Love Letters

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson and Sweet BugAaah, Mother’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year. Not because it’s the day I’m fed peeled grapes and fanned with a palm frond as I lay on my fainting couch having my toenails painted (especially since I don’t even own a fainting couch).

It’s because this day reminds me of how profoundly my life has changed since becoming a mom; how that little universe I was comfortably operating in shifted on its axis so dramatically that my head still spins ten years later. How my already happy, full, crazy life instantly became more textured and meaningful, and infinitely more challenging (in all the best ways).

Becoming a mom also suddenly compelled me to start doing things I never imagined I’d be doing. For example, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that when Sweet Bug was just a Tiny Bug in preschool that my love for her would inspire me to dig deep into my creative bucket and pull out a quirky idea that would soon transform into a special ritual for both of us.

It started out simply as a little note and sketch in Tiny Bug’s lunch box, but quickly evolved into a more elaborate daily dose of love and learning. Each day I’d chose a new word for her to learn then make a crayon drawing on her napkin and place the corresponding letter cookies in her lunch so she could match the cookies to the letters on the napkin before she enjoyed her tasty treats.

Every single day of preschool I made Tiny Bug a napkin. And yes, she ate and shared a lot of letter cookies, especially when they were long words (bad mommy).

These napkins were simply meant to be momentary messages of love, to connect the two of us while she was away at school, and to surprise her with a new word each day as an extra way to get her excited about learning.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with Library page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with farm page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with house page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with star page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with the write page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with fish page

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with pink and purple pages

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with tree and spring pages

These napkins, which I made long after Tiny Bug went to bed each night, were never meant to be kept and saved. In fact, when Tiny Bug brought them home from school every day and insisted we keep them, I didn’t know what to do with them—especially the ones with glops of food spilled on them. For a long time I piled them in the corner of our kitchen counter. Eventually, they went into a drawer, then finally a box.

Photo of Becky Green Aaronson's book Love Letters with planet and colors pages

It was when we moved to a new house the real decision had to be made. Are we seriously going to move a pile of old napkins? I moaned. I’m sentimental, but not that sentimental. But Sweet Bug was adamant: “Mommy, these are special to me. You can’t throw them away.” So, as you may have guessed, Continue reading

Something Special for My Creative and Inspired Peeps

2014 Creative Peeps Inspirational Calendar

I’m excited to share a new project with you, which combines many of my favorite things–designing, writing, and motivating others. It also celebrates the many inspiring people I surround myself with on a daily basis–artists and athletes. I’m especially happy because this project also lets me use my talents to help stand up to cancer. Here’s what I’ve been up to… Continue reading

For the Love of Art, Help Us Decide!

You may have noticed my blog has been quiet lately. It’s not because I’ve been sipping Mai Tais on a tropical beach, reveling in a lack of Wi-Fi (although I must admit, that sounds divine). It’s because I’ve been working hard getting ready to launch an exciting new website in which we’ll be selling small, affordable fine art photography prints of Jeffrey Aaronson’s work.

Our goal is to share some of Jeffrey’s (aka-hubby’s) favorite moments created over the years while traveling around the world on assignments for many of the world’s greatest magazines. By offering these images on a small scale, first-time collectors as well as those without cavernous pockets or massive wall space, will have an opportunity to enjoy a little beauty in their lives without breaking the bank. We hope this approach not only makes acquiring art easy and fun, but also non-intimidating.

But here’s our problem: Jeffrey and I can’t decide which image we should use to launch the site. That’s where you come in, my fabulous readers! I’ve gotten to know many of you over this past year and a half of blogging and appreciate your thoughtful opinions. Take a peek at the three images below and tell us which photograph you think people would be most interested in owning as a small print (we’re talking 8×10 for about $50).

A) Monks walking past a Richard Gere billboard in Bangkok, Thailand.

Photo of monks in front of a Richard Gere American Gigolo Poster in Bangkok

B) A farmer tending his rice paddies in Sichuan, China.

Rice paddies in Sichuan, China

C) Giant champagne bottle in Champagne, France.

Photo of a giant champagne bottle being carried in Champagne, FranceLeave your vote in the comment box, and hopefully in the next week or so you will see which image ends up kicking off the launch of our new endeavor. And of course, many details will follow…including the name of our site!

Thanks for sharing your two cents with us! Your opinion means a lot.

Draw Your Lines Any (Damn) Way You Like, Sweet Bug

It has been a summer of art at our house. My hubby has been hunkered down in his art studio working away on his new project, I’ve been writing into the wee hours of the night, and our daughter has been painting her way through a swirl of art camps.

It has all been delightful.

Sweet Bug Art-Children's ArtSweet Bug Art 4 Children's Art Sydney Opera HouseSweet Bug Art Children's Art

That is until last week.

