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monkey bars

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an old boat

Time, age, money, and the things in between.

Tonight on the way home, I was planning what’s left of the week + the upcoming weekend, and all the things I need and want to do within the next few days. It’s going to be busy. I like what I do very much, this whole illustration thing, and so consequently I like being busy with it.

Maybe it’s that end-of-the-day feeling, but I got to thinking about how, for once, I don’t want to be busy. I just want to stay at home and read a book, hang out with people, or make something that doesn’t need to be liked by or sold to anyone, without feeling guilty that I’m not doing anything, not putting myself out there to make a living, investing in my future, making baby steps towards The Dream™, which honestly feels so far away and improbable already, but that’s a topic for another day. Reality check: I can’t afford a lot of things, especially with recent developments in the family, etc, etc. I can’t afford to not be constantly working.

SIDE NOTE: You know what is a painful thing to witness? People you love, aging and getting all sorts of complications that come with the decline.

It’s one of those life phases. I’m not having the best year financially, and might not be for who knows how much longer. I thought I was okay but in the past months, a lot of things suddenly needed to be paid for. I didn’t leave enough margin in my life budget for Unexpected Life Things, and so I have been on my toes and it is not enjoyable. Lesson learned, charged to experience, but wow it’s tiring to always think of work and how to pay the bills, current and future.

Which brought me to thinking about the level of comfort I have with the body of work I have now, and how it’s becoming a more urgent matter to be good so much faster and get hired more. The drill.

I’ve always kept a mental note to be kind to myself first before I seek validation from others. It’s not that I don’t value criticisms or comments from mentors and other people whose opinions I respect. It’s just that I think I should like my work more than anyone else first, and be comfortable with what I do even when literally nobody else likes the work that I enjoy making. This makes social media the double-edged sword that it is because yey you get to show others this thing you really liked working on but also haha nobody actually likes it, not even your friends, lol. There will always be that little ugly monster who will keep whispering in your ear how your friends are so much better than you and you will end up lonely and left alone with all your incompetent work. Silence that little devil using all means possible.

Here are some gentle reminders:
1. Surprise! Art and work is NOT EVERYTHING in the grand scheme of things. It’s like exercise: all your efforts will be for naught if you don’t remember to breathe.
2. If you feel you need to submit a goddamn portfolio and CV to someone just to get them to care, they might not be your friend, just saying.

I have mixed feelings about this because A) I don’t want to live in a bubble. B) Who doesn’t want their work appreciated by others?

Above all, though, I guess the root of all these anxieties is that I just really want to get so much better at what I do. It gives me such great joy to know I’ve pulled off something AND that other people take away some good feeling about it also. And you know, real talk, it will also give me great joy to share work that I like AND get paid for it.

I really want to be good at drawing and painting and working on design projects. With life lately though, squeezing in practice hours to improve these skills is such a ginormous effort right now because I spend too much time on the road stuck in traffic, leaving me almost no time and energy to make stuff after work at night. There was a time I could still draw everyday at night before bed. And weekends used to be enough and now they are not. It all sounds like I’m making excuses when I repeat these to myself and it’s frustrating because they are real, but ahh. Anyway. I should figure this out. It’s making me kind of sad just thinking about it, haha, but I’m not going to give up.

Y E S.

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On a different note, another little thing I’ve been carrying around me the past few weeks is the question of whether I’m doing too many different things. I just really have a lot of interests and hobbies, and they come out looking really different from each other. If I put everything in one portfolio it’s going to look chop chop, but I also don’t want to let go of anything because I enjoy them all.

It’s one of those times when all the ugly thoughts of self-doubt quietly creep in and kind of just…stay for the party. I’ve been trying to block them all off with work and errands, but they lean over my shoulder every time I try to work………

I have no resolution for these…yet. Sigh. What does everyone else do with these kinds of feelings?

