Creative Frontline in the russo-Ukrainian War: Part III

Creativity, design, and artwork can help a lot, often in ways you cannot always predict. Ukrainian creative frontline has become a major force in repelling the russian full-scale invasion of this peaceful country that is now fighting for its freedom and independence.

As I’ve mentioned in Part I and Part II of this article, Approval Studio has an office in Ukraine, so we’re no strangers to what’s going on now. That is why we decided to dedicate our Creative Talks series to the topic of this unprovoked war launched by russian federation and tell our readers about how creatives do anything in their power to help Ukraine using their art. Here are the questions we asked:

  • How would you characterize the Ukrainian creative frontline? What do you think makes it so influential and powerful in today’s realities?
  • How do you think design, illustrations, and other creative initiatives help in the russo-Ukrainian War? 
  • Could you please tell us more about your piece(-s) and what message(-s) you want to convey through it? 

I hope you will find this article meaningful and helpful. Down below you can find a list of Ukrainian charities to which you can donate to help the cause. Also, Approval Studio offers free licenses for volunteers and artists who work on charitable projects to help Ukraine, you can contact us if our tool can be useful to you.

Thank you for reading this article and thanks to all the artists and designers who gave their answers — you are awesome.

Glory to Ukraine.

Ian Zakharov – Illustrator and Graphic Designer

Ian Zakharov’s Instagram

Over the past two months of the war, I have seen more Ukrainian artists than ever before in my whole life. There is an incredible flow of creativity full of pain, pride for our people, and faith in our victory. It is very inspiring to see how such an army of talented artists teamed up to generate tons of intense and powerful artwork. In the age of social networks and Internet media, combining accurate reporting from the field with art seems to be very important. A sort of grappling hook for the attention of a global audience. 

In my works, I wanted to show how I see the iron restraint held by our defenders at the front. They manifest themselves as real cyborgs with common human features, for two months fighting back the so-called “second most powerful army in the world” that is, in fact, a massive horde of marauders and barbarians with not a drop of honor. I believe in the nerves of steel and titanium flesh of our soldiers, medics, and volunteers! I believe in the Ukrainian forces.

Solomia Kovalchuk – Illustrator

Solomia Kovalchuk’s Instagram

A huge number of foundations appeared collecting artworks for NFT auctions and raising money for the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the very first day of the invasion! I’ve sent my old works that fit thematically to some of them and created the new ones for the others. But to be honest, it was very hard to create anything at all in the first two weeks when the psyche hadn’t adapted to the new reality yet, with all that chaos inside my head… 

On the other hand, there were people full of ideas and inspiration, but I’m not one of them for sure. It’s still hard to draw for me, even though it usually calms me down. But I had to do something and be helpful, so, with a little help on the side, I’ve created two artworks. The first was the putin’s face reflected in the mirror as the devil’s one, and the second was a girl sleeping in the Kyiv underground.

After that, I couldn’t draw for two weeks again. Especially after Bucha. There was so much anger inside… Then, the idea came by itself. Our country changed, which meant we had to change its sad and tragic image. “Kateryna” by Taras Shevchenko was a perfect image to get this updated version where she’s strong, smiling, where she shows the direction russians should follow 🙂 

Kateryna by Solomia Kovalchuk. Sign inscriptions — “Fu*k off”, “Fu*k off again”, “Fu*k off back to russia”. Dog’s name on his coat is Patron.

This gets a lot of shares on the Internet, but all my attempts to publish it on my page were unsuccessful because Instagram bans it all the time. Yet, many people say it lifts their spirits, and one of our defenders even said that he wanted to make a tattoo with it. I understand now how important art is, especially when it bears a lot of meaning. We boost our country’s culture! Also, some charity organizations contacted me, and my work will be used in merchandise with profits raised to help the UAF [Ukraine’s Armed Forces – ed.]! That’s why it’s important to create, monetize your art, and support our Armed Forces.

