Artist to Watch | Irina Kuzmina and her Rich Illustrations

This week we head to Russia for our latest Artist to Watch. Irina Kuzmina’s beautiful and rich illustrations will keep you captivated. Her imagination and skill are truly a gift.

Hi Irina, Thank you again for allowing us to learn more about you and your art. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What makes you happy?

Hi! Thank you for noticing my art! Because I follow the simple rule of doing what I like and avoiding what I don’t like, I enjoy a lot of things in my life. First of all, it’s art that makes me happy in many ways: the creative process, inspirations, and leveling up. Then, all of the geek culture: tabletop games, video games, books, and comics. I don’t have enough time to play, read, or try everything. I guess you can say my escapism makes me happy 🙂  But there are some real life things too I enjoy as well like walking, tasty food, traveling, and learning new things.

I believe that escapism and art go hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other. How did you get started creating art?

Shortly after moving to Moscow I found out there is whole entertainment industry out there! Like, wow, you can be concept artist, you can make illustrations, someone should do the job for magic the gathering, right? 🙂 So I started researching stuff: what should I learn, how to get inside, what possibilities are there, etc. I found friends who really helped me with the first steps in ‘serious’ drawing. That was how it all began.

Witch Doctor by Irina Kuzmina
Witch Doctor by Irina Kuzmina

Do you have any inspirations or role models?

There are a lot of good artists I can call role models in professional way. I try to learn something from all of them. And my inspiration, that is an easy question! My main inspiration sources are books, music, nature, fashion and world culture. After seconds of interaction with any of these things I can immediately start creating images in my mind, so I even have to filter it, because there is not that much time. Being inspired is truly an amazing feeling!

When did you discover your passion for art?

Not gonna be original here, I have liked drawing since childhood. But it got developed only after i decided to get in entertainment industry and started drawing seriously – four-five years ago or so. Classical case of appetite coming with eating.

Tell us a bit about your creative process:

It always starts with research, and I especially like that part. You get the details, some references, understanding the idea, getting the mood and creating essential feeling. I don’t like leaving my comfort zone in real life, but trying new things in art is magical, I really love it. After I’m in the right mood I start sketching, playing with visual ways of delivering ideas and stories. I think of it like solving a problem, because you have the tools and knowledge and need to use it right. The hardest part for me is getting from pencil sketch to “it has everything and just needs some render” stage. I’m still in the process of exploring and finding my style, so there are a lot of struggles here. And final – rendering – part is a task of diligence and experience.

Do you listen to music while you’re creating?

Of course, and on some stages I can even turn some movie or series on. But i mostly listen to them, because my eyes are on my drawing. Little tip: if you turn on Two Steps from Hell while drawing, you can immediately get feeling the of creating epic art for let’s say Elder Scrolls X in “developers’ diary’ video.

Whoever Brings the Night by Irina Kuzmina

Makes a reminder to download Two Steps from Hell for my next work project. Ok, so you’ve gotten inspired, you know what you want to create, what’s the first tool you reach for?

I always start with a pencil! Its easier for me to think with it i guess. Making really fast and sometimes ugly sketches that only i can understand. Something like “okay, that’s gonna be here, and he’s gonna be here, and the shadow will fall like that”. Then i try to repeat it clearer and in bigger size (and I don’t always succeed in it). But I think making pencil sketches is important for me not as first step of drawing but as a way to capture thoughts.

Let’s say for some, totally hypothetical reason Earth is about to blow up. Don’t panic, there is a savior aka a space ship getting ready to save you! But you can only save two pieces, what will those two be?

Nothing, in case of the end of the world I’d better have a knife with me, haha!  Maybe I just haven’t yet created something that worthy, but I think it’s good for artist not to stick with previous works. Although taking a sketchbook and pencil seems to be a nice idea.

Your guilty pleasure video game, that one game you can play for hours on end and tune everything out, what is it?

I have good self control, but there are two series that drive me crazy: civilization and Disgaea. Civilization is simply addictive with its ‘one more turn’ thing and disgaea is my absolute favorite: i love art, world, gameplay, etc. Can’t count number of times I’ve missed my station playing it! To tell the truth, i don’t feel guilty about them.

Artist to Watch Irina Kuzmina

No one should ever feel guilty about playing Civ! I am lucky that I don’t have it installed on my personal computer or else I would never get anything done. Let’s dig into your pile of shame for a minute. Tell us one game you haven’t played, that you’re ashamed you haven’t played yet.

It was Planescape: Torment till recently. And now… I don’t know, Half-Life maybe?

Do you remember the 1st video game you ever played?

Mmm… I guess it would be some games on DOS. I remember a Russian game “Pole chudes” (Field of Miracles), based on Russian Telequiz. A few years later, when I got my own PC with Win98, I got the Pink Panther game.

Pole chudes looks very similar to the American Wheel of Fortune. I had that game on the computer when I was younger. Your dream job, what is it?

Making official illustrations for different games worlds. Like Warhammer, D&D, LoL, World of Darkness, etc. I’m actually on my way there.

Angron is for Angry by Irina Kuzmina

That is an awesome dream job. Since you’ll be famous soon don’t forget about us over here at The Game Fanatics 😉

Thanks for your kind words! Definitely won’t forget such a pleasant experience.

What are your current projects?

I am now concentrated on warhammer themed commissions. Really like to explore warhammer universe!  So, I hope this kind of commissions will help me exploring and will be useful part of the way to my dream job. Clients often tell me stories about characters and legions, of course giving bunch of references, etc.

You are about to get off work for the weekend, what song are you listening to?

Getting off work? Don’t know what does that mean )) No, seriously, if there is no special occasion like trip with parentsfriends or something,just work everyday.

My last question is, where can we find more of your work?

Well, all my finished pieces are on my Deviantart page (http://sunradio.deviantart.com/, rip CGHubb, i had profile there also). Besides, I have Instagram (http://instagram.com/irina_sunradio) with more sketchy stuff and newborn Tumblr (http://irinasunradio.tumblr.com/) that is still to be explored. I’m going to post sketches, challenges, maybe wips there.

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