Aaron Becker's Blog
June 11, 2015
Today we visited the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, nearly 31 years after I came to the park as a young boy. According to my mother, It rained most of that day in 1984, but as you can see in the picture, and certainly in my memory, it was nothing but clear blue skies. That entire trip to Europe had a big impact on me - a land full of fairytale architecture and scenery that would one day inspire me to imagine my own worlds. It was beyond wonderful to revisit one of the sources of that wonder today and share it with my daughter who continues to amaze me on our big adventure.
Only one week before we head home…
May 9, 2015
It’s Saturday and the warm air is hanging around a bit this
evening here in Granada. In three days time, our trip here is ending and I’m
starting to understand why the warmth is sticking around tonight. After eight
months of living abroad in Spain it’s only now at the end that I can begin to
see the value in what we’ve done for our family. There are the obvious, travel
guide bonuses of life along the Mediterranean. Cobble-stone walks to school
each morning, markets selling cheap, delicious food a stone’s throw from our
terraced home, views of a fourteenth century castle right from our bedroom
window; all that you imagine life here might be and more. The reality is that
the romance of those things fades relatively quickly. It’s the tangible stuff,
the experiential nature of living abroad, that will stick with us as memories
of flamenco recede; our friendships with locals and fellow travellers, adapting
to a culture, a way of life, a language. Finding hidden caves and streams off
the beaten track. Children running around plazas at 10PM on school nights.
Realizing that much of what you thought your kids needed in life they don’t. I
think it’s easy for us to believe that once we’ve started a family and found
our routines, the travel we did in our youths is an unreachable dream best put
off until retirement. But in many ways, this whole experience feels like a
trial run for something much bigger down the road. I think we’ve planted the
seeds for a life we’ve yet to discover.
March 6, 2015
This is what peeling off the tape from the last painting of a five-years-in-the-making book trilogy looks like.
February 11, 2015
This week, I have hit a wall. With seven paintings to go on
the final installment of the Journey Trilogy, I have lost the ability to pick myself
up by my proverbial bootstraps. To a normal person - a person who, you know, rests - this should come as no surprise. I started work on the trilogy in March
of 2010 and since then I’ve been working pretty much nonstop on these stories,
the latest installment alone since the summer of 2013. Nearly two years! On one
wordless picture book. There were times when, after, completing a finished,
polished draft I simply realized there was something missing and I would start again. And then when the final
edit was completed, there were many paintings I would finish only to realize
that to do the book justice, I’d have to redo them. And what I’m finding now is
that there are limits to this sort of thing. It’s especially hard, because I
can literally see the end, just a few paintings away. But the truth of the
matter is, I have run out of steam. The work of an author is a solitary one,
but also an uncertain one. We spend a lot of time creating work that we have NO
IDEA if it will be well received, or even earn us a living. I love my work and
feel fortunate that the successes I’ve had thus far give me some breathing room
to create something potentially greater still. But now, after starting over again and
again in search of a terrific story or a lovely brush stroke, I find I’ve reached
my actual limit. It’s good to touch down here but even better to recognize it’s
time to take a break. Give me a few days, though, and I’ll be back at it I’m sure.
January 25, 2015
After spending the first few months here in Spain in relative isolation while I began work on the paintings for RETURN, I decided it was time to get out of the house a bit when we relocated to Granada. So I found a co-working space downtown - an experiment to see what it would be like to work again around others. And I figured, if nothing else, I’d learn some Spanish. What I didn’t count on was that I’d also meet some really AMAZING people, including my friend Antonio who put together this fabulous video chronicling a day-in-the-life of my work on the last chapter in the Journey trilogy. The space I work in, as you’ll see, is right by a window, along a narrow street in downtown Granada, in a neighborhood that seems to be surprising the whole city with its creative energy. Hair salons for hipsters, quaint shops selling artsy paraphernalia, and our own little co-working space filled with videographers, journalists, and animators make me feel like I’ve moved to the Mission District in San Francisco some twenty years ago as it began to emerge from its ashes. I feel fortunate to have landed here and even with the easy-going pace of life (read: morning coffee break(s), afternoon siesta) I find that I’m able to focus on my work like never before. I’ll have to see about starting up something like this when I get back to Amherst!