Mitia Fenechkin – Artist 

Mitia Fenechkin’s Instagram

After the first week of shock and stupor was over, we started waking up. Someone took a camera and went under fire to take photos of what was happening. Someone started creating illustrations or metaphorical observations, someone took the synthesizer and started playing. After two weeks of the war, I started drawing too. It was hard to tune in, and I literally was re-drawing photos by Reuters and Yevhen Maloletka from the frontlines just because I wanted to put my hands to work. I needed to draw something but couldn’t get my mind to it. Then I began creating my own compositions and drawings for the project “Meta History of Ukraine” and also created a huge work consisting of 25 pictures called “black holes.”

This project consists of 25 black windows of a 5-storey building destroyed by russian missiles. In every window, there are blurred silhouettes of our past peaceful life that doesn’t exist anymore.

Black Holes by Mitia Fenechkin

I can say that many projects appeared after the begging of the war, and many Ukrainian artists, photographers, and illustrators worked together on them. Within these projects, people sell NFTs and original pieces, and all raised money goes to the UAF [Ukraine’s Armed Forces – ed.] or covers some humanitarian needs. In addition, many European galleries and printed media offered cooperation. 

Yet, even on the very first day people united in the idea of imposing cultural sanctions on russia. A petition appeared, supported by many institutions and artists from all over the globe. It aims to limit russian cultural presence in the world since the aggressor country willfully violates all possible international norms and agreements.

Due to the situation, much attention is now directed toward Ukraine and its culture. We have many awesome authors, a few of them were well-noticeable on the world stage even before the war, and now many have a chance to get there while the Ukrainian cultural front is in the spotlight. The war that’s been ongoing for 8 years, that some stopped noticing and became used to, bared the raw nerve after the full-scale invasion. It dropped its shell and all undertones. Our art will become rougher, more aggressive. It’s already full of war horrors.

How do creative initiatives help Ukraine? Firstly, money raised by selling art goes to the Ukrainian military, it is urgent now. Secondly, art can highlight the dark facets and scream to the whole world in different voices about what is happening now. Art is a way to both communicate and discover the world. Now, wartime art creations can simultaneously help us go through this war and overcome our inner precipices.

Iryna Vale – Illustrator

Iryna Vale’s Instagram and Behance

From the first days, Ukrainian artists began to actively reflect on the theme of war. Even those initially stressed came to their senses in 7-10 days and continued to work. Visual information is perceived faster than text, so an accurate visual metaphor penetrates the viewer’s heart. My illustrations of this period reflect my personal perception of the situation.

I stayed in the Kyiv region and didn’t leave, so most of the pictures are about the feeling of home as a fortress, about the sounds you hear from the outside trying to understand how close the danger is. As a volunteer, I also drew for several organizations, such as the META Museum project, where I illustrated tweets circulating online at the time.

Bohdana Zaiats – Illustrator 

Bohdana Zaiats’ Instagram 

It is hard for me to find the right words as it seems that words have lost all their power. However, there’s a feeling deep inside me that words still are significant. They still influence the world. For me, though, it is better to stick to visuals.

Yasia Volkova (Rat Roik) – Illustrator

Yasia Volkova’s Instagram and Behance

Artists and illustrators are very sensitive to such events, so the creative frontline woke up right after we managed to cope with the shock of the first few days. Creativity makes our love for our country, our lives, and the lives of our people very powerful. All of this is happening now, in real life, to real people. The psyche of creatives is soaked in fear, hatred, and the desire to show the world that here we are, the Ukrainian people, that we hurt, that we want everyone not to turn a blind eye to the terror russia commits.

Design, illustration, drawing, and painting are all examples of the visual power that can reach everyone. Not all people can look at photographs of dead civilians, tortured and humiliated children, men, and women… Our task, our duty even, is to show this information in a way that doesn’t make it sensitive content but still is sharp and attracts attention.

