Animals

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I have been thinking about animals lately.

One of my biggest personal takeaways from my stay in Ithaca last year is all the perspective I gained about the natural world. However brief, staying in an environment where I can go into the woods everyday or go for hikes whenever I wanted to did the city girl that is me a ton of good.

Thinking about it now, a lot of the people and friends I have met there are either conscious about their meat consumption or vegetarian. It makes sense as our work revolved around animals and, ultimately, conservation.

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I admit that I have been ignorant about why people actually become vegetarians, and I’ve never really taken the time to learn about it properly. Meat is a very big part of Filipino culture and cuisine, and that is how and where I grew up. I know we have big commercial animal farms, but a lot of people, especially the ones in the province and small vendors in the market, just raise enough animals to sell or for their family to eat day to day. It is also a reality in our developing country that so many people have nothing to eat that it’s a shame to be picky with food or to refuse whatever is served at the table, or whatever you can afford.

However, I really appreciate having gained a wider perspective about eating animals these past months. Reading about it, having conversations about it, and watching conservation documentaries have taught me a couple of things:

A) meat consumption at the rate and scale that the world runs on now largely affects the way the environment works adversely. Over-farming, horrible industry practices, illegal trade. They say the biggest step we can take to reduce our carbon footprint is to stop eating animals (and to reduce air travel!). Also, I learned that the reason some restaurants in Hong Kong don’t allow photography because they use illegally harvested ingredients in some of their food items.

B) Most of the creatures we eat ARE sentient beings. Octopi and pigs, they taste very good, but they are also very intelligent animals.

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OK. I’m not going to pretend: I can’t go vegetarian, at least that’s how I feel now. I still need and want meat. But! I guess my more immediate goal right now is to eat in moderation and opt for more naturally-prepared food. Be more conscious about my fish choices, and especially when I do get to choose, try harder to eat more plants than animals. Learning to cook good food (versus the easier route of having instant junky food all the time) for myself during my internship, I found that vegetables are easier to buy and cook if you’re just making food for one, so that’s something that worked out well to get me to eat less meat.

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On a different note, I’ve also been thinking about the other things besides food that relate to animals on some level: toiletries, cosmetics, and art materials.

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A lot of toiletries and cosmetic companies test on animals, and it’s always a very good idea to be conscious of this. Here’s a good list of cruelty-free brands and those that do test on animals. Now you know~

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As for art materials, I’ve read a lot of things about the regulation on Kolinsky brushes in the US, and this really made me change my mind about getting another one. Kolinsky brushes are amazing, no doubt about that, and they last a long time if you take good care of them. I’ve had mine for years and was looking online to get another one in a different size, but now I know I’ll go for the synthetic ones instead. The weasels aren’t endangered, but they are on the CITES list of animals that may be endangered or extinct due to international trade. Read more about the regulation here.

I’m not sure how the rest of my art materials fare in terms of being green. I do use a lot of paper, so that in itself I guess is sadly not too friendly on the trees?

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So. A lot of energy goes into the production or harvest of everything that we use,  but I think conservation has more to do with balance than just giving up everything. It’s always good to know more, and be aware of where the little things we do and buy are in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s to more conscious consumption!

 

ITH, part 2

ITH, part 1 here

I was in line to be interviewed at the US embassy last year for my visa, and this guy behind me and I chatted a bit. He was from New Zealand, currently a student from Columbia. When he saw I was headed to Cornell, he told me that Cornell had the highest rate of suicide incidents across the Ivy League schools. I remember being told about this when I got to Ithaca also, along with warnings of how the winters got very, very cold.

Coming from a busier place like Manila, I found Ithaca relatively much smaller and also kind of secluded especially if you don’t have a car. Also, I could only imagine how much pressure there is on the students to stay and excel in such a prestigious institution. People traveling from all over the world, a lot of them with only one shot at it. Like me, I guess, on some level. I admit that this is something that added to my constant nervousness during the first part of my stay there. It was a great experience to share my art for conservation and to learn, and I was so happy to be there, but I also knew I only had one shot at it. I couldn’t disappoint. I had to nail it. It’s like seeing how beautiful the gorges and riverside trails on campus were, then you notice that the bridges all have nets around them.

I arrived in the summer, and the Ithaca I met was this sunny city with stunning trails and parks and lakes and gorges. The flowers and vegetables were thriving full on; I felt so ignorant and slightly shamed because I’ve been staying in the metropolis all of my life. Birds in all colors: the blue jay, red northern cardinal, bright yellow goldfinches. Also, since it was a college town, Ithaca is progressive in its own way. Highly intellectual, but also weird and dorky.

