Petra Braun’s playful figurative illustrations celebrate the “badass” women in her life
Petra, a freelance illustrator and skilled graphic designer, has created artwork for an array of impressive clients, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Penguin Random House and Dorling Kindersley, to name a few. But even if she has always drawn and created since her childhood, she did not grow up in an artist’s house and did not know for a long time that it could lead to a job.
“My parents had a farm and my life was filled with animals and plants, as were my drawings,” Petra told Creative Boom. “My professional aspiration at the time was to become a veterinarian.” However, a school trip to an art exhibition at the age of 12 took another path in her life. “We saw an exhibition with paintings by Marc Chagall, and I remember how fascinated I was,” she reveals. “I had never seen paintings in real life and I was the last child to leave the exhibition.”
When deciding on a career path, Petra chose to become a graphic designer because it seemed like a way to get steady employment from her passion for art. After graduating, she worked for a time in an advertising agency before deciding to study painting at the University of the Arts in Linz, Austria.
Of that time, she says: “At university, I mainly worked with oil and acrylic paint, but I also did ink drawings and stone and fabric objects. The subjects of the work I created there were very women-centric and the artists who inspired me the most were female artists like Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith.”
A passion to focus on strong, empowered women is a recurring motif in Petra’s work. And while she is inspired by women who have done remarkable things in their lives despite the societal boundaries they have faced, she is also influenced by women in her everyday life.
“I often notice how badass the women around me are, how many different things they handle and how they hold everything together,” she explains. “It’s impressive how many different roles they have to play and it’s a shame how rarely this is recognized and appreciated in society.
“Seeing the accomplishments of the women around me is wonderful and encouraging. I am a very introverted person and was very shy as a child. Having role models and seeing how other women around me are succeeding was, and is always, very motivating for me to get out of my comfort zone, so I’m always happy to be able to work on a project featuring a model woman.”
Another reason Petra needs to focus on and empower women is because of the restrictions they still face. “Women are told a lot how to behave, how to present themselves, what they can do and what they can archive,” she says. “The systems we live in are still built in such a way that women take care of their families rather than pursue their career goals. As long as men earn more for the same work, this will not change.
“Furthermore, women’s rights are not a sure thing. It is imperative to claim and fight for these rights as they can easily be taken away overnight. This is what we have seen recently with the right to abortion in different countries. Rights, in general, are not something we can take for granted. Therefore, I think it is essential to empower women to be confident, to live their lives as they wish and pursue their dreams.
In her art, Petra likes to show women confident in their bodies and standing up for what they want. “I like to empower and empower them. Women are often brought up to put their needs behind them, so I think it’s important to put them front and center and matter.”
True to her word, Petra does just that by hosting the “Powerful Women Week” Instagram Challenge every September with fellow illustrators. “During the week, we show on our accounts selected works created for the challenge in order to increase the visibility of the artists participating in the challenge.”
This project led to a card game (thanks to Lisa Den Teuling, the founder of “Powerful Women Week”), where 60 female artists from around the world contributed an illustration created for the challenge, along with a motivational quote. . “A portion of the proceeds from the card game is donated to a charity called Mama Cash, which supports women, girls, and transgender and intersex people around the world.”
Inspired by her work and thinking of following in Petra’s footsteps by entering the world of illustration? She advises that freelance editorial illustration is the starting point. “It’s easier to find contacts than in other markets,” she explains.
“You can check the imprint of magazines you think your work would be suitable for and find the names of art directors or editors. AOI also sells contact lists on their website. Send an email with a message polite explaining why you want to Include some examples of your work as well as links to your website and social media accounts.
“Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate response. These people are very busy. is not what they are looking for.”
Most importantly, Petra recommends submitting work that reflects the topics that interest you. In her case, it would be about empowered women, and that led to work in that area.
“Additionally, you might think about what editors and art directors need for the magazine. For example, if there’s always a supplement in the magazine, feel free to come up with an idea for it. The same goes for publishing houses and ideas for books.”