Underwater is the best place to swim.

I have a few small paintings for sale. These are A6 in size, roughly 4x6in, and are all watercolor works on handmade paper (Khadi paper). Send a message if you’re interested!

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I have also added some old and new-ish projects on my portfolio site. The latest one shows the biology posters I made for the Masungi Georeserve. I learned so much from the project, and although I had to work through last year’s holiday season, I enjoyed it very much.

FranAlvarez-Masungi-Birds_posterView more posters and learn more about the project here.


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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.

The Sunday Currently, no. 3

Reading

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I finally (!) have a bit of time to read actual paper books and not audiobooks! I borrowed a few from Abi and family’s library. I first saw Jenny Saville’s work in 2015’s Art Basel HK. She’s so good! And before I left for the other year’s internship, Abi told me about Raymond Ching and his bird paintings. I love the context he paints his birds in. His lighting technique also reminds me of Durer.

Liza also lent me her Hamiltome. She and Jamie introduced me to Hamilton last year, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot, heh. It is a big, big regret of mine that I didn’t get into it when I was still in New York. I could’ve watched a show! Woe. (Another big regret is not getting to taste girl scout cookies which I have heard great things about, but that is a completely different story altogether.)

Listening
Andrew Bird’s “Echolocations: Canon” album, and also the Hamilton soundtrack, both the original cast version and the mixtape.

Watching
I am on Season 2 of Mind of a Chef.

Loving
-Semi-spicy spinach with oyster mushrooms, and turmeric fried rice. All ingredients found in your friendly neighborhood palengke (market).

nbnh-2017-6_zpsegzohvt9-These hand-illustrated ceramic cups from a Japan Surplus shop along Kamuning that Roja, who I know from INK, pointed out. For good measure, all the ceramic ware were half-price on the day I visited.

-Alsoooo my parents, who just left last week, and who I won’t be seeing until who-knows-when. It’s been ages since I’ve been with both of them at the same time for the holiday. In a span of the few weeks that we were together, I’d witnessed them fight, get along real well, and everything in between.That’s how I realized that A) I know nothing about love. Nothing. and B) My father is a very good man, and I am proud of him. I can only hope to marry someone as kind and patient someday.

nbnh-2017-0_zpswqspelaxHere is a sunset photo from Antipolo to cap off my cheesy sentiments.

-And lastly, I bought a shelf! We changed shelves in the office and I bought the old one we had. This is in my room, and currently houses reference books, some picture books, and graphic novels. So now all my paperbacks can live in the old shelf, where they will be properly stored and sorted instead of just being in piles on a table.

Manila Maker is awesome, check out their stuff and buy a shelf or ten.

Needing
To finish a couple more pending projects and I am officially deadline-free! The first time in more than a year. Lesson learned in not biting off more than you can chew, brought to you by the year 2016.

Also, I picked up my Bible recently and the cover started to disintegrate, hala.

Wanting
I want all these chaos-causing people in the government to just calm down and maybe, you know, go away………

Feeling
OK, at the moment.

Looking Forward To
-I ordered a planner and it’s supposed to arrive this coming week and it’s supposed to have really good paper and I’m excited.

-Along with a couple of Taiyou Matsumoto books that are also supposed to arrive in the mail reaaally soon.

-Getting my computer. I really dislike changing electronic devices and so I have been stalling. But! I’m in the process of checking out the stores where I’ll be getting the pieces of my Frankenstein system, and hopefully by next month, I will start a new chapter of my life wow haha.

-In the past week, I am proud to say that my semi-sedentary self did not pass out while lifting dumbbells and doing planks at home after work, so I’m kind of looking forward to getting through this coming week’s set. I’ve found that a bit of exercise helps me with my anxiety every day and puts me to sleep easily at nigt. I’m really trying to convince myself to just get on with it daily.


Here are some work things!

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Last week I wrapped up some illustrated posters for the Masungi Georeserve and their geotourism and conservation educ projects. I learned so much working on the posters, especially about which species of the animals and plants on the list are endemic to the Philippines, and what they looked like. For instance, the jade vine grows purple in the country, and our local wisteria grows white instead of lilac (European variety). The native impatiens are white, too, instead of the purple and pink ones that look more familiar. It astounds me to learn how much biodiversity can exist in such a small (well, compared to the rest of the country) space like Masungi.

A lot of things feel relatively insignificant compared to this. Nature projects have a very special place in my heart because they are humbling to work on, and they put things in perspective. Carl Sagan was right about the pale blue dot.

I’ll show you the final posters some other time, but here are some style studies. I wanted to render everything in paint, and was a couple of birds in when I saw the timeline, and decided to just draw everything digitally in the interest of time. I’m happy with the paintings, though, and will push through with the other birds someday.

It was my first time to try this realistic style, and I definitely learned a lot of new things about painting with new materials (hot pressed watercolor paper and acryl gouache, which is basically matte acrylic).

Here is a peek of the final drawings that made it to the posters.

nbnh-2017-4_zpsvu5ekmymAnd a peek of a picture book drawing. Not sure when this book comes out, though. Bleep bloop.

And lastly, Studio Dialogo’s latest collab with Prestige Papers is out. I helped work on the illustrations for the covers. I first drew the leaves digitally, then we printed them out, cut each leaf, and composed and mounted them in papercut art style. We had them photographed, then laid them out across the diff products. It was tedious but enjoyable!


Some holiday introspection has brought me to notice how much my life has…hushed. I sometimes find myself missing the more intrepid parts of my early 20s, maybe even wishing I had the stamina and social capabilities to still live like that, but! I also know that taking care of myself in a quiet way is what I have to do at the moment. I need to take deep breaths and sit still for a bit; the adventures can wait for a while longer.

Recently, I’ve learned a few things about how to calm myself down and/or distract myself from bad thoughts. Particularly useful ones that maybe you can use in times of anxiety too, include:
-taking longs breaks from social media
-only thinking of the people within a 100m radius
-consciously remembering good memories from people who genuinely care
-recalling kind things strangers have done for me and for others
-a bit of exercise every day
-and a personal favorite, food show/documentary binges on Netflix heh

A very happy new year to you all, and here’s to a productive and quietly content 2017. I know last year dragged us all by the teeth into the dirt, but as the Rilo Kiley song goes, our bruises are coming / but we will never fold.

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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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!

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…

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.

ith-1_zpswzfqjokbJuly 25

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!