I had been very homesick and tried to hide away during the first days, just because it was tiring to be a stranger and be on my toes constantly. Then I saw that the city quietly had its arms opened wide to me all along. The sun and birds. All the people I met who turned into friends. The kindness of strangers who taught me how to be myself, do my thing, relax, ask for help, and above all, have a lot of damn fun. Despite my nervousness and the pressure of doing good work, despite the nets under the bridges, despite the impending winter. Everything was special and important, but nothing was too precious, and that was perfectly fine.

And so. Last couple of things before the photos:
a) I did learn a ton of things, and I keep thinking of how Ithaca taught me this and that, but then I think it was more about encouragement than education. It  wasn’t “This is how things are. Do it this way and it’ll work out.” but more like “Gurl, we believe in you! Do your thaaang, we got your back.”

b) It only snowed for a total of 3 days while I was there. Heh.

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ITH, part 1

I know I haven’t posted in such a long time, not once since life tossed me into the past few months’ adventure that was my internship at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The internship ran from the end of July until just right before Christmas, and it was A BLAST, to say the least.

I always find it overwhelming every time I try to write about my experience, mostly because I can’t figure out where to start. I am still kind of getting used to not being in Ithaca, going about my routine and all. AKA still getting used to being on vacation, at least for the most part, because I still do have some deadlines and things. It really does feel strange, especially because my project ended so abruptly, and then the holidays were suddenly upon us. After all the months of drawing everyday, it’s only now that I’m starting to slowly settle down.

Well. I’m not sure I want to wait for the high of it all to wear off before I start sharing, so even without all the words, I thought I’d maybe share last year’s biggest adventure through the photos I collected since July. Looking through everything I saw that although my stay in Ithaca was mainly because of my internship, the picture book, the conservation efforts for the Philippine Eagle, most of what actually happened were about so much more than work.

For me, the work part was what I was actually prepared for. I had a portfolio for drawing, I applied for the internship knowingly. But what did I know about suddenly being in this completely new place at the other side of the world, with people I didn’t know, whose culture I had to figure out? Nooooot much.

These were the in-between moments that have made this chapter of my life bear much more weight than just being something about work. These are those people and those places and those days that pulled me out of my head and taught me that sometimes, things fall into their places if you let them land where they ought to.

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National Children’s Book Day Blog Tour, Week 3: Wish List

Here we go for the last NCBD blog tour post! One big pahabol.

Before anything, ongoing RIGHT NOW at the Ateneo de Manila Rizal Library Rooftop is the NCBD Book Fair! Lots of fun activities, so drop by and join in on the celebration. Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan’s and Adarna House’s “Alterno” exhibit is also there, so check it out if you didn’t get to catch it at Shang before. The book fair is until 5, you can still catch up!

This week’s theme is:

Hulyo 20 – 25: Wish List
Anong Pilipinong aklat pambata o pangkabataan ang gusto mong mailimbag?
(Maaaring paksa, uri ng aklat, o ng isang manunulat o ilustrador. Maaaring maglista nang higit sa isa pa.)

July 20 – 25: Wish List
What Philippine children’s or YA book do you want to get published?
(You can name a topic, kind of book, or something by particular authors or illustrators.
You can list more than one.)

I joined the Barlaya workshop by Adarna House earlier this year and really had fun exploring and imagining the different kinds of books that we can make. So many possibilities! Of course, there are a lot of things to consider when publishing a book that kind of dictate which books get published and which don’t. Cost of production, purchasing power of the market, etc. However, it’s really fun to just explore the possible ideas, and thinking of potential books without boundaries.

1. Wordless big books for storytelling 
It’s an idea I’ve had for mother tongue books. Maybe we can have wordless picture books that the teachers, parents, or whoever’s telling the story to a group can translate verbally. In this way, a single version of the book can be used in different places that use different dialects. The story proper can be written somewhere else in the book, to be reviewed first by whoever’s telling the story, but it would be up to the storytellers to translate the text to their respective dialects while performing.

2. Illustrated young adult books
One of my pegs is Why We Broke Up (Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman). I like how it’s highly illustrated, and that the style of the drawings contribute so much to the personality of the characters, as well as to the tone of the story. I’d love to work on one myself. More graphic novels would be very nice also. From what I observe in our local children’s illustrators like Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan members, a lot of them have so much potential to create work outside of children’s books, and it would be nice to tap that.