In the meantime, back to the drawing board because time waits for N O O N E. Going to put on some Ella and Louis and keep my head up~

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singing off-key

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A few months ago I gave a short, cozy workshop on children’s book illustration at our Peek-A-Book show at the CCP. I am always, always terrified of public speaking, but of course I also didn’t want to turn down this rare opportunity to give this workshop, so yes.

A few days ago in the office, we were talking about local publishers when Liza told me about someone sharing photos from the aforementioned workshop + something unexpectedly warm and fuzzy.

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To be honest, I don’t have any memory of that moment. It wasn’t really a hectic workshop but I guess I was preoccupied at the time, and didn’t really remember everything I said to everyone. I muuust admit, I am moved by how such a small statement I maybe made in passing makes for such a nice little memory for this mother and her daughter. I am very happy that out of all my ramblings and corny jokes that day, there’s something that stood out for them, that they deemed memorable and important enough to share to others.

In the middle of busy events like exhibit openings, it’s hard to gauge the success of quiet workshops like this because everyone’s thinking of something else, even me. And so it’s really heartwarming to learn that the workshop actually worked, the measure of success being encouragement, and not actually in the form shiny full-rendered picture book draft, which is what most people expect to get out of these workshops.

Surprise for us all! It is true what the proverbial They say: you never really know.

I hope other people see it and claim that reminder for themselves. We’re not making goddamn contemporary art worthy of the Guggenheim everyday. Actually if you are, congratulations. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just trying hard to be good/better/best at the things we want or need to do. This may sound greeting card-y but it stands true: start where you are with what you have, and whatever comes out of that effort, that is what it is. Drawings, music, food, a small business, an effort to make your neighborhood better, keeping yourself sane as a young parent, keeping your anxieties at bay, trying to date at the age of 30+, etc. Compare yourself not to everyone else on the internet, but to yourself: the version of yourself a day or week or a year ago, who had previously Made Nothing and who now has Made Something, Finally.

I am leaving this here for those who feel they need this reminder. I need this reminder. I need to hear this from myself often.

Also, I am leaving this here because I am tired of knee-jerk asshole-y things people say on social media as if A)everyone else’s efforts are their business and B)as if life isn’t hard enough on everyone. I get that everyone has some moral obligation to try and up the standards of whatever industry they’re in, but being a bully in the process? Meh. Trying to be edgy and hip by being a jerk who gives zero constructive feedback helps no one. I hope this personality trend in art/illus/design/everywhere else dies down, like right now.

If you have been an innocent victim at some point of this kind of intimidation, first of all, I’m sorry it happened to you, I really am. It sucks. I have no super comforting words to say; I’m pretty tired of it myself. What I do when I catch myself in this rut is that I pick the meat off and leave the bones.  Let’s start over, or soldier on, whatever is applicable.

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on my birthday three years ago, catching Kurt Vonnegut’s drawing exhibit called “So It Goes” at the Herbert Johnson museum in Ithaca.

Kindness has been branded as this wimpy, corny, and weak thing to be, but do you know how hard it is, how much effort it takes to act kind in this current day and age? Where people can be such savage monsters online and offline? Is it easy to encourage people who make “ugly” things in such a way that they’ll actually see what needs to be improved? AND then still feel good enough about themselves afterwards that they’ll try again tomorrow and the day after? It is very difficult. And that is why acting in kindness takes more effort to practice and see the effects on others, and then on us.

We have all been there on square one, and as much as the nastier parts of growth have attributed to the progress we’ve made, there is no beating the well-mannered, friendly help we’ve received along the way. So. Why are we still often giving advice that come in the form of kicks in the teeth to people who create “unsatisfactory work” without malice? If there are more effective ways of educating that actually don’t scar people for life, why do we resort to doing the opposite?

Kindness, being nice and polite and a pleasant member of society, is severely underrated. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: before we try to be good at any occupation in this world, maybe we could try being a good member of society first. If anything– and to be blunt– it’s a much more urgent issue to address than a lot of our little woes. For concrete human proof: Eleanor Davis, bad-ass illustrator and writer, superb citizen, community hero.


