anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Posts Tagged ‘artwork

Surprise Art

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I love making things. I also love giving art to people, and I believe that our world is better with more art in it.

I wanted to offer something for the upcoming holiday season, but I didn’t have the capacity to invest money in items like prints or calendars. Instead, I want to offer small pieces of original artwork for people to keep or give away.

But here’s the catch: you don’t know what you’re getting. This is surprise art!

Between now and December 5th I will be making a series of small papercuts. Each one will be matted and wrapped. Place an order and you receive one of these pieces, which I will be sending out in two installments. Because I wrap them immediately after making them, I don’t know who is getting what. Consider it “grab bag art,” like when you were a kid and bought one of those paper bags at the toy store and had no idea what would be inside.

Each piece is mounted in a 5×7″ black mat and ready for framing. You can buy it for yourself, or for a friend, and feel free to order as many as you want. Because it’s a surprise, they are priced a little lower than my original pieces, the intent being to provide affordable artwork to bring a little joy to you and anyone you want to gift it to.

You can order here.

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Written by Anna Brones

October 16, 2018 at 08:39

Vote

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It’s National Voter Registration Day, so make sure you and all your friends are registered.

I just had these Vote buttons made, featuring my original papercut “Stars, Stripes and Uterus.” I made the papercut in 2016, but it still feels timely. Because women’s rights are human rights, and this button is perfect for election season (but wearable during any season, of course). You can order yours here.

Want the same artwork on a coffee mug? I’ve got that too. Order here.

Written by Anna Brones

September 25, 2018 at 13:54

What Blocks Our Creative Flow? (And How Do We Get Back There?)

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Creative flow is that sought after state that so many of us keep wanting to get to. When we’re there, we feel strong and empowered, as if we are doing exactly what we should be doing in that exact moment. We may work hard, but in a sense, that work feels effortless. When we’re not there, that state feels more elusive than ever, and we try to think of every possible means of chasing it down, hoping to harness that power once more.

But what is creative flow? When and why do we get into that state?

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” wrote Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow. 

That’s what we feel when we are in that moment of creative flow. We are immersed in what we are doing, everything else falls away. This doesn’t just happen in creative practice. Ever felt a runner’s high? That’s because of flow. Or when you come out of an hourlong yoga practice and realize that you haven’t thought about anything else in the last 60 minutes besides your physical presence? Flow.

I found a segment from WNYC from a couple of years ago on the neuroscience behind creative flow, featuring an interview with Dr. Heather Berlin. “Productivity doesn’t necessarily correlate with creativity,” says Berlin. An excellent reminder that just because we are producing work doesn’t mean that we are being creative or doing creative thinking. Some of the best stuff comes to us when we’re on a walk, or staring out the window. That’s because, “the unconscious can do much more complex processing,” says Berlin. The creative flow state can’t be forced. In those moments it’s better to turn off and tune out.

In her interview, Berlin mentions a study that involved MRI scans of jazz musicians’s brains while the musicians were improvising. This study is about ten years old, but the lessons to be drawn from it are timeless. According to Science Daily, “The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview.”

In other words, if we can turn that part of the brain off – or at least put it in pause – we might be better able to lower our inhibitions and better tap into our flow state.

Earlier this week, someone asked me what my writing process was. I would love to say that I diligently sit down on a regular basis and write for a predetermined amount of time, avoiding all distractions and committing myself to the process. I can think of about one month in the last year and a half when I was good about doing that (and I managed to write a book in that month, which I guess is proof that such commitment does work). However, for the most part, my writing process is what I call the “marination method.” I have an idea, or an assignment, I file it away at the back of my brain, and let the idea sit and percolate. Eventually the deadline nears, and I have to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and release those ideas.

Often I feel that I am up against a block, and in those moments I know that before I can sit down and do the work, I have to do something to get the creative juices flowing. A creative warm up so to say. That can be a run or a walk, or just taking a few minutes to paint with watercolors. (Sidenote: I am avoiding a deadline at this very moment, but telling myself that writing this is a good way to warm up to finishing the piece I need to turn in). Something to get my mind away from focusing too hard on the project at hand, and letting it wander instead. Often I find that somewhere in this process the unconscious kicks in, things come to the front of my mind that I hadn’t even considered. When I finally get there, then I feel like I am in the flow state.

I’m not necessarily advocating for that as a writing strategy, but in the moments when we feel that we are up against those creative walls, it’s an important reminder that pushing through isn’t necessarily the best path forward. If you let the prefrontal cortex do too much obsessing, you’ll keep coming up against that block. One study even used targeted electric currents to block that part of the brain, showing that doing so can help to break down that wall and lead to more creative thinking.