As for the creation process, I am an artist who primarily pays attention to emotions and feelings, which is why my illustrations are about the pain and horrors I’m trying to comprehend. I’m trying to understand what a child feels when the occupier tries to grab them with their hands. I can’t do it in my head, so when I draw, I convey not something I comprehend but something I feel.

That’s how I created one of my most well-known illustrations, “russian occupiers rape Ukrainian children.” This picture was even taken to an anti-war demonstration in South Korea, which surprised me. It means that it works. It screams, convinces, and depicts the suffering. So, my other works also convey my personal fear and fear of the citizens in the middle of this terror. It’s hard to comprehend but possible to feel.

Sofia Zorska – Story Artist

Sofia Zorska’s Instagram

It’s fascinating. Ukrainian creative frontline impresses with its diversity, expression, unity, and ubiquitousness. Calligraphers, ceramists, artists, animators, writers, photographers, couturiers, musicians, chefs — imagine any domain connected to creativity least possibly, and Ukrainians will be represented there. I’ve seen many artists who didn’t make an emphasis on their nationality. Now they speak about it loud and clear, and that’s brilliant.

Firstly, the whole world is watching Ukraine right now. Secondly, Ukrainian artists are extremely talented. They use very accurate images so that everyone with the ability to sense could grasp feelings, thoughts, and the reality of the country living through genocide once again. You might not know the language, but wherever you are, you’ll surely understand and feel the picture of a child watching the russian missiles flying toward them. Art resonates where feelings are. I still feel torn to shreds by the pain of one author’s work about rape. Two watercolor silhouettes are enough to understand everything.

Also, Ukrainian artists are a part of the nation that is a direct victim of war, giving them the right to depict everything without censorship. We can call war and genocide by what they are, we can depict these nightmares because the nightmare is what we live in. Ukrainian artists are not limited to any fictitious rules, no one has the right to blame them for being “too harsh”, and there are no taboo topics. I’d like to say there’s entirely no censorship, but some creative platforms play by russia’s rules and delete both works and comments of Ukrainians. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.

First, art is publicity. War, russian crimes against humanity, personal tragedies that wouldn’t be mentioned otherwise or would be quickly forgotten in the endless flow of information. They give a vivid image that gets stuck for a while.

Second, art is therapy, both for the artist and the viewer. You feel hurt for murdered children together, you hate, grieve, and maybe even laugh together. You’re not alone. When the words are not enough to pour your soul out, art is there for you.

Third, art is practical. Ukrainians and artists from other countries hold exhibitions, auctions, or just sell their works to gather funds for the army, refugees, volunteers, or victims of war. Also, it’s the spread of Ukrainian culture that the enemy tried to abolish for centuries. 

Finally, it is a separation of the Ukrainian nation from russia in the eyes of the international community. Ukraine is not some country in Eastern Europe, and it’s not russia. Ukraine is an independent state with its own identity.

Illustration by Sofia Zorska

My motivation to create art has been changing over the course of the war. First, I wanted to voice my contempt, to laugh at russia that came to Ukraine to murder.

With this picture here, I wanted to thank everyone who works for our victory. These are not only military but also rescue and communal services, volunteers, and ordinary people who could not stay indifferent and shout loud as they can with us so that Ukraine is heard. They all bring the light, hope, they form a shield that will repel the evil horde.

Animation by Sofia Zorska

My father defends Ukraine at the frontlines. I wanted my works to be light and uplifting as I send them to him first. He is my first viewer. But it became much harder to do all that after Bucha. My animation with putin and a tit bird that spread far and wide through the Internet — I started it before Bucha and finished afterward. It felt wrong to laugh in a time of such tragedy. But people were grateful and said it helped them to find consolation. So it was not in vain.

Not all ideas get out in the open. I am not yet ready to share my darkest pain.