2.a Wordless YA graphic novels
Why not? I’ve been mulling about starting something similar with my illustrator friends, but on a different format. A book version would be very nice as well.

3 Illustrated poetry anthology
Not just spot illustrations. I imagine a book that plays with all of the pages. Full color. Spread illustrations. Playful typography that matches the poems. I’m not sure how it’ll work but I’m thinking that going about different ways of presenting (via their production quality) poetry books would be more inviting.

4. My personal author wish list
HEHEHE. As an illustrator, I’d love to work on books with some of my personal favorite writers like Russell Molina and Eliza Victoria, to name a few. I have a lot more on my list and I hope to be able to work with them someday!

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Happy National Children’s Book Day everyone! Give a kid a book to read today, you’ll never know where it’ll take them. : )

Also, again, the NCBD Fair is today at the Ateneo de Manila Rizal Library rooftop! Go go, you can still make it!

Bartels Scientific Illustration Internship and The Philippine Eagle Center

Before anything, a little back story! : )

Earlier this year, I heard about the Bartels Scientific Illustration Internship at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology from Liza (thank you!), who learned of it from the Ayala Museum (thanks Ms. Jo Ann and Sir Ken!). Every year they open up three positions for illustration interns from all over the world who will work on different projects pertaining to birds and to the programs of the Lab. This year, one of the focus birds of the Lab and the internship is no other than our very own Philippine Eagle. It’s an excellent opportunity to contribute to the efforts towards helping conserve and educate others about the Philippine Eagle.

As part of my research for the materials I would be working on at the internship, the Lab had arranged for me to have an immersion visit to the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao! Here is an account of the trip.

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National Children’s Book Day Blog Tour, Week 2: Dream Date

Mabuhay from Incheon, Korea! Sneaking in a little blog time at the airport.

This week’s theme is:

Hulyo 14 – 19: Dream Date
Sinong manunulat o ilustrador ang nais mong makasama sa isang araw/gabí? (Kailangang mga aklat pambata at pangkabataan ang nililikha niya. Maaari ring maglista nang higit sa isa pa.)

July 14 – 19: Dream Date
Which writer or illustrator would you like to hang out with for a day/night?
(Must have worked on children’s or YA books. You can list more than one person.)

As an active member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, I don’t think I lack “dates” from my friends there, all of whom have been so generous and inspiring through the 4 years that I’ve been a member already. Relatively a short time, but it’s been a really fun ride so far.

The people on my Dream Date list are also from Ang INK, and are both very well-renowned and respected in the illustration community.

Dream Date 1: Beth Parrocha-Doctolero

I have mentioned in my previous NCBD blog tour post that Beth Parrocha-Doctolero is one of my illustration idols, and I would love to have a peek into her process. But more than how much I love her artworks, I also like how she thinks about illustrating for children.

The past week, a long and quite juicy discussion began on the INK group on Facebook about mentorship and the things essential to creating excellent illustrations for children. Here is one of Ms. Beth’s comments, which really hit the nail on the head:

Kapag nagsusulat ng librong pangbata — hindi mo siya bibigyan ng mga salita na isang estudyante lang na pang kolehiyo ang makakaintindi. Kapag magdrodrowing ka para sa librong pangbata — hindi ka magbibigay ng mga imahe na isang taong may “sophisticated visual eye” lang ang makakaintindi. —- Ano ba ang naiintindihan ng isang bata bago siya matutong magbasa? Ano ba ang lenguahe niya —- EMOSYON — simpleng drowing pero makapal na emosyon . Nanduun ang ating tunay na bokasyon at magsisilbing hamon sa ating kakayanan bilang mga illustrators para sa mga bata. Kung papanong sa simpleng mga larawan na kahit 2 taong gulang na bata ay maiintindihan ay mapaparating natin ang isang aral o konsepto na kahit isang matanda ay nahihirapang intindihin o iproseso. Bakit ba napaka popular ng mga “emoticons” Kasi sa simpleng :) ay nalalaman agad ng mambabasa na masaya tayo na hindi kailangan pang explain ang level ng kagalakan. :) as opposed to this :D. Mga simpleng imahe pero lahat makakaintindi. Duon muna dapat ang pagsasanay — visual language — how to convey emotions in a few simple lines — and thus convey a message that sometimes even the most literate or mature finds hard to explain or understand. Bakit laging kailangang emostion muna — kasi nga yun ang unang lenguahe na maiintindihan ng mga bata, na kahit hindi marunong bumasa ay makakaintindi — Maganda na marunong tayo ng mga techniques pero maski gaano kaganda ng technique kung wala namang na-coconvey na message, hindi naging effective yung technique. Kahit isang stick figure lang pero kung naintindihan ng maski 2 taon ang mensahe — naging effective ang illustrator. Kung mapapagsama mo ang technique at good visual and emotional language, mas masaya.

