woensdag 28 december 2016

NOT inspired by Alice in Wonderland: ''Up And Down The Rabbit Hole'' (a preview)

Just wanted to share a couple of previews of a new series with all friends and followers of Witty Art out there. A series of A5-sized black and white pencil drawings, some with an added touch of conté crayon or charcoal to them. Again, featuring a rabbit like creature. As this time I am not that certain of what the underlying themes are, as sometimes they are just as elusive to me as to those viewing my work, I've apptly named this series ''Up And Down The Rabbit Hole'', courtesy by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland ofcourse.

Not that ''Alice'' was a direct source of inspiration. As great as my appreciation is for having come up with legendary characters such as The White Rabbit and The Cheshire Cat, somehow, I have never been really fond of the story of Alice in Wonderland. Why exactly? I really don't know. There were other books and stories that captured my imagination as a child and somehow, Alice and all that she gets up to, never managed to do so, despite having the book several times as a child, a teenager and later, as an adult as well.
Mind you, I do value it highly as an important work of literature and storytelling in its own right.
But most ''popular'' children's books and fairy tales were more or less wasted on me, to be honest. Well, apart from some extraordinary exceptions to the rule, and I can reassure you those have enormously influenced my life as well as my artwork. More on that particular subject in a later blog (and a long overdue one).

For now, I will happily work further on this series, and will see where this one takes me - perhaps up and down a few undiscovered rabbit holes of my own, I suppose. In which case, I will happily let my very own colony of UnBunnies lead the way!

maandag 26 december 2016

Lost and now found: another 'Lost Bear' off to a happy new home!

More wandering Witty Art found its way to a happy new home off late!And when I say ''wandering'', how can it be anything else than one of those ever wandering, glad to be unhappy ''Lost Bears''? Well, sure enough, here is another one of them little brave bears who managed to get himself a very a nice warm and happy new home. 

My dear friend Leon Keekstra, food and hospitality expert and a qualified barista trainer as well and in my home town Rotterdam also known as 'De Stadsbemoeial' (self-acclaimed City Meddler) spotted this little fellow ''Just Merrily Holding On'' during the opening of my autumn exhibition at Hostel Ani & Haakien last september. And he just to have it, so bought right there and then. 

It took a while, but the other day I was finally able to bring his very own piece of Witty Art to him - and as you can see on the picture below, he was ever so glad to receive it. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that his house will be the most welcoming for this once Little 'Lost Bear'!

donderdag 22 december 2016

''EarthRocks & MoonSwings #35'': a brotherly wedding gift

Very proud to show this piece of Witty Art, a special commission for a special occasion: a wedding gift from one brother to another.

Buyer spotted my earlier created series of 'EarthRocks & MoonSwings' on this blog and figured that this display of galaxic bromance would the perfect gift to surprise his brother with on his wedding day. Only problem being, the drawings from the first series created back in 2012-2013 he had his eye on, had all been sold - so, what better motivation than to create a couple of new ones, especially for this occasion? 

So, I created a number of 11 new works in total, of which I showed a previous preview here on this blog. Ofcourse, I will display them all later in good order, but first, I wanted to share with you the one that turned out to be the buyer's choice. 

And as always, I was surprised, as Nr 35 was not the one I myself thought he would choose, but he and his wife admitted it was a difficult task, as they had fallen in love with all of these 11 new adventures of Little Earth and Little Moon. So, we agreed that they'd be back in January next year to choose another one, for themselves. 

Mind you, they have to exclude Nr 44, as that one is already picked by another buyer ;-)

For those of you who are struck with curiosity now, you will have to contain it somewhat longer, before I will post them all here. Or .. hasten yourself to my Instagram Profile (and follow me there, if you like) as I have already started posting them ''en groupe'' there!

New Witty Art promotional items coming to you in 2017!

So, recently I have been also working on some new Witty promotional items and the first priority was to get some proper new businesscards, as I have been carrying outdated ones with me for ages. They arrived by mail just yesterday and I am thrilled with the result!

It's a plain and simple design: while the back has my basic TWC Works info on it, the front shows an image taken from my Witty Art Series 'Innovation In Corporation', which features one of my most popular art characters, UnBunny, who appears to have an ongoing struggle with modern life in general and in this case, particularly the rat race that is corporate life.

