Al Estrella is a grade school-intermediate level teacher at St. Mary of the Woods School in Makati. But apart from molding the minds of his students, he is also an expert at molding clay.
An all-around artist, Estrella is a member of Ang INK (Ang Ilustrador Ng Kabataan), the Philippines’ first and only organization of illustrators for kids. The first children’s book he illustrated, “Supremo” by Xi Zuq, won the Best Reads for Kids category at the 2016 National Children’s Book Awards.
Estrella’s drawings and clay art are popular because of their uniqueness, attention to detail, and touches of fun and whimsy.
To be You interviewed Estrella on his life as teacher and artist.
What to you is art, and what inspired you to become an artist?
I know this may sound cliché, but art for me is an expression of oneself. I grew up in an environment where I was allowed to express myself through drawing and sculpting. My parents were very encouraging and supportive of my craft. Who I am as an artist right now is mainly because of them.
What is your favorite medium and why?
Definitely clay! Clay is different. It is a whole new level of joy after finishing a sculpture.
What is the easiest and hardest thing about making clay art?
Some clays are really cheap and readily available. My fingerprints on the clay can be a real hassle.
How long does it take you to finish a sculpture?
Time depends on the size and required details of an artwork. It takes me 30 minutes to an hour or two to finish a character.
At the moment, which of your artworks is your favorite?
“Kakanin!” It’s a board book for kids. I made rice cake characters like puto, palitaw and suman. I also like the “100 Days of ‘Game of Thrones’” project. Unfortunately, I made only 75 (laughs).
What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
I’ve been teaching for eight years now, and the freedom to pursue works that matter is an achievement in itself.
What is your biggest dream and how do you plan to accomplish it?
I want to write and illustrate my own children’s book. If I have the time, I also want to join writing workshops.
How do you balance teaching with being an artist?
It’s really hard to balance my day job and my freelance job. There were days when I had to beat two deadlines at the same time. Honestly, I’m still learning to juggle my freelance job and the demands of a full-time job.
What inspires you to be the best artist and teacher that you can be?
Cheesy as it may sound, my past and present students are always my inspiration in teaching. I want to use the time they spend in my class to mold them to become better individuals someday. —CONTRIBUTED
View Al Estrella’s artworks on his online portfolio, www.behance.net/alromuald, and his old artworks at motsmots.blogspot.com