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In other news:

1. I am currently listening to the audiobook called Lost Connections by Johann Hari. It’s about anti-depressants and how they don’t work the way we think they do, pharmaceutical scams, other scientific explorations and experiments on studying depression and anxiety, and a lot of other explanations. It’s making me feel both dreadful and encouraged at the same time, if that makes any sense, haha. Super helpful read for anyone wanting to know more about medication for mental illnesses.

2. On the side of everything I need to do, I’m preparing my portfolio for submission to foreign illustration agencies. I’ve been looking online for a while now and figured it’d be a nice next step to try to get into one. Wish me luck! Also, if you have any agent recommendations, let me know~

3. One more week to catch our group show Shelved Wishes at Prism Gallery in Makati!

4. Dear Universe by Pierra Calasanz-Labrador is officially launched and out everywhere. We signed a bunch of copies available at Powerbooks in The Podium, hooray. An audiobook version narrated by the very delightful person that is Joyce Pring is also out on Audible. The illustrations are by yours truly, and I really had fun making them. Dear universe, I want more poetry-related illustration projects… I would love to make something by Benilda Santos! I would figuratively die and rise again.

5. I am currently working on a picture book that features Maguindanaon culture, and I don’t know where to look for info! If you have any leads on where I can get research done or if there are any books or websites or people I can get in touch with, please let me know!  I have a Contact form now, hehe.

6. Yes, a contact form. For questions about anything like art materials, children’s book illustration, and non-work stuff like making Filipino-style sopas (80% Tender Juicy Hotdog slices) and books that I really like (Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

But also because my last post about my experience with depression and anxiety seemed to have resonated with a lot of people, both friends and strangers, and they’ve reached out to me on social media to talk. This is surprising to me! I’m no medical expert or anything, but if it would help you get through even just the next 15 mins by talking it out with stranger, just type it all out here.

That is all. I am currently nursing a flu and everything feels heavy, so goodbye now.

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contusions

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

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I don’t talk about my ordeal openly because I honestly still don’t have a complete grasp of it. Every episode feels fresh and the medication can only do so much. Nature-nurture. No matter how many pills I down every day if the root issue/s from my environment persist, things just fall into a cycle.

I am grateful to have found the courage to get medical help last year. For years I thought I was just having mood swings, a bad attitude, pollution causing other health issues. But the mood swings got worse, I kept getting allergies and body pains out of nowhere, I was very angry inside most of the time. I started to dislike being around crowds. I avoided friends, flaked on countless dinners, basically just stopped showing up. I spent weeks on 1 to 2-hour naps because I couldn’t sleep. I had fits of crying in the middle of my commute, while doing chores, while trying to fall asleep. I disliked a lot of the drawings I did. Personal work was painstaking to do. I couldn’t figure it out but I took all the blame. Whatever it was, it must be my fault somehow, because what else could it be? I had survived on the faith of other people in me because I didn’t have a lot of that for myself anymore.

One night, sitting in a jeepney on the way home, it dawned on me that I wanted to just be gone. I just wanted to not to be anywhere anymore. I didn’t want to take my life, it wasn’t really about the verb, the process, but I got it. I understood why other people did it. That was when I knew I needed help.

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There was a lot of crying during that first trip to the doctor. Nobody had ever been that serious in asking me those questions about myself before. About my family, my relationship with others, what I like and dislike about my life. And somehow, because I knew that it was to a scientific and objective end that these were being asked, there was this big wave of relief. A) I finally told someone about those things and B) not everything was my fault. I had been carrying this burden upon myself when I didn’t need to. It was the first time in my life I had been told that not all of the problems of the adults in my life are my problems. That I don’t have to blame myself for everything. That I’m not wrong every time. That I don’t have to be sorry for all the little things.