Businesswise, I walk the fine line between an ideal, a social as well as a commercial vision, trying to make a a profit and some proper living while maintaining my standards as a both a creative and a social entrepreneur. Well, most of them. And in today's world, that is already challenging enough at times, as it requires compromise on almost a daily basis, even when I am making Witty Art. For instance, when I am working on a commissioned piece. Which, I hasten to add, is fine by me. I am an entepreneur, I need to make a living and am proud to do so - though it is not always easy.

BUT - when I am free to create Witty Art in my own time and my own space, I can guarantee you, that is the most powerful autonomous statement I can make as an artist, as an entrepreneur and as a human. Granted!

And ... to sustain that oh so vital and much needed space for said autonomy, I am currently working on more pretty cool Witty Art promotional items as well as new merchandise, to be sold online via my own Witty Webshop - which is also currently in progress, but will all be launched in 2017!

So, if you are interested, stay tuned for more!


vrijdag 16 december 2016

Special commission: EarthRocks & MoonSwings are still rocking away!

This week I am working a very special commission, for a very special occasion. A special request, coming from a good friend, who displayed a great deal of interest in my series ''EarthRocks & MoonSwings'', which I started a couple of years ago. To be precise, in the years in 2012-2013 and I had not been working on this particular series since that time. If you like, this is the blogpost in which I introduced them to the world.

There are quite a few people out there who happen to own a piece of this series, basically a tale of an unconditional friendship, an unbreakable bond between Little Earth & Little Moon, formed when they were young, way back when their galaxy was young too - and not one that far, far, far away. A happy and caring duo, who are always there for each other, no matter how Rocky the Road and whatever Mood will Swing... You see, there is a little hidden corner in the dystopian World of Witty Art that you might call a happy, carefree place. It's there where Little Moon & Little Moon play, walk, dance and have fun together. For as long as EarthRocks & MoonSwings, everything's gonna be just fine ... ;-)

So, I created a couple of new ones, 11 in total. These new additions are a bit bigger than the ones from the first batch from 2012-2013. Those all measured 10x 15 cm and these new ones are each about the size of an A5. I used the same materials as back then, starting with graphite pencil just to sketch the initial outlay and then progressing with black indian ink and then adding watercolours.

Though perhaps not as intense or not as heavy as my other work, I found great pleasure in making these drawings, it was almost like I rediscovered this happy loving couple and it was good fun coming up with their little adventures and bringing them onto the paper.
Makes me wonder, perhaps I should introduce them to 'Lost Bear', who wanders alone on the furthest edges of the outer universe of Witty Art. Guess that would make a very interesting, if not confronting combination.

Now, does that sound as if there might be something like a little story coming up? Or a couple of stories, perhaps, a book even? ...

Who knows? Who wants to know? If you do, than feel free to follow me here on this blog or on my Instagram account!

zaterdag 19 november 2016

When you have no option but baring it all: 'Bear Naked'

Some previews of another series I am currently working on. One I have to admit, I am really, really into right now. And again, as is the case in my series 'Lost Bear' and 'Lost My Bearings', the protagonist is a brave little bear with a challenge. This time around, he this time facing the challenge of having to come clean. To show himself to the world, just as he is. Good or bad, wrong or right, no extra additions or distractions, nothing to hide behind. To be accepted, or not, for who he is - not for what others aspire him to be.

A brave little bear faces the world and bares it all.

Here he is: 'Bear Naked'. 

Hope you will enjoy these previews - if you have no patience whatsoever and are too curious on how this series will develop further, I already posted some of the first drawings on my Instagram account. Which, by the way, you might just want to follow (if you haven't done that already) for (almost) your daily fix of Witty Art.

Hope to see you there!

'One Step Forward (How Many Steps Back)': going forward and still nowhere

In an earlier blog, I briefly introduced my new series 'One Step Forward (How Many Steps Back)' and how, to me at least, it reflects life as it just comes and goes along. That, no matter how hard you try to move forward, there is always something that seems to either hold you back. Or, when you finally have made that bold move forward, you face all kinds of setback, preferably not one, and not just a couple, but a whole bunch. At.the.same.time.

