anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Coffee Outside

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Alastair Humphreys—king of the microadventure, author of many books, and lover of all kinds of curiosities big and small—and I wanted to collaborate on something. Art? Words? Where would we start? We went back and forth for a long time, thinking of what might be the right thing to take on together. And then we thought, why not just go back to the thing that’s at the root of it all, the thing that always helps us to begin: coffee. We are both avid coffee drinkers, coffee weaves its ways into our adventures and our creativity. It made sense to do a collaboration focused just on that. In the spirit of percolating new ideas and projects, we’re releasing this on the day of the new moon. In this one, Alastair took a stab at the words and I took a stab at the art. We’ll both be drinking some coffee outside today (probably tomorrow as well) and we hope you’ll join us in some coffee outside adventures, wherever you are. 

Momentous and wondrous things — adventure, a piece of art, a new project — begin with a seed of an idea, a cup of coffee, and then the decision to begin.

Whether it is ‘putting the kettle on’ in Britain when hatching plans, Sweden’s daily fika to savour life’s small joys, or ‘grabbing a coffee’ in North America to toss around exciting ideas, we believe that good stuff comes from coffee. 

We appreciate the familiarity of a favourite mug, the performance of the preparation or the ritual of going to a favourite cafe. We take pleasure in the caesura, the space created by pausing for coffee, and perhaps a faint glimpse of the Buddhist notion that you can experience the universe by drinking a bowl of tea. 

So coffee is where we are going to begin this new journey towards exploring the link between adventure, creativity, curiosity, and wellbeing. [By the way ‘tea’ can be used interchangeably with ‘coffee’ throughout. Perhaps not ‘Beer’ though, if you’re reading this early in the day!]

What if we try something different with our daily ritual? Nothing dramatic, nothing to worry about or procrastinate. Just a tiny step towards something different. Sometimes that can be all you need to leave your rut. Nudge the helm, trim the sail of a small boat leaving Java and you’ll shift your landfall from Kenya to Yemen. 

Today we nudge you to take your coffee outside and experience an extra sliver of the universe. A cup of coffee in the fresh air cracks open the space to allow ideas to percolate and brew. For adventure ideas. For a blackbird waiting for this moment to arise. For creative impulses and a breath of breeze. The time to observe, notice and appreciate the world outside your front door. 

The hardest part of any adventure is what Norwegians call the ‘dørstokkmila‘, the doorstep mile, cajoling yourself to leave the comfortable, familiar house, step out of a rut and into the world. The doorstep mile is the longest mile of any journey.

Before Russians begin a journey they sit down together and pause in silence to clear their heads and bring good fortune. The tradition is called ‘sidet na chemodanakh or ‘sitting on your suitcases’. Our bags are not yet packed, but we have now begun to dream.

Abraham Lincoln supposedly said that if he had six hours to chop down a tree, he would spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. Similarly, when we plan an adventure, a book, or a new work of art, we first of all pause for coffee. 

Who are you? Where are you? How will you take your coffee today? We want to hear from you, and where these outdoor moments take place. Perhaps you’ll sit amongst the pigeons on a park bench with your latte. Or with an espresso and a croissant at a terracotta-tiled cafe beside the emerald waters of the Adriatic. You may walk outside in the middle of winter barefoot, standing on your porch in bare feet, feeling the cold of the season, the hot mug in your hands. You could fill a thermos and set out on foot for the woods. Or you might prefer to brew your coffee outside. A gas stove and a sprinkle of instant. A jetboil and French press. Aeropress. Bialetti. Briki. A kelly kettle or a coffee bag. Java drip, filter, press pot or percolator. A Moka pot and wanderlust for al-Makha. Perhaps you’ll gather twigs and light a fire for cowboy coffee or forage, roast and grind a beech nut substitute coffee. Or maybe you’ll simply carry your cup from kitchen to sunlit garden and sit for a while, caging the minute within its nets of gold.

