Fran’s illustrations have appeared in numerous children’s books, as well as editorial illustrations, merchandise, apparel, packaging, identity and brand materials, and environmental graphics. She is based out of Quezon City (Metro Manila), Philippines. Let’s hear more about how she got started as an artist.
At what age did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?
I studied graphic design and college but was also really interested in visual art and drawing. Joining a local community of illustrators, such as Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, helped me realize that I wanted to become a professional illustrator even though I don’t do it full time. I joined in 2011, and I was 22 then. Some people know that they want to be an artist early on in their childhood or teenage years, so I think I’m a late bloomer, heh-heh!
What is a favorite book or story from your childhood?
What a difficult question! I loved a lot of books but one of the most memorable ones is The Day the Clocks Stopped, written by William Geldard, illustrated by Jolyne Knox. The clocks stopped and everyone in the town fell asleep!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I am inspired by a combination of things I am surrounded by and things I wish I were surrounded by: local culture and day-to-day experiences and nature.
Do you prefer working in traditional media or digital?
I work with both, depending on what suits the project at hand. As much as possible, though, I want to work traditionally because I enjoy working with art materials a lot. I also work on a computer the whole day on weekends, so working with paint and paper on other projects is very refreshing.
What type of stories or topics do you get excited about illustrating?
I learn so much when I work on non-fiction books, especially the ones about nature! I feel so lucky I’ve been given the opportunity to work on a few already in the past years. The process of having my illustrations checked by scientists and experts on trees or animals, for example, feels exciting to me.
Tell us about a recent book release.
My latest book is called Kaisa-Isa Niyan, a Maguindanaon Folk Song. It’s part of the new folk song series from Tahanan Books. It features musical instruments from Mindanao, mainly the kulintang ensemble.
It was a challenge to do research for this book because published info specific to Maguindanao and their culture is hard to find. I had help from Tahanan and their consultants Dra. Prudente and Faisal Monal to know more about the instruments, what other environmental elements I can include, what the characters wore, etc. I also wanted to make the book very light and celebratory so I can illustrate Maguindanaons in a cheerful way.
What languages do your/your family speak?
My mom is from Isabela and my dad is from Bicol. I grew up with my aunts from my mom’s side of the family, and next to Tagalog, Ilokano is the main dialect in our household. I can’t speak fluently, but I understand a lot!
What is your favorite Filipino food?
I grew up in a household full of women who can cook well, so this is another difficult question! My favorite Filipino comfort food is Nilagang Baka (beef soup with cabbage and potatoes). My aunt slow cooks the meat for hours, making sure it’s tender. It’s so good, especially on rainy days. Takes me back to my childhood for sure.
Take a look at Fran’s portfolio at http://www.francesalvarez.com/ and follow her on Instagram @nobeesnohoney
We’re giving away 1 hardback copy of An Eagle’s Feather by Minfong Ho and illustrated by Frances Alvarez. Click the link below to enter the contest (open to US residents only), starts 4/18/19 1200pm PST to 4/26/19 1159am PST.