Bright and mythical, Anna Pers Bräcke's work is a delightful interpretation of the world around her. Creating still and moving images for various leading magazines and global brands, the Swedish illustrator's art is optimistic and joyful, full of cosy, squishy characters doused in a happy palette. But her creative journey hasn't been easy, as we discover in an exclusive interview.
Based out of Borlänge in Sweden, Bräcke is known for her experimental approach and bright use of colour; her work imagines situations that balance the magical with the mundane and are instantly recognisable in style.
She creates standalone images and prints that can be used as digital backgrounds, having worked with a number of clients ranging from Snapchat, Adobe Live, The Washington Post and more. Studying between the US and Sweden, Bräcke has been educated in various disciplines, spanning illustration, design, picture book storytelling and graphics.
But the path to her success hasn't been easy. She admits she chose a different path: "Like most children, I loved drawing. But after high school, I thought I'd better consider a more 'practical' career and so decided to become a hairdresser," she tells Creative Boom. However, that proved difficult, as Anna suffered back and neck pain. So she opted to become a social worker instead. "I love working with people, so it felt right. I wanted to help others."
This decision not to pursue her love of art could also be blamed on awful events that happened in 2007 when Anna witnessed the murder of a close friend, and that same year her father was diagnosed with cancer. It was a moment that made her take stock of her life but also resulted in some PTSD and social anxiety, as one might expect after observing something so traumatic.
Despite these personal difficulties, Anna graduated from university in 2015 and became a social worker. However, her first stint at the job quickly led to burnout. "It was a tough time. I got into a bit of a personal crisis. I lost all the fun and joy in life. The only respite I had was through painting. Then, I embraced my fears and decided to shift careers."
Until that point, Anna had been scared to switch jobs but realised if she was ever going to be happy, she needed to do what she loved. So at 28 years old, she returned to education and learnt design and illustration at the University of Gothenburg. There, she finally found the professional support she needed to tackle her PTSD, and when everything fell into place. "After speaking to a specialist, I overcame my fear of failure and considered illustration a viable career."
After completing her creative course in 2019, she worked as an assistant for a fashion designer in Sweden, but then moved back to Borlänge in 2020 due to the pandemic. There, she started freelancing as a professional illustrator whilst working at a grocery store to help pay the bills. In February 2021, she launched her business.
Now, two years later, aged 34, she's proud to call herself a full-time illustrator. She has already earned great acclaim in the design world, scooping up many awards in Europe and the US, with various showcases of her work globally. It's no surprise that Closer&Closer – an agency renowned for seeking out remarkable artists and helping them to continue creating unforgettable visual experiences – snapped her up last year.
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me with what I've been through," says Anna. "I'd rather they take inspiration from my story and find hope, knowing that you can get through hard times; you should never give up on your dreams and keep pushing. You really can do it."
Despite suffering many hardships, it's interesting to see how Anna has adopted a positive and happy theme throughout her work. "I had a super happy childhood," she admits. "My parents read me a lot of stories. My dad used to make up his own, too. I played in the local woods and nature. I've always been curious about the world around me. I am an optimist and relish opportunities. But it's interesting to look back at earlier work, as it wasn't as joyful."
It seems as though overcoming trauma, finding herself, and embracing the career she always wanted have led Anna to enjoy such success today. "I used to cover such heavy topics," she adds. "Now I feel I need to have fun and lighten up. I've realised I don’t need to carry all the weight alone on my shoulders."