We are fascinated by the concept of adventure, something that often comes with a sense of uncertainty and unknown. This past year has presented us with ample amounts of uncertainty in our everyday, and our thoughts about –and approach to– ‘adventure’ has most certainly shifted. Our journeys now are closer to home. We are challenged to stay curious and find joy in our most trivial moments. It’s easy for things to become routine and mundane. This is why we should use something as small as a change in daily ritual to bring us a hint of what we have missed. It holds the possibility of surprise and serendipity, and offers an invitation to exploration and the simple activities that fill life with joy and inspiration.

Whilst we doubtlessly want adventure, we also crave ways to slow down and be present, to connect with the world around us, and generate the opportunity to pursue our creativity. Mark this cup of coffee as the beginning of that quest. To consciously look askew at the way we do things. An interlude to pay attention and be grateful. And a chance, with the final sip, to acknowledge how easy that was and to commit to try something similar again. 

This might merely be drinking a cup of coffee outside. But it may also be the birth of a new adventure. We do not yet know. But we have begun to find out.

Written by Anna Brones

February 11, 2021 at 09:00

Daily Creativity Prompts: February 2021

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A new month, a new set of daily prompts.

I personally use these as drawing prompts, but they can definitely be done as writing prompts too. If it’s helpful, set a timer: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes… whatever you can commit to as a daily creative practice. And not to worry, sometimes I play catch up too when I miss a few days.

If you post your work, use the hashtag #creativefuelpromptsfeb2021 so we can see them all in one place. You can see some of the results from January here

Written by Anna Brones

February 1, 2021 at 10:47

Daily Creativity Prompts: January 2021

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Creative practice keeps us active, engaged, and inspired.

Daily drawing prompts have been a bit of a saving grace for me over the last few months, particularly in December, so I made another monthly list to kick this new year off.

I usually use these lists as drawing prompts, but you can use them however you see fit. They could certainly function as writing prompts if you prefer that medium. These prompts are not really about what you end up creating—the value lies in taking the time to do them, taking the time to keep your creativity going. Maybe you’ll do them daily, or maybe you’ll play catch up every once in awhile. Take some time to figure out what kind of a routine works for your own creative practice. And remember that it often changes!

Here’s to kicking off good creative habits this year.

If you post your work, use the hashtag #creativefuelpromptsjan2021 so we can see them all in one place. You can check out some of the ones from December here

Written by Anna Brones

January 4, 2021 at 11:04

Women’s Wisdom Project 2021 Postcard Calendar

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I’ve always loved calendars, and when the year is over, I have often cut off or separated the illustration from the month/days so that I can use the artwork, either to frame or send to a friend.

Why not have a calendar that’s specifically made to be used in this way? That’s exactly what this Postcard Calendar is.

After every month is over, just cut along the dotted line on the back and turn it into a postcard. A great challenge to send a handwritten note to a friend. After all, who doesn’t like getting snail mail?

So consider this a calendar and postcard pack all wrapped up into one. This year, each month features a portrait from my Women’s Wisdom Project series, a chance to celebrate women all year long.

Women featured in the calendar:

Kamala Harris
Berta Cáceres
Grace Lee Boggs
Shirley Chisholm
Emma Goldman
Alice Paul
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Patsy Takemoto Mink
Wilma Mankiller
Rosa Parks
Jeanette Rankin
Coretta Scott King

The calendars are 5×7″ and printed on recycled paper in Seattle, Washington. Once cut, postcards are about 4×5″. Snag one here.

You can also check out some of the benefit Women’s Wisdom Project 8×10″ prints.

Written by Anna Brones

December 1, 2020 at 10:45

Mary Wollstonecraft

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“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”

-Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797,

045 Women’s Wisdom Project

Since we’re all talking about Mary Wollstonecraft this week on account of the new statue in London, I thought I would post this Women’s Wisdom Project piece that I made last year.

This quote is from Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” originally published in 1792. It is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy and considered a foundation of the modern women’s movement. Another line from that which I found powerful is this: “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.”