Continue reading

A Tasty 10-Step Recipe for Creative Success

Ingredients

1 Open Mind
1/2 cup Inspiration
3/4 cup Talent
1 cup Originality
1 cup Authenticity
2 cups Motivation
2 3/4 cups Passion
4 cups Belief
4 cups Commitment
6 cups Perseverance
8 cups Grit
1 lb. Courage

Step One: Preheat imagination by clearing mind of clutter and doubt. Do this with an activity of your choice—run, meditate, take a long shower, relax with a glass of wine…

Step Two: Gather all ingredients, pour into large mixing bowl and stir with abandon. Get messy. Let it fly. Embrace the process, and never think about the cleanup.

Step Three: Season to taste using the textures of your soul. If your creation is bland, add a pinch of spice, a pound of raw emotion and one additional cup of grit. Blend vigorously until flavor is sublime.

Step Four: Knead it and work it, work it, work it.

Step Five: Set aside and let your ideas rise. During this important time, make an effort to engage in other activities, further stirring your creative juices: read, listen to music, go for a hike, surround yourself with art or other creative people.

If necessary repeat steps four and five.

Step Six: Once you are satisfied with the overall flavor and consistency, shape into the form of your choice—one that most expresses your passion and personality.

Step Seven: Bake in creative oven until done. Only you will know at what temperature and how long this will take. During this step, be sure to check it occasionally, but trust your instincts and refrain from continually opening and closing the oven door; that only lets out the heat, and often makes a masterpiece fall. Rather, relax and allow it to reach its natural golden state.

Step Eight: Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.

Step Nine: Once cool, embellish. This is your chance to add your final pinches of panache and swirls of sweetness. Make sure you have sprinkled it sufficiently with the yearnings of your heart, and topped it with the magic of your imagination.

Step Ten: Enjoy and celebrate your creative masterpiece, and most importantly, be sure to SHARE IT.

*Note: This recipe works best when creating purely to impress yourself. If others appreciate it too, then that’s just icing on the cake.

©Becky Green Aaronson   The Art of an Improbable Life   2012

Artists with a Sense of Humor

If humor is one of the highest forms of intelligence, then clearly these street artists are brilliant. I hope you are as bowled over as I was by these creative minds.

Photo of street art wall with straw

Photo of street art cheerleader

Photo of street art cigarette sewer

Photo of street art face and branches

Photo of street art shoe crosswalk

 

Photo of street art wall face

Photo of street art chalk tiger

Photo of street art kids chalk walk

Photo of street art eyes wall

Photo of street art more people climbing steps

Photo of street art scissors cutting street

Photo of street art sink hole with bicylist

Photo of street art steam roller

Photo of street art face on bombed building

Photo of street art love shadow

Photo of street art afro tree face

Photo of street art blue waterfall

Photo of street art guns and pencils

Photo of street art face skyscrapers

Photo of street art pastel steps

Photo of street art titanic building

Photo of street art treehouse building

Photo of street art zipper tree

Photo of street art subway steps

Photo of street art three friends

Unfortunately, I do not have the original source to properly credit the photographers or the curator of this delightful collection of images, but here’s a big shout out to Hensley Peterson for forwarding this piece to me via email. If anybody knows the original source, please let me know.

Page One–A Movie Review

Page One PhotoFor those of you who love the smell of newsprint with your morning coffee, I have a movie for you: Page One: Inside The New York Times.

This film was nominated for the 2012 Critics’ Choice Award in the category of Best Documentary Feature, and was also listed as one of the 50 Best Movies of 2011 by Paste Magazine.

The gist of the film? It’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall look at The New York Times and the people who put it together. Through four memorable journalists who work on the Media Desk, the film examines how this prestigious newspaper, and others like it, are struggling to survive in the age of digital information. With the Internet surpassing print as the main source of news, and newspapers going bankrupt all over the country, Page One chronicles this grande dame and the media industry in the midst of its greatest turmoil.

Page One delivers the perfect mix of journalism, politics, publishing and all the people who work with or depend on it. You might call this film a love letter to a dying art form, the American newspaper, and a celebration of the traditional values of journalism in a time when our need for free, immediate information is chiseling away at that honored discipline.

David Carr at the New York TimesThis film is worth seeing for David Carr alone. An irascible media columnist, single parent, former crack addict and welfare recipient, Carr pumps this film full of verve with his intelligence, wit and his “No BS” approach to reporting. I say move over Brad Pitt and George Clooney–it’s David Carr who really deserves an Oscar, even if he is just portraying himself.

The other unlikely star of the film is the imposing Times headquarters designed by Renzo Piano. Even though the newspaper sold the building in 2009 and leased part of it back because it was on shaky financial ground, it’s hard not to be impressed by this gleaming monument. In many ways the building represents all that is right and wrong with the industry in the midst of rising new media.

New York Times Headquarters

If I had any criticism of Page One, it would be that it’s a bit scattered, following many intriguing threads, yet never tying them all up into one cohesive bow. Still, news junkies, writers, photographers, and anybody who cares about the future of media will appreciate this smart film.