January 13, 2015
Last week, on a full day’s hike above the Alhambra, my daughter taught me something.
Growing up, my mother often teased as a way of showing affection. It’s what I knew; it was familiar, and when the time came for me to establish friendships, it was a tool I used. To me, my playful words never felt much like making fun of anyone. They were nothing more than an attempt at reaching out.
So we’re out on this hike and I called her a silly name, so inconsequential to me at the time that I can’t even remember it now. But this is what I do remember. She turned around, upset, and said she didn’t like what I had called her. I immediately apologized and told her I had just been joking. And then she went on:
"When you say things like that I don’t know that it’s a joke. I think it’s true."
Of course she does. Of course the words feel like they must be real. Even when we tease. Even when we’re trying to express love and don’t know exactly how. Her wisdom impressed the hell out of me; not just in how she was able to articulate her feelings, but how she used her awareness to wake her dad up.
This must be one of the many reasons we have children.
January 4, 2015
At our new home here in Granada, there is a nice little collection of books, including this one, “Dear Mili”, an old Grimm fairytale discovered in the 1980s and subsequently illustrated by Sendak. I’m embarrassed to say that I had not heard of this book before, nor seen it, but let me tell you - it is breathtaking, brave, and tender. What strikes me, perhaps, most deeply is how the intensity of both the story and illustrations (Sendak expands upon the story’s themes of death, war, and god with powerful allusions to the Holocaust) does not frighten my four year old daughter. In fact, at the story’s close, when the little girl dies alongside her mother, my own daughter seems to be ready to sink into a calm sleep as she cuddles in more than usual. We’re moved by the tale in a way that transcends normal bedtime fair. There’s something in the utter authenticity of Sendak’s drawings that make this tough material not only palatable but joyous and warm. No wonder that the man effected so many. Sadly, I imagine that this type of content would not get published today.
January 2, 2015
In the Land of Stories
There are some places that breathe stories more loudly than others. And of course, depending on who you are, when you were born, and where you were born, these places can be quite different. For me, at least, the fairytales of northern Europe have had the greatest impact on what I see when I close my eyes and begin to imagine a place where magic might be found. When we recently took a trip to Bavaria and Austria over the winter holidays, I was struck by just how viscerally the feeling of old stories seeped from the cobblestoned streets and moss-covered forests.
But why? After all, it seems a bit arbitrary that rubbing shoulders with the folk traditions of Germany should feel so inspiring. My family’s not from there yet somehow these stories feel like my own.
The problem is that if you really start looking into the historical and cultural circumstances of how a couple of German brothers and another famous fellow from Denmark (to name a few) came to plant this legacy the whole thing sort of loses, well, its magic. I won’t ruin it for you here but let’s just say, at least in the case of the Grimm Brothers, these supposed folk retellings served more political purposes than purely folkloric ones (or in the case of their latest incarnations with Disney - economic ones!).
For the time being, however, I prefer to turn a blind eye to the circumstances behind the inspiration. The plain truth of it is that I’d rather feel some wonder than have an answer.
December 24, 2014
December 2, 2014
Whenever I get a note or letter from a fan, I’m always so moved to know that my work has made a difference out there in the great wide world beyond my studio walls. But when I received this selection of photographs the other day via facebook, I literally had to do a double-take. These amazing shots came from Bridget Parmenter of Shrewsbury, MA. and while, yes, she’s a professional photographer, this mom blogger also knows how to send her kids off on a serious adventure. Her daughter and son wanted to dress up as the kids from Journey and Quest, so she made them a map and colored-pencil-filled bandolier as props for their day out. And they went to a castle.