Manga and anime, though distinctly Japanese storytelling media, are highly adaptable to any individual artist's style, as can be seen in Pigo Lin's erotic works and Julie Watai's Manga-inspired photography. Ilya Kuvshinov, a Russian illustrator living in Tokyo, has been creating his own unique brand of manga-inspired illustrations over the last few years. While his style is undeniably manga, Kuvshinov imbues the comic book style with both a photographer's and a cinematographer's touch, creating everything from dreamlike lighting to the cinematic staging of scenes and characters.
Kuvshinov regularly posts his illustrations to Instagram, DeviantArt, and Tumblr, where he has attracted quite a following in the process. Recently, Kuvshinov parlayed this online success into Momentary: The Art of Ilya Kuvshinov, a book of select illustrations released by Tokyo-based book publisher PIE International (formerly PIE Books). The formatting is rather unique: two images are paired on each page, giving the book an added cinematic atmosphere. The works in the book range from Kuvshinov's dreamy manga street scenes to his sci-fi concept art and photographs showing work-in-progress illustrations.
Kuvshinov, who started drawing and painting at 11-years old, originally went to university for architecture in Moscow. Later, he returned to his childhood interests, taking up design and animation before eventually moving to Tokyo to be at the center of an animation and video game culture he so loves.
"I was fond of Japanese animation designs since I was a kid, but never thought about actually drawing in this style until one certain situation," Kuvshinov tells Creators. "When I was 13 years old, every weekend I rode a train to school and back home, so I used this time to sketch people on the train. One day I was sketching people on a train as usual, and at the end of the station a girl of my age was watching me draw all the way, and asked, 'Can you draw in anime style?'"
"I was like, 'No,'' he continues. "Her face suddenly become bored and she said, 'Oh, I see. Too bad.' and got out of the train. That made me think, why exactly can't I? So I just started doing it starting that day."
Kuvshinov says his first real job as a video game concept artist gave him some habits as far as artistic process. He usually starts with one idea or one word, then adds to it. He might add some shapes that he associates with a word; other times it's just a gesture, a fleeting moment, or an emotion he wishes to draw. Kuvshinov keeps building layers up until the scene more or less assembles into a clear vision.
When the vision and goal is strong, Kuvshinov says the production of the illustration can occasionally be mechanical. Much harder but more fun are the illustrations that change during the drawing process. However the illustrations develop, they have Kuvshinov's unique artistic touch and sense of imaginative atmosphere.
Before PIE International approached Kuvshinov with a book proposal last year, he was already thinking of putting out a collection of original illustrations. He says the book's editor, Kinefuchi-san, is really dedicated to his work. One of Kinefuchi-san's conditions for creating Momentary is that they finish the work before the end of 2016. Incredibly, they finished the book in just a few months.
The bookmaking process began with Kinefuchi-san showing Kuvshinov the rough layout of the book. Kinefuchi-san used original illustrations culled from Kuvshinov's various social networks. So most of the work was already there, though Kuvshinov says that he did add some of his favorite illustrations and helped tinker with the layout for what became the final product.
"When I were creating the illustrations I wasn't really thinking of printing them," says Kuvshinov of creating images for social media, then collecting them into a physical object in book format. "Every illustration was created with a 'this is for the internet' concept in mind."
"For example, it's really important that illustration content be easy recognizable, even at small sizes, like when people see it on the screen of a phone," he adds. "But to tell you the truth, I was really amused when I first saw my illustrations printed on a book paper. Special inks were used, making RGB pictures look really good on paper. You can also see many more details in the printed versions, and the texture of the paper really adds to it."
Despite Momentary's recent release, Kuvshinov is already hard at work on other illustrations and projects. Currently, he is in the planning stages of creating a series of acrylic illustrations that he hopes to show in an exhibition, but isn't sure when this will happen. Asked if he plans to turn his cinematic illustrations into animated work, Kuvshinov would only say, "Something big is coming, so please look forward to it!"
Click here to see more of Ilya Kuvshinov's work.