anna brones

writer + artist

Daily Creativity Prompts: April 2021

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A new month, a new list of creativity prompts.

These can be used for drawing, painting, writing, scribbling… whatever works for your own creative practice. Do them daily, do them daily-ish, or dip in every now and then.

You can find previous monthly lists of prompts here.

These monthly prompts and a lot of my other work are made possible thanks to supporters on Patreon. Maybe you want to consider joining?

Written by Anna Brones

April 1, 2021 at 09:49

Coffee Outside, Somewhere New

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month on the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

In her book Wintering, Katherine May describes the struggles of the fallow season we are now coming to the end of. “Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.” Now, at last, March’s new moon brings us to the beginning of Spring and a collective surfacing gasp for air after the longest of winters. 

Last month we nudged you to drink your coffee outside and be observant. This time we build on that with a call to take your coffee somewhere you have never been before. To become an explorer. An explorer of the world on your doorstep.

There are so many places that we would love to visit: Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia and all the other colourful coffee countries. Yet none of us are roaming the globe right now, of course. This has been a unique season of curtailed plans, clipped wings, and feelings of being cooped up and confused.

But experience has shown us –and this is important– that exploring locally is not just a mediocre solution to the problem. Nothing we describe here feels like a compromised existence. For example, in recent months, we have run every street reaching out from our homes, like a spider web, finding paths and lanes that had previously escaped our notice. We have appreciated the daily colours of the saltwater swimming palette, a chosen cold, one that we step into, one that we can leave. We climb the same tree every month in order to better notice the shifting of our lives and seasons. And we have committed to exploring a single map, the one we live on, to help put nearby nature into our everyday lives. 

Nature is cyclical: tides ebb and flow, the moon waxes and wanes. We too “have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.” (From Wintering, again.) We have a tendency to think of ‘new’ in a static way. (“Ah, coffee in a new place you say? I must find somewhere different!”) But ‘new’ can also be a state of mind. We would do well to remember that even in a place we know well, this very moment is both new and unique, never to pass in quite this way again. To quote Pico Iyer sort of quoting Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.”

Pay attention to the newness of revisiting the same spot in different seasons, different weathers, and different times of day. Sip your coffee and take a moment to notice the sunrise on your face, the afternoon shade, or the tranquility of dusk.

Even after many years of local microadventures, we still find new gems every time we choose to search for them. Go find one for yourself. Delight in the new, expand your local horizons, and your curiosities will expand too. 

Remember also, as you turn left instead of right towards today’s coffee spot that your local patch of woodland (or park or bench on a quiet street) would seem deliciously beguiling to someone who lives far away from you. [Looking at all your photos of enjoying coffee outside last month gave us very itchy feet. We would be fascinated to join you in your new place.] So many fresh sounds and sights and smells to inhale. All those ideas percolating… 

Spring is coming once more, both literally and metaphorically. We have all trodden through dark times recently, together but often alone. These times have changed us all. How will we choose to re-enter the world? How are we growing into our own spring? 

Make no mistake, winter can be “a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” With today’s new moon and the arrival of spring, make an effort to open your eyes to all that you do not know, to all that is new if you look afresh. Embrace and celebrate the opportunities that lurk waiting for us to find them rather than getting bogged down by the bulky and bothersome constraints dropped upon us. Rethinking the definition of “new” is a call to action for our curiosity.

Just because a coffee sit-spot is within a mile or two of your front door and the lengthy To Do list of chores waiting for you at home should not demean its beauty, its appeal, or its power. Indeed it ought to do the very opposite. We can discover freshness even in the most well-worn of our routines. How lucky you are to have found this spot, here, now, right when we are all yearning to become explorers once again! 

(And a final thought to consider. We are only a week away from the spring equinox with its longer days and feeling of hope and renaissance. Why not make a note in your diary to return to the same coffee spot at the autumn equinox too, as well as the solstices of summer and winter?)

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

March 14, 2021 at 16:14

Daily Creativity Prompts: March 2021

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Here is a new set of daily creativity prompts for the month of March.

Use these as drawing or writing prompts, whatever works for your own creative practice.

I’m still about a week behind on my own February drawings, so please know that skipping some days or playing catch up every once in awhile is very normal. Mostly this is just to give you a little guidance and encouragement for taking the time to sit down for a regular (or semi-regular) creative practice. Show up, allow yourself to play, see what happens.

You can find previous monthly lists of prompts here.

These monthly prompts and a lot of my other work are made possible thanks to supporters on Patreon. Maybe you want to consider joining?

Written by Anna Brones

March 1, 2021 at 09:35

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