Here’s the section where the quote comes from:

“I am fully persuaded, that we should hear of none of these infantine airs, if girls were allowed to take sufficient exercise and not confined in close rooms till their muscles are relaxed and their powers of digestion destroyed. To carry the remark still further, if fear in girls, instead of being cherished, perhaps, created, were treated in the same manner as cowardice in boys, we should quickly see women with more dignified aspects. It is true, they could not then with equal propriety be termed the sweet flowers that smile in the walk of man; but they would be more respectable members of society, and discharge the important duties of life by the light of their own reason. ‘Educate women like men,’ says Rousseau, ‘and the more they resemble our sex the less power will they have over us.’ This is the very point I aim at. I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves.”

You can read the full essay here.

This papercut is part of the Women’s Wisdom Project.

Written by Anna Brones

November 11, 2020 at 10:02

Sign Up for 24 Days of Making, Doing, and Being Digital Advent Calendar (+ Preorder a Limited Edition Print Calendar)

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I am doing my annual digital Advent calendar 24 Days of Making, Doing, and Being again this year, and now is the time to sign up!

The goal with this Advent calendar is always to create a little magic every day during the month of December, so that’s it’s not just a countdown but an everyday celebration. It’s a focus on slowing down, finding balance and contentedness.

While in the past, the calendar was intended as an antidote to the consumer frenzy that has come to define the season, this year I think we need an antidote for something different. We need an antidote for uncertainty, anxiety, loneliness, and the weariness that 2020 has left us feeling. Fortunately, the antidote is essentially the same, and I think that putting out this year’s Advent calendar feels more important than ever.

We need daily reminders to keep us present, to keep us breathing, to keep us existing, to keep us hoping. We need to remember the things for which we are grateful. We need to be challenged to create a little extra magic in what has felt like a dark and heavy 12 months. If there ever was a year where we needed a bit of seasonal magic to cheer us up, it certainly seems like it’s this one.

With that in mind, this year I am doing the digital version again, but I also made a limited edition print Advent calendar. There’s a daily card with a prompt (featuring versions of some of my favorite prompts from the last few years), something that allows you to just be in analog mode and create some moments of stillness and presence throughout the month. Anyone who buys one get signed up for the digital version as well. I will be sending them out next week, and if you preorder one now you get free shipping.

$5 will get you access to the entire digital Advent calendar. If you are a Patreon supporter of mine, you will get a subscription to the digital edition of the calendar for free.

I hope that you consider signing up!

Vote: 2020 Election Posters

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I have been making a collection of vote-inspired artwork over the past few weeks, and I have turned several of them into a series of free, downloadable posters.

All of these posters started as papercuts, made from a single piece of paper.

The posters are designed for 8.5×11″ and 11×17″ paper. You can download and print these posters at home and hang them up wherever you like. You can even color them in!

I want to encourage people to get out the vote, and I want you to do the same, which is why I am making these posters free. They are intended for personal use and may not be sold or used for profit. For those who are able/want to, you can make a donation or support my work on Patreon. And if you want vote postcards with some of these designs, I have those available for sale in my shop as well as the original artwork.

Head here to download. 

Written by Anna Brones

October 19, 2020 at 10:19

Vote Like a Motherf*cker

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We must VOTE.
My original “Vote Like a Motherfucker” papercut illustration was inspired by the words of Cheryl Strayed. If you have read her book Tiny Beautiful Things, you will recognize the phrase “write like a motherfucker.” In the 2016 election, Cheryl adapted that to be “vote like a motherfucker.” I asked Cheryl if I could turn her words into artwork in lead up to the 2020 election. 

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. During the fight for the 19th amendment, suffragettes wore yellow roses to indicate their support. This yellow rose is a nod to the women who came before us and ensured that today we have the right to vote.