I love this so much because it made me realize that I’ve been so inclined to focus a lot on technical skills and looking for theories and children’s books’ analysis so I can learn how to give depth and substance to my own illustrations. But then no matter how it’s true that the technical and even academic side of it is important, the essence of a good picture book does lie in the emotion/s it evokes. Ms. Beth’s comment had come as such a refreshing revelation. I wonder what other insights a day of hanging out with her would bring?

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Dream Date 2: Robert Alejandro

Ah yes, our favorite kuya. You may be familiar with his work for the novelty store Papemelroti, but his sweet illustrations can also be found in a variety of books of different kinds.

A Different Kind of Policeman
written by Emma Tan
illustrated by Robert Alejandro
published by Bookmark

Aside from illustration, kuya Robert is also very much involved in outreaches and activities with kids, especially in the less fortunate areas. This, for me, is really inspiring, and I would like to do more of this myself. I personally still feel a disconnect with my work sometimes, being a children’s illustrator but one who doesn’t really get to interact with children a lot. I feel like it would be so enriching to my work to understand and be inspired by how children think, and consequently create work that evokes more emotion, as stated by Ms. Beth earlier.

Here are some more of kuya Robert’s visual books that fall into the novelty category, I think, but again as a young person, I’d probably be ecstatic to stumble upon these books. Travel and fashion!

I’d love to spend a day trekking with kuya Robert, watching him paint, teaching kids how to make murals, and spreading so much good vibes everywhere.

How about you, who are the people on your dream date list?

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Join the  32nd National Children’s Book Day festivities!
Follow facebook.com/ThePhilippineBoardonBooksforYoungPeople for updates.

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National Children’s Book Day Blog Tour, Week 1: Favorites

Taking a breather from the whirlwind that is the last week before I leave for my internship (I owe you all a Davao story, I know! Soon soon!) by participating in this year’s National Children’s Book Day Blog Tour! I have never been part of a blog tour before, wow. I’m happily joining this year because I won’t be at the NCBD celebrations in the next weeks, and I figured I can participate and contribute anyhow by writing to promote local children’s lit.

This week’s theme is:

Hulyo 7 – 13: Paboritong Aklat
Ano ang paborito mong aklat pambata at pangkabataan?
(Kailangang isinulat o iginuhit ito ng isang Pilipino. Maaari namang maglista nang higit sa isa pa.)

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July 7 – 13: Favorite Book
What is your favorite children’s / young adult book?
(Must be written or illustrated by a Filipino. You can list more than one book.)

Here are some (can one truly include all) favorites, in no particular order.

NBDB-BT-WK1Ang Ambisyosong Istetoskop
story by Luis P. Gatmaitan, MD
illustrations by Beth Parrocha-Doctolero
published by Adarna House

I love the perspective of this book, and how colorfully (both literally and figuratively!) it tells a story about history. How I wish all my history books growing up were written in the same tone and language.

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Also, as an illustrator, I can only imagine the challenging time I would probably have if this book assignment came to me. How does one bring to life the story of our national hero Jose Rizal, while also animating an object such as the stethoscope (!!!) ? We should ask Beth Parrocha-Doctolero, one of my personal illustration idols, who did it beautifully.

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NBDB-BT-WK1-4 NBDB-BT-WK1-5I really like how the passage of time was illustrated using different suns!

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Tight Times
story by Jeanette C. Patindol
illustrations by Sergio T. Bumatay III
published by Adarna House

One of the most heartwarming children’s books I have ever read! Even as a trying to be grown-up, it still makes me feel fuzzy and a tad bit melancholic, and makes a lot of other things in my life seem innocuous. I just read it again right before taking photos for this entry while the monsoon is raging outside, and for a moment everything was really quiet.

Also, I took a personal finance management workshop before and our facilitator used this book as an intro. The many uses of a good children’s book!

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Serg cleverly sets the simple but very witty tone of the book with this title page illustration.

