sleep on the floor

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Well. Last weekend’s quiet Bolinao trip was beautiful, and also very much needed. Wedged smack right in between deadlines and other responsibilities, girly pains, and a flu. Nothing a ton of sun and sand, good food, and even better company can’t handle.

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NBNH-2016-Bolinao-7Pergy, Jamie, Isa, Aaron, Serg, Yan, Ray

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Did a quick evaluation of life goals as I am wont to do whenever I am near oceans or seas or other massive bodies of water. A simple, quiet life, somewhere safe with lots of trees and the sound of water and/or birds, being content, brave, and kind wherever I may end up growing old and fragile and hopefully not so alone.


Other current events:
1. Next week starts with election day, and I feel rather anxious about it. I don’t even have my senate list ready. God bless this mess.

2. Title of the post is a Lumineers song off their latest album, which I am kind of surprisingly fond of at the moment. I like how Sleep on the Floor is written.

3. In the middle of listening to the audiobook version of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. I had to plough through the rather sheepish beginning, but so far it’s OK and amusing.

4. The Asian Festival for Children’s Content in Singapore is in a few weeks, and I’m attending with my buddy Jamie. The universe has heard our plea and has responded kindly! Exclamation points! We’ve signed up for portfolio review for good measure, so that’s going to be interesting.

And so we merrily go along one day at a time. Taking in a deep breath, diving headlong into May.

blues

Last weekend, my friends and I were by the sea.

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Funny misadventures and a whole lot of sun. I wish I could afford to go to the beach whenever I wanted to. I tried telling a friend about my house-by-the-beach wish and he thought I was being factitious, which made me sad, mostly because the probability of it coming true is close to zero at the moment. Wishing for stuff is free but I feel guilty just thinking about it.

Maybe one day. When I get scared about the future and how to make things work, I think about the past 10 years, all the things that paid of because of hard work, all the world’s generosity, how it has taken so many chances with me and has treated me so kindly. And also God, because even though I still have a ton of questions, at the end of the day, maybe I do believe.

I think about my dad, too. He ran away from his home in the province at 16, and just worked hard and ploughed through life, and now our family is taken care of. We still have our struggles, but he just perseveres through everything. He is the most patient man I know, and he doesn’t get a bad attitude about life even though things take a turn (or two or four thousand) for the worst.

I also think about New York. It could have been any other place, but the point is that I’ve struggled (mentally, emotionally) for a long time with people telling me I couldn’t make it, that I won’t get anywhere with what I want to do, that it’s so useless. But I did make it. I actually achieved something much bigger than myself. I guess that’s why I get so emotional when I talk about what I do. I never thought I’d be able to make it. Sometimes I still feel like I’m a black sheep, but, in a good way, I can’t even afford to sulk about that now because I actually have work to do. It has come to a point where I don’t want to care anymore whether what people are saying about me is true or not. I’ve proven at least once that success is attainable, that my work helps other people, that I will be able to support myself AND others someday, and that I’m going to be ok. So there.

I’m going to be ok.


In other news, I tried to clear my head today and made things that aren’t really for anything. Through the years I’ve found that it has become something of a luxury? Or maybe I just don’t prioritize it as much anymore. However, I know I can still manage my resources much better so I can work more efficiently. Now, if I can only miraculously spend less time getting stuck in city traffic everyday…

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Just a few collages of trees, and the sum of parts. I think I’m happy with how they came out. Actually, I’m happy I was able to come up with anything at all.

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I’ll try to squeeze in making prints to sell next weekend at Art in The Park. April 3, Jaime Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati. I’ll be at the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan booth, say hello, yes?


 

And a couple of miscellany from today.

1. It was a good backyard bird day, with a great view from the work desk. Sparrows (the beloved Maya), nightingales (yellow-vented bulbul), and that one pied fantail that keeps chasing our dog around.

2. This afternoon I finished BBC Radio’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Enjoyed it a lot, especially when I had chosen to replace the image of Islington with Smaug, because Benedict Cumberbatch.

Atlanta

Another one of my overdue posts, this time about a little side trip I went on last month.

I visited Andrew, a friend from college, before I left the States for Manila. We drove (he drove is what really happened) to Atlanta for a little weekend trip. Walked around a lot and talked a lot and looked for Korean food in the cold.

I haven’t actually seen Drew in almost 5 years, and we’ve only started talking again when my internship started. Funny turn of events! It was very nice to have a friend to talk to about home (and being homesick!) during the whole time I was in the States. In Tagalog, for good measure. Paying him a little visit before I left was really the least I could do to say thank you for the virtual company.

nbnh-atl-2_zpszairazglIt was storming when I left Jersey. Me and my lovely relationship with airports.

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nbnh-atl-3_zpshnikf7eunbnh-atl-5_zps5wchtcrkBut it was so sunny in South Carolina. Unbelievable. I was in winter clothes.

The drive was 3 and something hours from SC to Atlanta.

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Good morning, Atlanta. I had no idea whatsoever of what this city was like. We mostly winged it haha. Which was refreshing because it’s also a nice way to go about a vacation, just walking around and taking in whatever you stumble upon along the way without thinking about it too much.