But we don’t need electric currents to stop obsessing. Think of another use of flow: physical movement. Exercise is good for our creativity. Intuitively, I think it makes sense that physical movement would lead to creative movement.

If we’re looking for that creative flow state, we have to do the things that get us there. There’s no magic solution, but you can be sure that refreshing your email isn’t one of them.

Stay small; often we don’t have an entire day to devote to a creative project, instead, think about what you could do creatively in fifteen minutes. If you can do those fifteen minutes every day, that ends up leading to a very regular creative practice, which helps to encourage the flow state.

Focus on putting one foot in front of the other; your overall project may be huge, but focus on the individual steps to get there, in order to distract your brain from derailing.

Think process, not product; flow is about being immersed in the moment, not getting hung up on whether or not the end product will be perfect.

Change your scenery. Take your notebook outside.

Avoid distractions. Unless of course they are the kind of distractions that encourage creative thinking.

Move.

Breathe.

Flow.

Written by Anna Brones

July 20, 2018 at 11:40

Wild Woman

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The wild woman who wants to feel her feet in the grass, dewy blades poking up between her toes.

The wild woman who stands outside on a winter morning, just to feel the cold wind on her cheek, telling her that she is alive.

The wild woman who seeks solace in the night sky, the stars a reminder of her tiny presence on earth, but its vast potential.

The wild woman who finds beauty in the smallest moments; the surprise of a wild strawberry on the forest floor, the change of color in a leaf, the unfurling of a fern.

The wild woman who finds adventure in her backyard, who explores new lands and cultures on the ground and in her imagination.

The wild woman who has the courage to say yes, but the wisdom to say no.

The wild woman who is open to the universe, hears the wind in the trees, feels the stillness of the forest.

The wild woman who wants the freedom of an afternoon for exploration, whether it’s afar and at home.

The wild woman who sits still, and the wild woman who runs.

The wild woman who embraces her being, and releases the confines of expectation.

The wild woman who forges her own path.

The wild woman who knows that she is the only one who gets to define her happiness.

The wild woman who is thankful for her time on this planet, and empathetic to all the beings around her.

The wild woman who searches the forest for fresh nettles on a spring day.

The wild woman who catches the glint of sun shining through an icicle on a winter morning.

The wild woman who rides her bicycle to feel the surge of freedom.

The wild woman whose face is crusted in the salt of the sea.

The wild woman who gives everything to her community, and the wild woman who prefers to be alone.

The wild woman who takes time to breath, time to feel, time to create.

The wild woman who feels pain and joy.

The wild woman whose wildness is hers and hers alone.

 

Written by Anna Brones

May 16, 2018 at 10:48

Rachel Carson

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Writer, scientist, ecologist, conservationist, activist. Rachel Carson was many things, and her work continues to be instrumental today.

Her book Silent Spring, published in 1962, galvanized the environmental movement (and also pissed off the chemical industry; Monsanto published 5,000 copies of a brochure parodying the book). But her writing extended far beyond that. In fact, she was first published at the age of 10 in a children’s magazine. She was a woman ahead of her time; in 1936, she was the second woman hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.

Carson believed in the wonderment that comes from the natural world, and she sought to share that with her readers, reminding us that we are but a part of the larger system around us.

The quote that I used in this portrait of hers is part of a longer one from Silent Spring, and I wanted to share in its entirety:

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

And if we contemplate and understand the beauty of the earth, it becomes that much harder to continue to act in a way that destroys it.

This papercut is a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a yearlong project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

April 6, 2018 at 08:38

Win an Original Papercut

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I’m sending Issue 7 of Comestible to the printer this week, and to celebrate the release of the new issue I am giving away this original asparagus papercut.

Everyone who has a 2018 subscription will be entered, and one random winner will be chosen to receive the signed papercut along with Issue 7. All you have to do to enter is subscribe to Comestible by April 16, 2018. Comestible is 100% reader supported, with no advertising. Every issue features essays and artwork about food, the places it comes from and the people who produce it, as well as seasonal recipes. It’s all made possible by readers, so every subscription helps ensure that the publication stays in print.

Written by Anna Brones

April 4, 2018 at 15:55

New Prints Available in the Shop

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I’ve got some new prints of artwork available in my shop, including this letterpress print of my original papercut “Witch Fika.” Because every coven needs to take coffee breaks. Each print is signed.

Every one of my original pieces are handcut from a single piece of paper. Here is the original “Witch Fika” piece:

There are also 8×10 prints of two other papercuts, “You Are Enough” and “One Kind Word.”

Click here to check out the shop and order. Thank you for supporting my artwork!

Written by Anna Brones

March 26, 2018 at 12:16