“It’s important to give it a name,” the doctor said. “And to figure out where it’s coming from and why it’s here. That’s how you fight it.”

I really, really disliked my pills. I used to take a couple, with one that made me feel like a zombie every waking hour of my life. There’s only just one now, but I still dislike taking my meds though it does the job.

A common misconception about anti-depressants is it’s an almighty magic happy pill that changes your life completely, and you come out the other end the happiest person you can ever be. It doesn’t work that way. At least speaking from my own experience, this is very false. You know that there’s-nothing-really-going-on-today okay feeling you get on a ordinary uneventful day? That is the bare minimum. My meds, at the very least, help me get out of bed in the morning and stay on a functioning wavelength until all the day’s work and interactions are done, then I sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat. I know sooner or later I would have to explore a more sustainable way to cope that doesn’t involve medication, but for now this is what I can afford with money and time.

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I spent the past year feeling my way into the new system. I had to change habits and slowly reconnect with people I avoided the past year/s. Until now I still get sudden episodes but I am more aware of them now, and as much as I can I try to do something to counter the feeling or to calm myself down. While I still can’t bring myself to tell my family about this, my friends who know have been very supportive. They made for a healthy environment where I can talk about myself without feeling judged or isolated or damaged.

On top of everything, I got myself into an Official Relationship™ with a very comfortable person. The whole thing just very quietly fell into place. This is my first relationship after many, many years of not getting myself to trust anyone enough to date them at all. It still surprises me sometimes because here I am at my worst, and yet.

There is no complete cure for mental illnesses, I think. But there’s overcoming. On my best days I remind myself to be determined to pick myself off the floor, and get my life together as much as I can, given the circumstances, given whatever chemical imbalance. Of course, it’s so much easier written on a journal entry than done, but I like to keep my spirits up during moments like this when I’m not glued to the bed and when I actually can think straight and form coherent sentences.

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One of the more important things I’ve been learning about is how to be more sensitive to others’ concerns and feelings. It’s tricky because it’s hard to set expectations from other people who can’t understand what I’m going through, in the same way that I can’t understand it myself. I just try to be as patient as I can, and keep trying to see the bigger picture. A lot of stuff don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

That is my little story for now. It’s no professional account or legit advice. I have no long-term experience to share or super wise words to bestow. Kwentuhan lang.

Friends, it is my hope that you are all in a good place right now. Today, this is painful for me to say because it hasn’t been a very good day for me. In any case, my email is open for you 24/7 if you need someone to talk to. I can also refer you to my doctor (he is in QC) if you’re ready or if you think you need medical attention.

For those who have loved ones who are in the same situation as I am, please know that they will not reach out at will even though you tell them everyday to do so. If anything, it gets annoying.  Here is a useful article about how to help your troubled friends and family.

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verklempt

…is a new-ish word I’ve recently learned about. It’s a Yiddish term to describe a person who’s too emotional to say anything.

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Quick life update

Between a Puddle and the Ocean opened at Galerie Roberto in Alabang last Feb, curated by Lena Cobangbang. The blue ones are mine, and they are the biggest watercolor pieces I’ve made to date. I normally work small, and the big paintings I usually make are for children’s books, so making these framed ones for exhibit was a feat for me haha.

It took me some time to switch from work to play mode. I found that it’s not easy or quick for me to go from making things for clients and other people to making personal pieces. I kept thinking about other people’s potential opinions, and that didn’t help me AT ALL. So much anxiety over almost nothing. In any case, I’m content with how things played out.


Our all-women original picture book art exhibit Peek-A-Book is on view at the CCP, as part of March being women’s month! I really am grateful to be part of this show, and to be surrounded by excellent and generous mentors from the children’s literature community. My younger self would freak out if she learned about this. The show is up until May 6, and there’s a paper cut workshop + Adarna House book launch on the 28th. Drop by if you can!

