Toma Vagner’s illustrations look like over-stylized technical manuals that teach you (or at least aim to teach you) how to play rock–paper–scissors or solve a Rubik’s Cube. The Russian-born, New York City-based illustrator uses her mixed background as a source of inspiration, with the added pinch of Japanese and Korean culture.
Growing up on the remote island of Sakhalin in Russia, Vagner explains that she was influenced by both Japanese and Korean cultures because of the island’s proximity to those countries and the Japanese occupation of the territory before World War II. “While growing up, I was interested and influenced by Japanese visual culture as well as Soviet Union visual culture,” she relayed in an interview with Communication Arts.
And with her constant travels to Russia, these cultural influences are still very much relevant. “I want to travel more in the future and bring these experiences into my images, and keep developing my work and visual language,” added Vagner. “Other than that, I’m happy with what I’m doing right now.”
Her pieces are a blend of the traditional and the modern, beginning with a hand-drawn sketch that Vagner then scans and completes digitally. “Drawing and expressing myself through images has always been my passion,” she stresses. “Even though I work in the illustration field, I never think of my work as being one-time disposable images that only serve the purpose of being illustrations.”
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