Ilya Ku­vshi­nov

Rus­sian trained with a love for Ja­panese cul­ture, Ilya is mak­ing his name with his ‘ei­dolon’ images

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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’.”

Bit harsh

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.”

Yoko­hama streets

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.”

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