The optimists amongst us will refer to these setbacks as ''challenges'', most of us call it ''obstacles''. I prefer to see them as hills you must climb or find another way around them - either way, you have to deal with them, before they turn into steep cliffs that are almost impossible to conquer. Unless, your mind has the resilience and the ability of a skilled boulderclimber.
On the other hand, sometimes those dreaded setbacks, that feeling of ''one step forward and then two, or three, or even more steps back'' might just turn out to be very valuable experiences, as they actually buy you time. Even at moments you feel there isn't any and you have to make split-second decisions under huge pressure. Ofcourse, sometimes, there will be moments like these and you just have to go with ever decision or choice seems best in that particular situation- but more often than not, you have more time than you think.

I have learned the extremely hard way that being thrown back a couple of rounds, is not the worst thing to have happened to me, even when I felt terribly frustrated because I desperately wanted to move forward with certain things. I have found out that every setback actually helped me forward in the end, even when at the time I felt I was getting nowhere. I have discovered that with every throwback came time to think things over before rushing ahead.
Time, in which I learnt that the bold move forward for me actually wasn't such a good move at all. That, because of pure pressure and feelings of anxiety, despair even, I'd completely lost track of which direction I was heading into and had not even questioned myself on WHY I was going there. That taking one step forward and then two or three steps back made me realise that I wasn't just going in a less favourable or even wrong direction. I was worse off. I was boldly but blindly going nowhere. 

It's that insight, or rather: the whole process of getting there, that prompted me to start this particular series. Featuring, once again, a rodent-like anti-hero trying to come to terms with the whole phenomenon of going forwards and then backwards; and forward, only to find he's basically stuck, unless he admits he needs to take a step back, or two or more, to see where he's at - and which direction he should or should not take. 

And it's when you refuse to acknowledge that, that you find yourself in the position you wanted to avoid at all costs: stuck as stuck can be. Not able to go ahead, because you don't have the willpower to step back and take a look at where you are going.

It's that you will ask yourself: ''One Step Forward ... How Many Steps Back?''

So, instead of always rushing ahead, stepping back actually can be a good thing. Because if you don't do it yourself, and actually make the time to do so, that Sweet Little Bitch called Life will do it for you.

Trust me, she will. She most definitely will.

woensdag 16 november 2016

Even a Little 'Lost Bear' is the colourful type in his own lost and found way

My series 'Lost Bear' is rapidly turning out to be one of my most popular ones. And I am very happy with that, as this brave little fella is really one of my own favourite Witty Art Characters, and perhaps one of those I hold closest to my heart. Now, someone once told me that most of my characters reflects various aspects of my own personality, and to an extend, that might be true but with 'Lost Bear', such is definitely the case - I have to be honest, to both you, friends and followers of Witty Art, and to myself. 

Now, there is a lot to be said about why 'Lost Bear' is so close to my heart that he actually embodies a great part of me personally, but I am still figuring out a way to share that with you, in such a way it feels comfortable for me, as an artist and as a person. But rest assured I will find a way. 

In the meantime, I can reassure some of you that not all is doom and gloom in 'Lost Bear's' world. Yes, lost he may be, but he is pretty good at the art of wandering and as I explained before in this earlier blog, he actually prefers it that way. 

So, here's some proof of the fact that even a Lost Bear is a colourful type, in his very own lost and found way .. new additions to the series, with some added colouring ;-)

zondag 13 november 2016

Another 'Lost Bear' found a happy new home in the end!

Last night, I brought this little 'Lost Bear' ('Hey! Wanna Dance The Day Away?') to his happy new home, where a very proud new owner of Witty Art welcomed him warmly. Soon, I will hope to show a picture of this little ''lost and found one'' in his new surroundings! 

Bet he might even showing off some dance moves as well ;-) 

And, if you are interested, you can find more, many more 'Lost Bears' on this blog! Also, you can read here why he's basically perpetually glad to be unhappy!

zondag 6 november 2016

The Return of the Horned Beasts and a look at some Witty Art Inspirations

Recently, I created a whole bunch of new Witty Art. It's often that during those drawing sprees, affectionaly known as attacks of the Gotta Draw-virus, new characters manifest themselves in my work. And sometimes, old familiar ones reappear, sometimes having undergone some kind of make-over as their apperance has changed, due to a constantly developing signature style, the use of materials, the paper or canvas selected, etc. And sometimes just because, well, they can. 