My other criticism is less a criticism and more a personal wish: I wish the movie had focused on other sections of the newspaper as well–partly because we’ve worked with so many of them over the years. I wish we could have glimpsed our colleagues in the Travel, Business, Week in Review, or Arts & Leisure sections, or even the Magazine, who have all hired Jeffrey over the  years and licensed his photography and our agency’s photography. I would have loved to have heard their thoughts about the state of the industry and where they think it’s heading in the digital age.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

Film details: Directed by Andrew Rossi, Written by Kate Novak and Andrew Rossi. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Running time 1 hour 28 minutes. Out on DVD and Blu-Ray. Get your hands on it via Netflix, iTunes or any of the usual video outlets. Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

If any of you have seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you think. If not, I’m curious to know what you think the future of media brings for newspapers. Is it possible for them to stay vital and solvent? Drop me a comment and share your two cents.

Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Russia

Photo or restoring Russian church in Moscow

Behind the scenes: It’s 1991 and Jeffrey is working on assignment for Travel Holiday in Moscow. Preeminent writer, Orville Schell, has written an in-depth piece about the renaissance of the Russian Orthodox church, and Jeffrey has been hired to photograph the story.

It’s a mind-numbingly cold January day when Jeffrey walks through Red Square with his interpreter, Alexi. People all around are dressed in heavy wool coats and classic fur caps. Jeffrey wears his American version of warmth—expedition weight Patagonia gear—but he still cannot feel his fingers or toes.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, RussaOnce he enters St. Basil’s Cathedral though, Moscow’s iconic nine-domed masterpiece, and he’s lead through a series of dim, narrow chambers, he is instantly warmed by what he sees transpiring behind closed doors. A small group of artists is painstakingly restoring the frescoes and woodwork of this magnificent16th century structure.

Jeffrey and his interpreter see a dark-haired woman perched high atop scaffolding, restoring the face of an angel on one of the domed ceilings. When the woman sees the two, she immediately stops what she’s doing and looks down from above.

Jeffrey simply smiles and says in his best Russian, “ZDRAST-vwee-tye” (hello). “KAK VAS za-VOOT” (what is your name)? “Menya zavut Jeffrey” (my name is Jeffrey).

She can tell by his clothing that he’s not Russian. A broad smile crosses her face when he continues with every Russian phrase he has learned. Even though his grammar is nowhere near perfect, his accent is strikingly authentic, and in a matter of minutes he has endeared himself to the artists around him.

Restoration of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, RussiaIn no time they are all laughing and showing him into other back rooms, speaking to him in Russian as if he should understand every Cyrillic word. Jeffrey doesn’t need to comprehend a thing; their pride in what they are doing says everything.

It is a new era in Russia. Under Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership and policy of Glasnost (openness and freer discussion of issues), the Russian Orthodox Church is slowly coming back to life.

Prior to Gorbachev, the Soviet regime was committed to the complete annihilation of religion. Based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, atheism was the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and it became a high priority for all Soviet leaders in the Communist Party.

Not only did the state destroy churches, mosques and temples, but it ridiculed, harassed and executed religious leaders, flooded the schools and media with atheistic propaganda, and promoted ‘scientific atheism’ as the truth that society should accept. And just like all private property, any Church-owned property that wasn’t destroyed, was confiscated and put into public use.

_____

When Jeffrey arrives in Moscow, he senses the delicate dance of the new political and social freedoms unfolding around him. Russians are clearly embracing change, but they’re also cautiously optimistic, knowing things could change again quickly during this turbulent political time.

Russian woman praying at a Russian Orthodox chuch in Moscow, RussiaDuring this assignment, Jeffrey photographs nearly a dozen churches—previously confiscated religious buildings that have been returned to the church–some still surrounded by barbed wire, some with gilded onion domes shimmering in all their glory, and some even holding  elaborate services once again.

As Jeffrey climbs up the rickety scaffolding inside St. Basil’s Cathedral to photograph the artist painstakingly restoring the frescoed ceiling, he knows he’s about to create an image that perfectly symbolizes the renaissance of the Russian Orthodox Church. One person at a time, one brush stroke at a time.

Russian Orthodox Church ceremony in Moscow, RussiaEleven months later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the government of Russia begins to openly embrace the Russian Orthodox Church, and the number of the faithful rises once again in Russia.

The photograph above was created with a Nikon F4 camera, a Nikon 24mm lens, SB-16 flash, and Fuji Velvia film.

To view a few more of Jeffrey’s photographs of Russian Orthodox Churches, click on this link:  See More Churches

The Colors of Change

The good thing about a blog is that it can evolve and change over time, just like all of us. My initial goal on Saturdays was to curate interesting things I stumbled upon each week and feature them in my “Saturday Sizzle,” but I’ve heard from several of you that you’d rather hear what I have to say than see/read a re-post of what’s already out there.

That is quite a compliment. Thank You!

Sooooo…while I’ll still plan to share things I find intriguing, inspiring or just plain funny, I’ll do that on Twitter or Facebook. Now on Saturdays, when time allows, I’ll post more of my own musings, or perhaps even an occasional personal picture or design creation.

I thought I’d start by sharing this unusual photograph of Olivia that I created with my IPhone on the 4th of July. Jeffrey, Olivia and I were in Aspen, laying on our backs watching the fireworks. Olivia was wearing glow in the dark jewelry and holding a glow stick that sparkled with different colors.

This is what I saw.

Photo of Olivia on the 4th of July