I expected more people downtown but it seemed like nobody really likes to walk around there?

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Hello hello hello.

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Lots of street art in Atlanta. There were a ton more we weren’t able to visit.

nbnh-atl-19_zps2ny5cmqsI think this is a mockingbird?

nbnh-atl-20_zpsdeypc4wcPolar bear paw bedroom slippers in the Coke museum store!

nbnh-atl-22_zpsdaqu5iz7Went to the Georgia Aquarium. It’s supposedly the biggest aquarium in America.

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nbnh-atl-23_zpszats9uolAlbino alligator! What a beaut. On the drive home from Atlanta, Andrew and I were talking about an idea of having a wildlife reserve housing only albino animals.

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nbnh-atl-26_zpsdfzgtqd1nbnh-atl-27_zpsz1axytjrthe spectacular sea dragon

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nbnh-atl-30_zps3jocuthfa coupla nerds

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The biggest tank held 4 whale sharks. Before we went, I researched on how ethical this was, and why these creatures were in the aquarium in the first place. I’ve read that the whale sharks were on their way to being sold on the black market, to be slaughtered and sold as food. The whole operation was intercepted and the whale sharks were rescued and rehabilitated.

nbnh-atl-32_zpspliveagtmore nerds with squid hats we very much coveted

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little friend bids us goodbye

nbnh-atl-39_zpspsvj8ncuStreetcar envy. I wish our public transportation system was this efficient, woe.

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nbnh-atl-41_zpsss2kbmjrsome guys carrying a little boombox, playing some music while walking around

Ended the first night with Korean food and a ton of cookies because that is what you eat on vacations, obviously.

nbnh-atl-42_zpssema7hixDropped by 209 Mitchell Street before leaving Atlanta to see this mural by Belgian street artist ROA. He paints animals that are endemic to the area.

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nbnh-atl-46_zpsyqcv54teBye Atlanta, see ya later.

As I said, we mostly winged it. I opened the Atlanta map on the Google app, put as much stars to mark every place that seemed interesting, and then we tried to drop by them when we were in the area. Or at least something close to that happened. Also had help from On the Grid, which has curated a lot of other interesting non-touristy spots in different cities around the world.

Ah yes, fun times.

P.S. Hello Andrew, see ya later too.

next chapters

 

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Life goes on.

I can say that things are back to normal programming as they were last July before I left, only they are not! The past months have taught me how to see things in a different light. Even though I am back home, back at the usual daily grind, it feels as if I am starting anew. I guess it really is healthy to take a break, step back, and look at things from a different perspective for some time, even if it is just for a little while. My head is a much quieter place now and the days seem sunnier than they probably really are. It also feels so good to unplug from social media and go offline for prolonged periods of time. Y’all should try it, it’s a great kindness to the mind.

Last week, a friend asked me about the biggest personal change that last year’s adventure brought about. I have been thinking about it, and I think the answer is that I feel more quietly content now, in the sense that I care considerably less about certain things like gossip/other people’s personal lives that aren’t my business, impressing everyone all the time (fellow illustrators, friends, family. It’s so stressful, and what is the point, really?), and people’s opinions of me and my work. There are so much more important things to do and think about. I figured I really don’t want to spend the rest of my youth and energy on trivial things. Is this easy to do? Not at all. But this is general cleaning, and it has to be done, and I have to take care of myself.

I’ve been home for a couple of weeks now, and I hit the ground running when I got back. Miraculously, I’ve successfully restarted my sleep cycle at exactly the right time, and I have had next to zero jet lag episodes since I landed. So far, the days have been this strange mix of events and emotions and, well, hours of endless city traffic.

As for work:
A) I am still in touch with the Cornell Lab of O, helping with the production of the picture book I illustrated during the past months’ internship.

B) Back at Studio Dialogo, in time for annual report season, with all the jokes, snacks, and fun times in between.

C) Fun freelance work for which I am truly grateful for. Here’s a peek of one of the projects I’m currently working on. Machuca tiles and indigenous patterns are so enjoyable to draw! I really like drawing tiny detailed repetitive elements.

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In other news, I am hoping to earn extra during the next few months so I can afford to go to this year’s Asian Festival for Children’s Content in Singapore. The conference and workshops seem very interesting, and I am curious to see what goes on during the AFCC. Leaving this right here, maybe the universe is listening…

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 met there were either conscious about their meat consumption or were 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 the reality I grew up with. We have big commercial animal farms, but a lot of people (especially the ones in the provinces and the small vendors in the markets) just raise enough animals to sell, or for their families to eat day to day. It’s 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, and 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 has adverse effects on the way the environment works. Overfarming, 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 is because they use illegally harvested ingredients in some of their dishes.

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, there’s 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 informed decisions and conscientious 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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Continue reading “ITH, part 2”

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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Continue reading “ITH, part 1”

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.

Continue reading “Bartels Scientific Illustration Internship and The Philippine Eagle Center”

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!
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