A long, LONG time ago, while still studying at the arts academy, I developed a strong fascination for bulls, goats, deers, capricorns, any kind of horned animal or with some kind of antlers, big or small. It's hard to pinpoint where exactly the fascination comes from, but it's not an uncommon image in the history of art. We only have to think of the prehistoric rock art, also known under the more scientific name of Petroglyphs: drawings or carvings on rock, made by a member of a prehistoric people. 

When I first read about these drawings as a young child, I was immediately captivated by the boldness and directness of these images. So strong, so effective, not a trace of doubt, the artist then intuitively knew what he (or she?) had to do, where to start carving each line; and where and when to stop. Made with the most basic of tools and materials, and without having the luxury of being able to work by proper daylight, whilst working in a deep dark cave. It's that spirit of boldness and directness I try to strive for, to achieve in my own drawings - probably the fuel for my lifelong fascination for pen en ink and a strong desire to scratch and scrape on the surface of the paper, as if I were indeed carving into rock. Well, perpaps one day, I should - but that's for later. 

Another one of my earlier influences was the work of Israeli sculptor and painter Menashe Kadishman (1932-2015), who, in his youth, worked as a shepherd on Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch. According to Wikipedia, 'This experience with nature, sheep and shepherding had a significant impact on his later artistic work and career. The first major appearance of sheep in his work was in the 1978 Venice Biennale, where Kadishman presented a flock of colored live sheep as living art.[4] In 1995, he began painting portraits of sheep by the hundreds, and even thousands, each one different from the next. These instantly-recognizable sheep portraits soon became his artistic "trademark'''

'The Sacrifice of Isaac' by Mensahe Kadeshman (1985-1987)

I remember that I visited a bookstore here in Rotterdam and found myself in the art books section, which was not unusual, although I seldom bought one as they were (and still are) bloody expensive. But, a small booklet caught my eye. On the front it had a picture of the massive iron cast sculpture of a ram's head. The image got to me and I was hooked. Hooked on the powerful image of this horned animal's head. Turns out, it was one of the many huge iron sculptures from his series 'The Sacrifice of Isaac' (approximately 1985-1987), which adresses the violence of society and the destructive forces within the so-called civilized world. It made a huge impression on me and I remember, I spent a great deal of  my time working out how to draw sheep's faces and bull's heads. More so, I remember the frustration of the result being a far cry from how I imagined it to be (sorry, no pictures available, and even if I had them, I doubt I'd show them here).

That was a long time ago. I moved out of the arts, and then, after a long time, got back into them. But up till recently, no sign of the Horned Ones. Not a single trace. Up till a couple of weeks ago. There they were, making their appearance, out of no where. And I can tell you, their presence was as powerful as it was back then. And this time, no struggling on how to draw them, capturing them turned out to be whole lot easier now. Perhaps the Horned Beasts are a bit tamer this time? Or is it only make believe and are they fooling me and being as illusive as ever. Well, only time will tell as I am determined to follow their call and explore their presence and see where they will guide me and my work.

zaterdag 5 november 2016

''She Will... Always Be Your Mama'' in her happy new home - and that feels great!

My previous blogpost was dedicated to 'She Will Always Be Your Mama' moving to a happy new home. Very recently, I got the opportunity to see her on the wall of the proud new owner of this piece of Witty Art. And as always, that left me feeling extremely proud and grateful for people who show their support and apprecation of my work. By not just purchasing it for the sake of having to have it, but because they truly care about it.

And by showing they care, they are taking care of it, making sure it is displayed in the right way, in the right place. It's like a sense of belonging, somehow, and to me that matters a great, great deal.

You see, for a variety of reasons too personal to convey at this moment, or perhaps at any time at all, that feeling 'belonging' is a matter of great importance to me. In fact, I can safely say, it's one of the every present themes in Witty Art. 

Anyway, to know that my artwork belongs somewhere, makes me one happy artist, and all the more motivated to keep on creating more Witty Art!

vrijdag 28 oktober 2016

'She Will... Always Be Your Mama' spotted and SOLD!

