, contemplate death, dream with Don Quixote, reflect on Einstein, go to war, drift through oceans, look over the Pope’s shoulder, have some advice for God, and experience the beginning of a new universe.
Poems of Innocence, by Norman Henry Kendrick, is not for the faint-of-heart. But if you have a big heart, then these fascinating poems are for you. ‘Take my hand… And I will let you see all the good things…’

When I gaze upon my flowers, I sometimes think of Imogene and Norman.

I am very sad that just today, I learned that both Gene and Norman have passed…they lived such a rich and beautiful life and while I was just a dog-walking, passer-by, they both generously included me in their lives with stories and flowers.  May they be blessed in the everlasting, always.

Kendrick, Imogene “Gene”
October 24, 1938 – September 23, 2016

Gene Kendrick passed away on Friday, September 23, 2016 at the age of 77 years. Gene was born at home on October 24,1938 in the northeast of England in the town of Sunderland. She was the eldest of four childrenGene attended Chester Road School in Sunderland and was trained as a nurse at the Orthopaedic and Accident Hospital. She worked at the Royal Bolton hospital in England for several years. Gene met Norman Kendrick at aged seventeen and the two were married on April 3, 1961. They immigrated to Canada in 1969 and settled in Lake Bonavista in Calgary, AB. Gene worked at the Rockyview Hospital for several years before moving into different jobs including the oil industry. Her best job was to raise her three sons. Her favorite activities included ballroom dancing, gardening, cooking, books, walking, fine needlework, and listening to Norman play music and read poetry.

Kendrick, Norman Henry
August 26, 1934 – November 9, 2016

Norman Kendrick passed away on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at the age of 82. He will be missed by his three sons John, Andrew, and Stephen; grandchildren Ashley and Johannes; as well as extended family and friends. He was predeceased by his beloved wife Gene. As per Norman’s request, an informal gathering will be held to celebrate his life.

Norman grew up in Sunderland, England which is where he met Gene. He preserved in times of great hardship and trained as a mechanical engineer. He worked in shipbuilding and spent time at sea, traveling the world from the coast of Africa to India and through the Suez Canal. He went on to train as a teacher and taught engineering for several years in England, before moving with his young family to Canada. He taught physics for a number of years before he retired, freeing his time to travel.

Norman and Gene spent many winters in Spain, Portugal and Italy where they would dance the night away. Norman was an avid history buff and enthralled himself in the history of these areas. Together, they loved to meet people and truly get to know them. Norman was a talented pianist and a great intellect. Norman also loved poetry and published a book “Poems of Innocence”. Here is one of his poems:

Lots To Do.

If I were God, I wouldn’t hang around here!

Not while there are supernovae to watch,
And galaxies colliding.

I would leave everything on automatic,
With life genetically programmed
To repeat itself, ad interim.

With a few, built-in limiting devices,
Such as the atmosphere, an erratic food supply, sex,

Power-hunger, the speed of light, natural calamities,
Death, religion, greed, disease – to name a few –

And some chance, genetic surprises!

And I would go off…

And have fun!




Morning on the Circle

The sun rises to the east and lights up the garden.

The Sunflowers by Ethelwyn Wetherald
When lamps are out and voices fled,
And moonlight floods the earth like rain,
I steal outside and cross the lane
And stand beside the sunflower bed;
Each blind, unopened face is turned
To where the western glories burned,
As though the sun might come again,
With some last word he left unsaid.When Dawn with slender shining hand
Inscribes a message on the wall,
  I follow at the silent call
To where my tall sun-lovers stand.
Their wistful heads are lifted high
Toward the flaming eastern sky,
As though some voice had turned them all,
Some secret voice of strong command.Ah, should I from the windowed height
Keep vigil in the room above,
And see them lightly, surely move
Through the chill stretches of the night,
Would not the heart within me burn,
As loyally I watched them turn,
With sweet undoubting faith and love
From vanished light to dawning light?I try to leave out the parts that people skip. Elmore Leonard

Gorilla House LIVE ART: August 22, 2012

As I drove home, I rolled down the windows and turned off the radio.  I felt one of those Douglas Spaulding summer moments.  The breeze was cool and the air smelled like sweet grass.  It was one of those times that a person would like to capture in a bottle of Dandelion Wine to enjoy during the cold days of winter…sip, by precious sip.

I feel almost giddy when I leave the Gorilla House Art Battles because the people are so genuine and the act of making art in such an immediate way is so fulfilling.  It also helps to not have the attachments to the work, but to truly glean, from the process, everything that there is or will be.

Tonight there was an additional surprise because my artist-dancer-daughter was doing a performance piece along with three other dancers throughout the evening and throughout the gallery/studio space.  It was great to finally share the experience with one of my children.

The concepts for the challenge tonight were very symbolic and ‘conceptual’…there wasn’t much that one could take literally…so I decided to be very playful with this piece.  I began by adding gilded text as a ground, sharing a narrative about the creation of the Gorilla House and how it feels to confront a blank panel in such an immediate way each week.  Then we were given these three inspirations.

1. From a book of Mythology by Joseph Campbell, Sisyphus.  (He’s the dude he perpetually rolls a boulder up a mountain only to have the boulder roll back down…and so it continues.)

2. From the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, the concept of formal composition and creating events in a visual space that create a child-like balance.  We were told to re-capture the whimsy of our childhood for this one.

3. The Sixth Sense

I definitely went for a very mathematical approach to this piece, while at the same time, using the media playfully.  This week I incorporated the use of chalk pastel, painted into with gloss medium.  I wanted to capture the prism…I also wanted to use triangles to represent compositional stability.  The circle also provided a strong compositional element.  Jan purchased my piece at the auction and I’d like to share my gratitude for that.  I hope she enjoys her new acquisition and look forward to a more accurate photograph capturing tonight’s event.

I think that tonight’s challenges were just that…several people struggled with this one.

The best style is the style you don’t notice. Somerset Maugham