I gave a workshop during the opening day, and I’m proud to report that I did not cry in public while talking, thank you very much. I volunteered to do the workshop on a whim, without much thinking, in the middle of a party last year. I did my best the day of! And I had a really good time listening to the participants’ stories which they wrote and sketched themselves. I’m personally a BIG believer that art and literature aren’t untouchable things that exclusively belong to a small number of people precisely because of what I witness during these kinds of workshops. Everyone has good stories in them, it’s just a matter of helping them talk about it/show it.

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Remember that picture book about the Philippine Eagle that I worked on during my Cornell internship? Well, I am VERY pleased to share with you that An Eagle’s Feather is now published, and is available for purchase as a small book version! Aaah! You can get your copies at the Cornell Lab Publishing Group’s website and on Amazon.

100% of the first $10,000 and 50% thereafter of net proceeds from the sale of this book goes directly to the Philippine Eagle Foundation to support its conservation education and other efforts to save the Philippine Eagle from extinction.

The original plan for this book was just to make ONE copy: one big book for the use of the Philippine Eagle Foundation for their education programs. And now it’s published! I’m happy to see how far this project has come, that more people can have a copy of the book and learn about the Philippine Eagle, its plight, and how we can help.

And! On top of everything: a whole lot of warm and fuzzy feelings. Sudden but surprisingly comfortable.



Upcoming

Art in the Park is on the 15th, which is on Sunday already. I’ll be at the Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan booth, as per usual. Local Loca will be on May 5, and I am crossing all my fingers I get to finish my new zine in time.

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Pierra Calasanz-Labrador’s new book of poems Dear Universe comes out on April 27 under Anvil Publishing. I made drawings for it, and I can’t wait to see the book in person! I’ve never illustrated poems before, so working on this project was refreshing. Pierra and Anvil were so generous and had given me a lot of room to explore the poems visually.

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Karapat Dapat, Ang INK and CANVAS PH’s book on the rights of a child, is out next month! We’ve been working on this for the past months. The topic is very pertinent, and the timing of this book’s production+release could not be any more apt.

We’ve already raised funds to produce 15,000 books to be given to public schools and disadvantaged communities. Your support through donations and book purchases can help us print more! Spread the word!

Have a peek of the activities and other pages of the book, and learn more about how you can donate and help HERE.


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The Sunday Monday Currently
no. 6

Reading

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from The Shape of a Pocket, John Berger

I am reading…a lot of different things all at once. The only books I’ve finished for the year so far are all poetry books, which goes to show how little A) time I have to quiet myself and read and/or B) attention span I have to quiet myself and read.

In any case! Current reading list is as follows:
• 2/3 of The Lonely City, Olivia Laing
• 3/4 of The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid, Colin Meloy. I got bored in the middle of this, and so.
• The Shape of a Pocket, John Berger. My main read. It’s conveniently divided into short essays, and I am inching my way to the end.

Listening
Newest additions to the playlist include Thundercat and Sam & Dave.

Watching
Re-watching LOST (!!!) with Jacob in increments. “We have to go back~~~”

Liking

MayaHewitt.jpgMaya Hewitt!

Not Liking
Nothing new: the current adm!inistrat10n. Politics and the chaotic government. The pains of being (female, a commuter, both) in Metro Manila.

Feeling
Mildly disoriented because it’s April, and my question is where did the first part of the year go? I feel like I’m still gearing myself up to start the year, but here we are. Here we are already.

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talking to strangers

nightswim

The Sunday Currently, no. 5

It feels very nice to type in complete sentences and whole words, and form and read actual paragraphs. I highly suggest it, citizens of the internet.

Reading
The Tornado is the World, Catherine Pierce, and John Berger’s The Shape of a Pocket. Also Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City on audiobook when I’m working. Lately reading a real paper book feels very indulgent; it makes me feel guilty sometimes. But! I do hope I get to read a whole lot more this year than the past years.