Just posting some random selection of work I created over the last two months - with one of the artworks pictured above even being sold without ever having been on display, except on Instagram, where it was spotted by a long-term Witty Art follower! Apparently, she had wanted to purchase one for a long time, but was never really able to make choice (a dilemma I've heard a lot of Witty Art fans going on about) - untill she saw this one: 

Now, this buyer is a devoted mother of two herself, and knowing the great pride and joy she takes in her kids and how protective she is of them, yet also carefully encouraging them to make their own mistakes and learn from it, slowly letting them out from underneath her wings, but always there and prepared to cover them up if need be - I can see why she was instantly drawn to this particular drawing. 

And yes, I did make this drawing with the echo of my own mother firmly in the background, an vivid image of the powerful bond between a mother and her child, as I myself, the youngest from a family of six, always knew and for always will know, that 'She Will Always Be MY Mama, no matter what...''.

So, I was one extremely happy and proud artist when I got to hand over this piece of Witty Art to its happy new owner, as this moment, for me, added a new layer to the drawing, a new chapter to its story. And from here, it will continue to grow even further. Well, who's the proud mama now, huh?


dinsdag 18 oktober 2016

Witty Art has left Ani & Haakien after a well recevied one-month soloshow

Today was the very last day of my solo showcase at Hostel Ani & Haakien. A selection of Witty Art had been on the wall since the opening on September 15th and after just over a month, it was time to pick up my work and make way for new art selected by Pica Pica 010. 

Also, it's time to take the two 'Lost Bears' I sold during the opening, to their happy new homes, as I know their arrival is eagerly awaited for by their new owners. More of that, soon! 

I'd like to thank the following persons in particular: 
Ani & Haakien's Joyce Brouwer and Danielle Linscheer for their hospitality and kindness, as well as all other staff of absolutely the cosiest hostel in town, and naturally, a special mention for Diva Suzy La Cubanita! 
Marcel Kamphuis from Pica Pica010 for organising it all! 
Alrizki Marino for making such a spontaneous video interview
All those who came by and had a look at my artwork, including all guests of Ani & Haakien whom I had the pleasure of meeting and exchaging thoughts on art, creativity and life. 



woensdag 12 oktober 2016

Exhibition at private art gallery Lijnbaan 140 ends after almost 3 months!


On October 9th, private gallery Lijnbaan 140 The Hague organised a small, but quaint and cosy closer of the group exhibtion that had been on display throughout all Summer, from July 3rd. So, nearly a full 3 months later, it was time for one last gathering of the participating artists. And still, quite some people took the opportunity to go and visit the artshow and had a good look at the art displayed, including mine. Again, that made for some good conversations and some nice new contacts.

I would like to thank owner Ellen Tuyn for all the great work she put into organising the exhibition (while running her own AirBnB at the same venue at the same time), the other participating artists for sharing their work with mine and all visitors having come and seen all of our work and Witty Art in particular!

The good thing is, she decided to keep some Witty Art herself by giving one of my precious 'Lost Bears' a loving new home - which marked the beginning of what eventually will be The Lijnbaan 140 Art Collection. And knowing Ellen's taste for good art, this will no doubt grow out to be one collection you might want to see for yourself, one day!

zaterdag 1 oktober 2016

De PDF van mijn Straatnieuws-interview is online!

(for my English followers, please scroll below for a brief summary of this blogpost)

In een vorige blogpost schreef ik over het interview met mij voor Straatnieuws Rotterdam-Den Haag, het maandelijkse magazine over, met en voor dak- en thuislozen. Goed nieuws voor diegenen die 'm gemist hebben: de voorlaatste editie van Straatnieuws, met daarin het interview met ondergetekende, staat nu online!

De PDF is nu beschikbaar via de Straatnieuws-website of hier op dit blog.

Voor diegenen die liever meteen het interview met mij willen lezen, zie hieronder of download de PDF er van hier op dit blog.

Nogmaals veel dank aan interviewer Kim Meeuwissen voor de kans om mijn verhaal te mogen doen en het respectvolle en integeren wijze optekenen daarvan. Want, het is zeker niet altijd makkelijk om zo open en eerlijk over mijn situatie te kunnen, te mogen zijn. Hoewel ik altijd positief probeer te blijven en mij realiseer dat mijn situatie niet onoverkomelijk is en het altijd stukken erger kan, is het net zo goed een continu uitdaging om de kop niet te laten hangen en vooruit te kijken.

