Russian trained with a love for Japanese culture, Ilya is making his name with his ‘eidolon’ images
All artists have to deal with criticism now and again, whether you’re sharing your art with fellow forum users or getting feedback in class. In Russia, as Ilya Kuvshinov knows all too well, criticism can be somewhat brutal.
Aged 11, Ilya joined the Moscow State Academy Art Lyceum in the second year, so his classmates had a year’s head start in voicing their brash opinions. “Before Lyceum I just drew. And everyone said, ‘ Wow, your drawings are cool’,” he says. “But when I got to the Lyceum, instead classmates were laughing at my work and my drawing habits.”
For the first two months, Ilya kept his head down in the weekly sketch reviews, where the class got their teacher’s feedback. After one too many D grades, Ilya’s teacher called him into her office.
“She showed me a tiny drawing of a pumpkin, hanging on the wall over her desk. That drawing was awesome, so detailed and realistic. The teacher said to me: ‘Look at this drawing. You will never do something like this. Never’.”
This was an art crit, Russian Art Academystyle, and though many would have given human resources a call, Ilya decided it was time to get serious. “Later that evening I decided that, no matter what, I’d draw a better pumpkin! I started to draw every day like crazy, remembering that word ‘never’. To be honest, it was mostly rage at first. I decided to show her what I could do. By the end of the year I was one of the best in class. At the end of the Lyceum I was awarded a gold medal.”
Though young, Ilya handled the situation with a maturity beyond his years. “Criticism is very useful, but you must always understand who’s giving it out, and why,” he says. “I guess [my teacher] was just disappointed in my progress, but after that she was proud of how I turned out.”
It was around this time that Japanese character artist Renji ‘Range’ Murata
came to talk at the Russian comic festival KomMissia. A manga and anime artist with art deco influences, Range’s art was a revelation to Ilya.
Having already been blown away by Ghost in the Shell, Ilya was settling on an art path. But as his studies came to a close, he had to take any jobs he could find. “I’ve been working jobs since I was 15 years old. I’ve been a courier, I’ve collected data – asking people on the streets what shaving gel they use – and I’ve done some boutique window dressing.”
It all paid off when Ilya secured his first concept art job in 2011, working in games. Today, he’s based in his dream location. “I’m living in Yokohama, Japan, and, well, everything here looks exactly like in animes, but in HD,” says the artist.
He’s the first to admit his work ethic, forged by his training, can lead to solitary spells. Working in his room, hours can turn into days, “forgetting why I’m doing it or where am I. Then I decide to go out for a cup of ramen and when I get to the streets, it’s a big kick that I’m living my own dream. It cannot be overemphasised.”
Since moving to Japan, Ilya has worked on characters for Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s mobile game 18, and Epic Games Japan, but due to nondisclosure agreements it’s his personal art that Ilya shows off on these pages. With their attention to light and loose stylus strokes, this is the art many online fans will know and love.
Ilya is the first to admit that his art is
heavily focused on one subject:
Exper iment in Pink “A colour and silhouette experiment, which turned out to be great fun to do.”
Cola blues “Is this a familiar situation? You are in a café with a hangover and a cat girl, and only have enough money for a cola.”
RED SCARF “Is the red scarf strangling her? Change the point of view and it’s a unique part of her, leading you forward.”