The Sunday Currently, no. 2

2016-nov-1_zpso87d8adwHello friends.

Reading

Type has (once again?) been all the rage for the past few years and everyone’s been exploring it, but one of my favorite designers and letterers still remains to be Jessica Hische. Through the years I’ve been a fan of both the development of her work (from her early illustration days up to now when she’s made font systems already) and her perspective about work and life. It’s true what they say about excellent work standing out, no matter how many others do or try to do the same kind of work she does. At some point I went through this phase of getting sick of type because it got so popular that there came a point when it was being used way too much for everything. There had been a lot of work that looked nice but were out of context.

I borrowed this from Rommel, but I really want to get myself my own copy. I’ve enrolled in her Skillshare drop cap class years ago, and this book reminds me a lot of the things she taught there. The book has so much more insight, though, as she writes more extensively about her process and also about her daily life as a designer.

Jessica is always a source of joy for me as a designer because of how energetic and gung-ho, not to mention level-headed, she is about work and life in general. No pretentious gimmicks, just hard work and the eagerness to share and educate others, and the occasional hilarious anecdote.

Listening
More Jessica Hische!

Watching
No time to watch anything now, but I did start Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories on Netflix recently, and the first episode was pretty good.

Loving

Dinner is served. 😆 #steak Meat 24″ x 36″ designer paper Swathe X J. Pacena

A photo posted by Swathe (@swathe.manila) on Oct 29, 2016 at 3:07am PDT

Swathe Manila’s meat cuts pattern

Needing
Swiffer refills, AA batteries, Frontline flea spray for the cat #adulting

Wanting
The year to not end yet? Teka lang, ang dami pang hinahabol!

Feeling
So much better. Besides the fact that local and international current events have been driving everyone crazy these past weeks, I think most of my anxiety is just leftover quarter life crisis, and also brought about by all the deadlines. And…also the thought of turning 30 in a few years. But really, I could choose to A) fret about it and grow ever more wrinkly and grumpy before I even have to OR B) not let the weight of other people’s judgments burden me or dictate what I should do with my life and career. *triple bicep emojis*

Church has also helped. I know the higher powers aren’t exactly the most popular things in the world right now, which I completely understand. The world as we know it feels like it’s about to implode any time now, and it’s just a really miserable time for everyone. But after much thinking and questioning and all, I think I still do believe in God. I still have tons of questions but all the good things still very much outweigh all the doubt. It took me a while to get back in this state and I don’t think I want to let anyone or anything take away this feeling of peace from me.

The Sunday Currently is by Sidda Thonton

In other news!

  1. I have been told that all my zines (well, there were just a few, but still!) were sold out during day 1 of Komikon yesterday! This makes me so happy, thank you world. And extra special thanks with ice cream and leche flan on top to Eva and the rest of the table friends for carrying my zines!
  2. I tried to finish painting some old drawings yesterday as warm-up for real work.
  3. And here is a peek of some plant sketches for an ongoing conservation education project. The beautiful jade vine, locally known as tayabak , is native to the Philippines.
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Changing minds

Hello, it is I, arising from the hiatus. A little long weekend has allowed me a bit of time to stop and get myself together.

fruit picking #illustration #waxpastel

A photo posted by Frances Alvarez (@nobeesnohoney) on

Life lately has mostly been work, which is a good and bad thing at the same time. Good because I like the kind of work I do very much, but also a bit bad because I know that somehow, I thrive on activities that aren’t work / art / illustration / design related at all. This tail-end of the year requires me to shuffle harder than ever, however, because there are bills to be paid and a computer to be replaced. I need to suck it up extra until things are stable again.

It took me a while to admit this to myself but I have been struggling a bit with illustration recently. I’m not sure why but I’ve been rather unhappy with the things I’ve been making, and I keep on redoing them with the constant hope of coming up with something worthy of being put out there.

img_0806patch by Stay Home Club

This has got me to thinking about where I might have gone wrong in the process, and about how my work habits have changed over time. I really want to make the best work I can with my current skill level and insights, and being stuck in this slump is driving me mad haha. Work and life goes on though, graciously or mercilessly, weather weather lang. Despite my frustrations with myself, I am still grateful.

Maybe I need to change my mind about things.

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I remember a time when it was quiet in my head and in my work. That is where I hope to go back to.



The Sunday Currently, no. 1
dun dun dunnn

Reading
Cabinet of Natural Curiosities by Albertus Seba
It’s this wonderful book of illustrated forms and creatures from nature. Makes for an excellent reference book, but also it’s just really soothing to go through. I found it at the Interior Design section of a National Bookstore branch, just because it has “cabinet” in the title, woe.

Listening
Regina Spektor’s new album Remember Us To Life
Stellar. I love it so much. I’ve always been a fan, and this new album is such a treat. My favorite tracks are Bleeding Heart and Small Bill$. Additional fact: I made a Spektor-inspired rap song in college to join a songwriting competition of the Filipino Department. It was kind of a secret and only told just one friend about it. I didn’t win though I was secretly happy anyway haha. Ok, moving on…

Watching
Elementary Season 5, Ep2

Loving
These Pitt pens from Abi!
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Needing
Advil. I’ve been getting these headaches upon waking up from weekend naps, and thanks to Google, I now know that there are such things as sleep headaches. I get headaches because my body isn’t used to daytime sleep, and my bodily fluids get disoriented and won’t coordinate with everyone else. Me in the year 2016, resistant to change inside and out.

Wanting
Capital for new merch I want to produce. Dear God, help me get my act together, amen.

Feeling
Anxious but hopeful!

The Sunday Currently is by Sidda Thonton

Hide and seek

I turned one of last year’s personal projects into a zine.

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Ladies in Jeepneys is an illustrated zine featuring the different women, girls, females that I encounter everyday during my commute. I am very much inspired by how women carry themselves in the haggard environment of reckless jeepneys and Manila chaos. It’s part homage, part diary, part documentation.

Ladies in Jeepneys, volume 1 will debut in all its full-color glory this coming Saturday, August 6, at the Komikon Indieket. It’s going to be at the Bayanihan Center along Pioneer St. in Kapitolyo, Pasig. I’ll be with my amazing friend Yas Doctor who’s also launching her Sari-Sari Project zine. See you at table P07!


IN OTHER NEWS, amidst all the CRAZIES the Philippines is going through,  I’ve meant so much to write about the past AFCC, to no avail because I’m still catching up on deadlines! I’m currently working on a picture book, my Ang INK 25th anniv show artwork, a couple other freelance illustration  projects, and my day job! It’s crazy and very challenging. Some days are great, some frustrating, but ultimately I couldn’t be any more grateful that I can draw and design everyday.

And so we grind on~ See you around, friends!

Good Night Philippines, Good Night World

My new book is here.

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Good Night Philippines, Good Night World
written by Mila Bongco-Philipzig
published by Anvil

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Special thanks to El Silvestre of Anvil, RayVi Sunico, and Studio Dialogo for their patience and support while I was working on this project. I started this when I was in Ithaca and it had taken me so long to finally get things right and submit my work, so whew, here it is now.

The book is available on Anvil’s online shop, but will be also be in local bookstores soon. Cheers!

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.

nbnh-atl-24_zpsnrkdald7sea stars

nbnh-atl-28_zpsooa5z5yzsea stars in piles

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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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nbnh-atl-36_zpstujr5tawjellies

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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-44_zps7fowt3moobligatory and inevitable

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

 

knit-Frances_Alvarez

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”