Zonder de steun van een aantal bijzondere personen zou ik dat ook niet zeker niet gekund hebben - en nog steeds niet kunnen. Want het is nog niet gedaan. Ik ben zeker op de weg terug, en uitermate gemotiveerd om te blijven ondernemen en vanuit dat ondernemerschap bij te blijven dragen aan weliswaar ludieke maar ook maatschappelijke relevante projecten, zoals ik doe met en voor Studio PuRRR, Dogparade010, Stage Alliantie en 010StageMarktplaats, Radio Brasa, de Zorgvrijstaat Rotterdam-West, etc.- ik ben er nog niet.

En bij alles houd ik in gedachten de inspirerende quote uit de zogenaamde speech van auteur J.K. Rowling voor de jaarlijkse meeting van The Harvard Alumni Association in 2008, getiteld: “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

En daar kan ik me alleen maar een volle 100% bij aansluiten - net zoals bij al het overige uit deze speech, die het belang benadrukt van durven en kunnen falen; en van de verbeelding als bron voor nieuwe inspiratie en inzichten. Bekijk de volledige speech hieronder.

For my English followers: In a previous blogpost I wrote about the interview with me that was published in the Dutch version of 'The Big Issue''': the monthly paper Straatnieuws Rotterdam-Den Haag, a magazine published on behalf of and sold by homeless or vulnerably housed people. Now that a new issue has been released, the edition featuring my interview has been published online, too. Unfortunately, this interview is in Dutch only for now, but I am working on a translation or at least a brief summary of it in English.

But, what I can and will share with you now, is the fact I drew much inspiration and strength from a quote from author J.K. Rowling, when she delivered her Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” 

Speaking from having been and still bouncing back from my very own rock bottom, I could not agree more. 

woensdag 21 september 2016

A spontaneous video 'shoot' resulted in a really nice video of my Witty Art opening!

So, what's even more cool about the opening of my work last night at Ani & Haakien, is that one of the hostel guests actually turned out to be one extremely talented film maker (and much more than that), Alrizki Marino, who made a very nice & neat little video of moi-myself, in front of my work. The result is really, really cool - and I am really, really pleased with it!

vrijdag 16 september 2016

Great opening at Ani & Haakien last night!

What a great opening it was, yesterday at Hostel Ani & Haakien. Perhaps not that busy, mainly due to the hot weather, but a perfect setting for a nice and cosy summer opening. And the people who showed up were all extremely interested in my work, which resulted some really touching conversations about my work and even two brandnew pieces sold!

Unfortunatley, due to traffic delays, one of the singer-songwriters that was scheduled to perform, could not make it, but the very talented Maria-Josephine made more than up for that. And there is nothing wrong with listening to some striking songs brought to life in a nice hostelgarden during a hot summer night.

And then there were two people who took the opportunity of getting some Witty Art of their own. First, my good friend and acclaimed 'citycreator & hospitality expert Leon Keekstra aka De Stadsbemoeial; and then one of my favourite Rotterdam theatremakers and directors, Irene Siekman both purchased a piece from the series 'Lost Bear'. And ofcourse, they had to strike a pose next their new prized possessions, soon to be handed over to them once the exhibition is over.

Some more people have expressed interest in wanting to see the exhibition, while it still on, so I hope many of you will come to visit the loveliest and funkiest Hostel in Town: Ani & Haakien, located in one of Rotterdams finest areas, The Oude Westen (just a five minute walk away from Rotterdam Central Station). The exhibition is still on until October 19th and the good news is, the hostel is open 24/7 ...

Many thanks to:
Pica Pica 010 / Marcel Kamphuis for organising it all
Hostel Ani & Haakien / Joyce Brouwer & Danielle Linscheer for their hospitality and a special thanks to Miss Suzy La Cubanita for being the most glamorous hostel kitty EVAH!
Maria Josephine for performing
Deborah van de Beld for, well, being you & all your support
My dear feline friend Lord Westenwind for getting his fur everywhere!
All of you who showed up to share this moment with me, thank you for your support & the great conversations!