Toys and fairytales are what inspire New York-based illustrator Toma Vagner to create her charming, carefully considered depictions of robots, Rubik’s cubes, swineherds and mermaids. “I have been drawing since I was a child and always knew I wanted to be an artist. I grew up on a small island in eastern Russia and although I knew of some illustrators, they felt very far away. Attending art school in New York was both a dream come true and a natural transition for me,” Toma tells It’s Nice That.
Her series, Fairytales, is full of deconstructed scenes from children’s stories. In her illustration of the Steadfast Tin Solder, the one-legged toy is the central figure and is surrounded by sketches of a heart, a small ballerina and paper boats. Toma uses a similar arrangement in her series Toys, where a falling Jenga tower is positioned next to a series of visual instructions and above a hovering face crying out in despair. Realistic dimensions are not Toma’s concern. Her illustrations depict imaginary spaces filled with jumbled childhood memories. “When I was growing up, I was surrounded by Japanese sweets and stationary brought home by my dad. There were also lots of Soviet manuals lying around. These definitely come up in my work,” the artist says. The series’ strength lies in Toma’s ability to draw inspiration from unsuspecting objects; chewing gum and rule books aren’t exactly famous for their poignancy. In this way, her work prompts us to reconsider the artistic potential of everyday things.
Toma’s art is executed with expert precision. It is her clear lines, bright colours and imaginative compositions that shine new light on familiar objects and old stories. “I combine both traditional and digital media. All lines are drawn by hand and colours are then added on the computer. Recently I’ve been experimenting with acrylics. My series, Toys, is done entirely in traditional media with acrylic and pigment inks,” the artist explains. After years of illustration, Toma plans to broaden her horizons by trying other creative practices like book publishing and working with music in the future.
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