A mishmash of nature, medieval myths and video games inspire illustrator Avalon Nuovo's work

On A Wire - delicacy in navigating friendships © Avalon Nuovo

With influences of music, video games, history and nature combined as well as a love of expressive figure drawing and medieval mythology, American illustrator Avalon Nuovo has a distinctive style that has seen her work for brands as big as Snapchat and The New York Times.

Now based in Amsterdam, it's been just 18 months since Avalon went freelance. She mainly works in editorial and publishing but is hoping to branch out into advertising and packaging, too.

"I love to tackle human and nature-based subjects relating to social justice, environmental action, relationships, and generally making humanity seem a bit more promising," she tells Creative Boom. "I try to morph figures in a way that walks the line of realism but also treats the figure like a graphic design element that is being placed on a 2D plane. Colour-wise, I try to branch out but I always end up being happiest with primaries."

She also loves to make illustrated covers for curated Spotify playlists and has maintained an ongoing personal practice of illustration as a sort of diary. Here we share some of her latest works including a piece for Underpinned, which Avalon says was really fun: "For anyone who isn't familiar with them, Underpinned is a brilliant resource that focuses their content on freelancers, and the article was called 'Getting better at taking (and giving) criticism'.

"This felt close to home, as I'm sure it would to a lot of other creative freelancers. You can spend so much time on something and really pour your heart into it, even if it's just conceptual sketches, that by the time you share it with a client, it can feel like you're baring your soul to them a little bit. A delicate piece of origami felt like the perfect visual embodiment of an idea that someone has been refining with such care. Then to have someone even go near it holding scissors felt like you know that person has a lot of power in the situation!

"Basically the article hopes to advise people on both sides of this delicate equation how to approach each other productively and with respect. I definitely took a couple of things away from it for my own practice."

Talking of her process, Avalon says she starts with lots of research and then goes through "a messy process of jumping back and forth between little scribbled mind-maps of words and images, little games of word-association with myself, and tiny thumbnails".

"Usually, at some point in this process I have a brief crisis of self-doubt, and then get so twisted up in my thoughts that I literally have to go to my own website to remind myself what my work looks like. Seriously, this happens at least once per job," Avalon continues. "But once I finally have three ideas I like, I draw them out in black and white and take them to the stage where I've worked out the lights and darks of the composition so that the only thing I have to worry about in the final is colour.

"Once the art director has chosen I just take the sketch into a new document and draw over it with a more careful line before I go to colour and shading. I used to resist working digitally but now I've really leaned into it, and I love being able to separate each colour onto a different layer so I can mess around with the Hue/Saturation sliders until it's just right."

Covid Knight - A personal piece in solidarity with healthcare workers © Avalon Nuovo

Covid Knight - A personal piece in solidarity with healthcare workers © Avalon Nuovo

Isolation - A diary of the times © Avalon Nuovo

Isolation - A diary of the times © Avalon Nuovo

How to Consume the News - character illustrations riffing on the theme of how to consume the news creatively © Avalon Nuovo

How to Consume the News - character illustrations riffing on the theme of how to consume the news creatively © Avalon Nuovo

The Final Touch - an ode to the Bon Appétit Magazine youtubeverse, which is a light in these dark times © Avalon Nuovo

The Final Touch - an ode to the Bon Appétit Magazine youtubeverse, which is a light in these dark times © Avalon Nuovo

Swooping + Nai Palm Livestream Show Posters - pair of posters made for Nai Palm and Swooping (solo projects from members of the band Hiatus Kaiyote), for their online streamed live shows (replaced touring concerts that were cancelled due to COVID-19). Main contact Si Jay Gould from Wondercore Island management © Avalon Nuovo

Swooping + Nai Palm Livestream Show Posters - pair of posters made for Nai Palm and Swooping (solo projects from members of the band Hiatus Kaiyote), for their online streamed live shows (replaced touring concerts that were cancelled due to COVID-19). Main contact Si Jay Gould from Wondercore Island management © Avalon Nuovo

Picnic Jams - a mix curated for some great picnics, before COVID-19 made that wishful thinking © Avalon Nuovo

Picnic Jams - a mix curated for some great picnics, before COVID-19 made that wishful thinking © Avalon Nuovo

RUN - a cover for a new playlist for long runs © Avalon Nuovo

RUN - a cover for a new playlist for long runs © Avalon Nuovo

Freelancers and Criticism - for a recent article on Underpinned with advice for freelancers on how to give and get better advice on creative projects. AD Jack Williams © Avalon Nuovo

Freelancers and Criticism - for a recent article on Underpinned with advice for freelancers on how to give and get better advice on creative projects. AD Jack Williams © Avalon Nuovo