Instagram: @avaloon


1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

My story is just starting, I think! I was born in Los Angeles and raised there by a product designer and a graphic designer. At the moment, I’m just a couple of weeks away from finishing my bachelor’s in illustration at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life, but I’m more of a cold-weather person, so happily I’ll be moving to London later this year, and from there…who knows!

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2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

Hmmm. My two biggest visual “pushes”, I guess, are the sort of mysterious and labored quality of antique illustration and art, and the freshness and austerity of modern graphic design and typography. Wherever those two things somehow collide. They don’t collide often, which is why I so often get frustrated when I feel my work has gone too far in either direction. But whenever I find (or, ideally, make) an example of those two things intersecting is magic! Also, I’ve always loved traditional figure drawing (seriously) and have always preferred drawing the human figure and drapery over just about everything else, so a lot of my aesthetic is, I guess…humans!

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

All things considered, I think my favorite medium is gouache, since it ticks a lot of boxes for me in terms of versatility. These days I use it in its thicker form to draw, or diluted it either for more ghosted lines in drawing, or to fill color. The only time I don’t use it is when I’m doing something particularly finicky and I’m worried about the color picking up or getting muddy. In those cases I use fluid acrylic, since it looks very similar but won’t reconstitute. I’ve also been getting really into colored pencils in the past few months, too. I’ve been getting more comfortable with digital stuff recently (Procreate has been excellent for that!) just for the sake of speed and portability, but when that’s the case I usually expend a lot of effort just trying to make it look analog.

4. What is your artistic process like?

I’m not a thumbnail person, so I usually plan things out at a good size (near or at actual size, if the final piece is around A4). I jump into “Final line drawing” mode fairly quickly on bond paper and scan it. If I’m feeling super professional I sometimes comp the colors in photoshop, but usually I just resize it to the final size, print it, and use it underneath the final piece while working on a lightbox.
That’s just for projects or “planned illustrations” though. Otherwise, I really consistently keep a sketchbook and draw observationally. I really love drawing as documentation.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

Nearly all of my favorite things, visually, are things you would find in historical/cultural art museums. Specifically….illuminated manuscripts and marginalia, weird alchemical illustrations, ornamental illustration, romantic and baroque painting, that sort of thing! I think that comes through pretty clearly in my work, even when the topic is more contemporary. A few months ago I got to sit down with a huge book of original samples of French ornamental illustration from the very early 20th century—I think I’m still fixated on that! Outside of the visual realm, music is usually the driving force. It’s my favorite “subject” to draw things for/about. I find myself pretty easily emotionally manipulated by music. Which is good or bad, depending on who’s the DJ.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

It’s the biggest thing in my life, and always has been; “art” in general, but more specifically the act of drawing or painting. If I go a few days without drawing, I start to get irritable and impatient. I think it’s quite concretely interwoven with how I view the world; when I see something or someone I love, my first physical instinct is to sort of…mentally draw it? Like, go through the lines I would use, but in my head. That sounds a little obsessive but that’s the best way I can put it.

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7. Where did you study?

ArtCenter College of Design. I also spent a semester at Konstfack in Stockholm, Sweden—which was pretty certainly the best five months of my life, and has really heavily influenced my thinking and work in pretty much all ways since.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?

Who knows if this is realistic, but in an ideal world, I would be working close to full-time as a freelance illustrator in five years’ time. One I’m a little more established, I think I’d like to be part of a smaller agency, partially because I think it might be the only way for me to force myself into maintaining regular human contact…

9. What about in ten?

Honestly, same thing for ten years. Freelance is the overarching M.O. I’d like for my life, but other than that I’m pretty excited about the idea of just seeing what things fall into my path, since I’ve yet to live life that openly.

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

In the end, I just want to be of use to others. Sometimes I feel a bit selfish, spending my days doing nothing but drawing and painting and going to school for it and doing it for a living. So, I guess, my goal is to be as good as I can so that I can be as effective as possible in helping others make their voices heard, disseminate important information, help more good things reach more people. If I can make something with my hands that makes another human genuinely happy, that’s sort of it for me.

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11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

This really specific vegan burger from a restaurant around the corner from my house. It has cashew cheese and avocados and tempeh bacon and spicy aioli…heaven.

12. Favourite book?

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I’m part-way through the audiobook of another book of hers, Orlando, which might possibly end up being my new favorite by the end.

13. Favourite genre of music?

Full disclosure, I’m listening to the soundtrack of Outlander as I write this. Anything that sounds remotely like that is stellar. Favorites are broad but usually funky or folky. Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn, and Thundercat all just came out with new albums and they’ve been on repeat for weeks.

14. What are your hobbies?

Other than drawing…playing guitar or piano. And, it turns out, traveling. At this point in my life, all my closest friendships revolve around at least one of those things, so I’d count hanging out with my favorite people as a hobby, too. Especially when there’s beer or wine.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

Actually, probably a language teacher or a translator. If I wasn’t so glad to never have to sit another exam or write another paper, I’d go back to school and study linguistics and Germanic languages.

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