Listening
Hovering All Night – Post-Animal

Watching
Before I dove headlong back into work, I had Netflix-binged The Crown, Star Trek Discovery, Food Wars (hilarious, highly-entertaining), the new season of The Mind of a Chef, and the Black Mirror episodes I had previously missed (I love White Bear. Unsettling but A++). Can’t wait to have free time to start the new season of Star Trek Discovery.

Liking
That part in The Lonely City when the writer talks about Edward Hopper and Nighthawks. In general, I like the book’s language so far and how it articulates loneliness. Poignant, and not pitiful.

Not Liking
Sometimes my meds just…stop working and I don’t get to sleep almost at all for days. It’s been almost a year since I first started taking them so I should really stop delaying my visit to the doctor. Along with the other kinds of doctors I need to go see according to my calendar. Age is a just number but also age is something you feel in the bones of your shoulders when you don’t get enough sleep and exercise. Things could be worse, but things could also be better.

Feeling
Float-y and light but also tired. There is so much to buy and pay for, mostly for the family, and the only way that seems to be working for me to get through this is to hit the ground running every. Single. Time.

However. I was at an art show opening last night after a long time of not going to one. I had a good time even though I started to crash towards the end. Big shows, I must admit to myself, are great for meeting old friends and new people, but get noisy for me in my head to look at the art.

It got me thinking about how it must feel like to be doing the same thing constantly, to grow and be excellent at it, for more than a decade. That being said, you must go see them 200+ works by Elmer Borlongan at the Met Museum. It’s a beautiful collection. Plus points because they were playing Eraserheads when I walked into the museum.

Along with the day job and freelance work, I’ll be part of shows in Feb and March, and I am anxious to announce because I am still sorting out all that needs to be shown. I am excited but also terrified.

I made zero resolutions for 2018, and the only thing I dragged along from the previous year/s is the hope that things will fall into place if I let them.

Cheers, and hello.

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No more nightmares.

CANVAS-Karapatan

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I’ll be part of this year’s CANVAS Looking for Juan outdoor banner project. The topic, human rights, is a pertinent matter in our country right now, God help us all.

My fellow Ang INK members and I made pieces specifically about children’s rights. Mine is about the child’s right to rehabilitation.

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A peek of my work and the mess. It’s been such a long time since I’ve painted an acrylic piece this big, and there was definitely a strong sense of fulfillment after I finished it and delivered it to the gallery. I enjoyed the process a lot, though, and I hope to learn more about painting bigger pieces in this medium.

The project and exhibits open on June 20. The banners will be installed in around the UP Diliman oval.


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View photos from the opening reception of Camouflage and Wanderlust here.

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My work, Long Way From Home, is also available to purchase as prints from the Light Grey Art Lab online shop. The original artwork is 9×12 inches, handmade watercolor on cold press paper.

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Underwater is the best place to swim.

smalls

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I’ll be part of Light Grey Art Lab’s Camouflage exhibit, which opens on the 26th. I really wish I could go, because it opens alongside other nature-themed exhibit, and one of my inspirations Kelsey Oseid is going to have a show up! If you’re in the Minneapolis area, or will be during that time, do drop by and take some pictures, then show me~


 

Keeping myself productive and busy helps a lot with the anxiety. I’ve figured that personally, I feel more at ease at the end of the day when I know I’ve finished something (ANYTHING). As much as I can, I try to accomplish even really small tasks before going to bed. It could be something for work, or other things that aren’t really as urgent like writing a journal entry, mopping the room once, or labeling emails.

I’m also very thankful to be surrounded by supportive and level-headed individuals every day, at work and at home. It really helps me put things in perspective, and keeps me focused.

Sometimes it’s hard not to be affected by the world going haywire. I guess it’s good training for keeping your head above water, and for trying hard to make things better along with the rest of the population despite everything. Some days the silver lining’s there, some days you have to draw it yourself.