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The story is sweet and direct-to-the-point, with minimally-colored illustrations that are just as charming. The use of rats as characters in a book about tight times also drives home a very important point, and adds another special layer to the story.

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The Little Girl in a Box
story by Felinda V. Bagas
illustrations by Aldy C. Aguirre
published by Adarna House

This next book is a rather poetic one.

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But first! May I briefly direct your attention to the special production quality this little book has.

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As a book, with the words and the pictures combined, it tells of a little (possibly an orphan) girl’s journey. But viewed separately, they tell different stories, is what I think! I’ve asked the author about what it really means already (for shame, IDEK if it’s even proper to do so but yeap I did it, I asked), and she told of a different tale, still. And you know what, I still don’t know what exactly the story really is about, which is why it’s beautiful and is one of my favorites.

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Aldy’s illustrations captures the calm…

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…and the darkness, both in such a soft way.

I’ve been a long-time annoying fan of his, and personally I think it’s his best work yet.

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Fruitcake
written by Ely Buendia
edited by Jessica Zafra
illustrated by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre

Do you know how it feels like when you’re a teenager who likes to draw and who really likes the Eraserheads, and at that exact part of your life, a book that’s an amazing combination of the things you love manifests itself via a gift from a good friend? Well, I sort of do.

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Fruitcake is a not-so-Christmas story featuring songs by the Eraserheads, whose main protagonist is named Frannie Wei. And yes it blew my mind. You cannot imagine how happy I was that such a book existed. It’s an adventure-filled book, and I felt that it was my own story, too.

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Probably the Eraserheads as themselves!

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Song lyrics!

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And Frannie Wei, who looks so much like me at the time when I got the book! I shamelessly declare it.

You know what, I also just recently met Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, the illustrator, and with much glee had my book signed. She is the sweetest!

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Twisted and all the other books that followed
by Jessica Zafra

Ok so when I was a young adult, I remember reading lots of Madeleine L’Engle, Nancy Drew, and Jessica Zafra. Such contrast, I know.

I’m sure Twisted is not particularly ~young adult~ but boy did I enjoy it, to the point that I was fake cranky, and tried to write like her (I think Jesus has forgiven all of my sins, thank you). But I really enjoyed reading something with a strong point of view, especially at that age. I was fascinated with how much conviction she wrote with, and reading about all the things that were happening in the proverbial real world which you only heard about from adults, and who you probably didn’t really believe were telling the truth anyway.

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I turned a page to take a photo of, and out fell this flyer of a rock concert I had attended 10 years ago. 2005, and I was what, 17. I’m sure I had felt invincible, as all teenagers do, and that I had a good time both with the books and at the concert.

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A few that I can’t find my actual copies of:

Sampu Pataas, Sampu Pababa (Russel Molina, Conrad Raquel, Adarna House)
May Trak Na Darating Bukas (Virgilio Almario, Sergio Bumatay III, Adarna House)
Fast Food Fiction (Anvil Publishing)
Daisy Nueve (Anvil Publishing)
The Dwellers (Eliza Victoria, Visprint)

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I’m sure this list will be an ever-growing one, not because I’m part of the industry, or that I naturally love books, even. I’ll keep having favorite children’s and YA books because I think I’m still growing up, no matter how old I am, and I know I’ll keep on finding myself in the pages and characters and plot twists of these books over and over again through time.

I’d love to know about your favorite local children’s and YA books! What are yours?

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Join the  32nd National Children’s Book Day festivities!
Follow facebook.com/ThePhilippineBoardonBooksforYoungPeople for updates.

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poster illustrations by Aaron Asis

quiet tree

Frances_Alvarez-Quiet-Tree-web

I’ve been experimenting with new ways to paint, and combining the materials I like to work with like watercolor and stamps.

Things are also falling into place day by day. Rolling my sleeves up for the rest of the year.

an open window

Hello all! I’m still selling some prints and some paintings as a little fundraiser for the illustration internship I got into at the Cornell University, where my main project will be making materials for the conservation campaign of the Philippine Eagle. Proceeds will surely help with visa fees and will be for the things I need to settle in once I get there. A little goes a long way! : ) Thank you so much for the support!

Find my artworks at tinyurl.com/FranAlvarezPrints and tinyurl.com/FranAlvarezPaintings

For inquiries and purchases, please send a message on facebook.com/FranAlvarezPH, or email hello@francesalvarez.com

Big love and even bigger pizzas,

Fran