I turned this artwork into a “voter pack,” intended to remind you to vote, but also to take that reminder to someone else. Because we ALL need to show up and vote. You can wear your button and sticker proudly, and give the other button and sticker to a friend. Pass the voting energy on.
Postcards are 4.5×6.25″ and can also be hung as a small print on your wall/fridge/in the window so your neighbors see it. The pack includes a yellow, white, and black postcard. Snag one here. I am personally donating $5 of each pack to Fair Fight

Written by Anna Brones

October 4, 2020 at 12:31

Posted in Design + Creativity, Portfolio

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020)

We must fight.

We must lead.

We must push on.

This papercut is part of the Women’s Wisdom Project.

Written by Anna Brones

September 19, 2020 at 09:41

Armchair Travel Sketchbook

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“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”

– Twyla Tharp

What does travel do for us? We travel for many reasons. Sometimes it’s to new places for unexpected experiences. Sometimes it’s to well-known places that feed our soul, places that provide a sense of calm and grounding. Sometimes it’s simply because we need a reset.

Today is for conjuring up a little bit of the magic of travel without going anywhere. We’re going to do a bit of armchair travel journaling. A dose of travel without leaving home.

Supplies:

  • Pen or pencil
  • Paper or notebook

Optional:

  • Watercolors, markers, etc.
  • Reference photos or an old travel sketchbook

When I travel, I am not always great at keeping a travel journal or sketchbook, but when I do, I always love looking back on them. I think the main draw of a travel sketchbook is that when you come across a sketch from one of your travels, you always think “oh, I remember that day.” Yet in the moment, when you’re hesitating to put pen to paper, it’s so easy to think to yourself, “I can’t draw that.”

But no matter how quick or messy a travel sketch is, when I have looked back at them later, I have never once thought “that’s terrible.” Instead, those sketches evoke feelings and memories. They capture not just places but moments in time. They hold smells and sounds and textures.

Today we will focus on exactly that, and it doesn’t matter what the end result is. It’s the practice of taking yourself somewhere else through art.

There are two ways to go about this prompt, pick whichever one works for you.

Prompt #1: A meditation on place

In this prompt, you are going to pretend that you are in a place that you want to go to. Ideally it’s a place that you have already been to and love, because you are going to work on mentally putting yourself in that place.

Close your eyes for a moment and envision that place. Where are you sitting? What are you looking at? What temperature is it? What do you hear? What do you smell?

When you open your eyes, write a short travel journal entry, as if you were in that place. I think it’s helpful to choose a time of day for this journal entry, which will of course help to guide you with what activities you would be doing in that moment. It can also be helpful to make a little bullet list of all the elements your senses are picking up on.

Once you have done a little writing about where you are, what you are seeing, and what you are feeling, add some drawings. I think it’s helpful to focus on a few objects that help to capture the feeling of a place. So let’s say you put yourself on a beautiful beach somewhere tropical; focus less on capturing the entirety of the beach and everything that’s on it, and focus instead on a handful of individual elements that feel true to the scene. The blue of the water, a towel, a shell on the sand.

I found that after doing this exercise, it was clear from what I had written and drawn that I was craving certain things. Things that could be found in that place, but also things that I could do for myself here at home. So maybe doing this exercise will allow for a little introspection on where you are emotionally and what you’re craving right now.

Prompt #2: Take inspiration from a favorite travel photo

It’s always fun to go back through photos of where we have been before. Find a photo from a trip that you loved and use that as your reference photo.

You can choose to write about that moment, or draw it, or both.

When drawing, same thing here as above: challenge yourself to focus on a few different elements that you really want to highlight. Or maybe you want to let loose a bit and make a blind contour drawing based on your reference photo.

Whatever prompt you do (or maybe you do both!) I hope you enjoy a little armchair travel. As Twyla Tharp says, run away, even if it’s only for a little bit.

This was a prompt featured in Creative Fuel Challenge, a semi-regular newsletter with creative prompts. I usually send it out twice a week, and it’s intended to inspire a little but of extra time for creativity in your day. Sign up here.

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Written by Anna Brones

July 13, 2020 at 10:48