In terms of the process, it all starts with a certain event. Thoughts and feelings then need a couple of days to circulate inside my head until I fixate them on the paper as a draft with just a pen. There can be several sketches that convey the same thought, so I choose the one that speaks the most to me and redraw it in the drawing software. Then, I polish the idea and composition, add contours and colors, and it’s ready! My means of expression formed while I created my first works at the beginning of the war.

I did not expect to be such an active part of it. All my life, I thought it was enough just to be a good person and a pro at what you do. I never considered highlighting my nationality as important because it’s not the only part of who I am. But the war proved me wrong. When they hate and want to eliminate you for the sole fact of your existence, you become more persistent in showing your origin. I do it with my own weapon — my art.

Anhelina Drachenko – Artist

Anhelina Drachenko’s Instagram

Artwok by Anhelina Drachenko

Regarding the Ukrainian creative frontlines; I communicate with many artists, and all these people are incredible. They draw more than I do, depicting relevant problems, some even have an English-speaking audience. Creative frontline tries to concentrate the whole world’s attention on the war against muscovy, on the genocide of the Ukrainian people. 

What about me? I can express my feelings and emotions through drawing. It’s a sedative of a kind. One could say it’s the only thing I do well, which is why I am trying to help by creating art.

Alina Tyshchuk – Illustrator and Print Maker

Alina Tyshchuk’s Instagram

“The more you know, the more you see,” said Aldous Huxley. Now, Ukrainian painters and designers hold in their hands one of the most powerful instruments of spreading information — their art. Visualization is a great way to wage creative and information war. We draw attention to the war in Ukraine with our illustrations and posters, and we spread the truth to all corners of the world. We inspire hope in our people, which helps us resist and make our inevitable victory closer. 

Volia by Alina Tyshchuk

Depicting the events and images of war is how we write history. Symbolically, my illustration “Volia” is a picture of the Independence Monument that rises over the Kyiv center. The word “Volia” has two meanings in Ukrainian: freedom and will. There are no better words to describe the people of Ukraine.

Oksana Fedko – Illustrator

Oksana Fedko’s Instagram 

I have many illustrator friends and acquaintances, so I can give our creative frontline some assessment. It’s very powerful. I am proud of my colleagues as every newsbreak is always followed by a reaction from the creative community.

Pictures can be shared on socials quickly and easily, they don’t need translation into other languages, and they convey emotions and feelings really well. One illustration can substitute many words since deciphering the message conveyed by the image takes significantly less time than reading a text. This all makes illustration an essential instrument in the information war.

Aside from spreading information to the farthest corners of the world, being part of demonstrations, and turning the huge media’s attention, illustrations also help raise funds for victims of war and for our army’s needs. I’ve seen many initiatives that raised costs by selling products with illustrations dedicated to the topic of war. 

Illustration by Oksana Fedko

I try to convey my love for the Ukrainian people and the Armed Forces of Ukraine through my works. It’s my way to thank everyone who defends our country, maintain the fighting spirit, and get us one step closer to our victory. Also, it’s a way for me to spread information about the actual situation, about our courage and bravery.

What was my motivation to create pieces dedicated to the topic of war? Mostly, it was a way for me to deal with my feelings evoked by the invasion, a way to do my part and not stay aside. On the first days of the attack, I tried to find my place on this frontline by taking part in various volunteer initiatives that I was able to find. But, at the end of the day, I came to a conclusion that I would be the most helpful if I did what I could do best.

Nata Levitasova – Artist

Nata Levitasova’s Instagram

Ukrainian creative frontline is now one with the fighting forces. It is driven by fury, pain, desire to protect the country and fellow citizens, desire to help. That’s why it’s so powerful. Fury is a very powerful emotion. It is fuel for new projects.

The main goal of my work right now is to show the reality of war to the world. Paintings, unlike photographs, don’t get censored by social networks. You can promote them as pieces of art on Instagram, targeting the US and Europe. Half of the money from sales is donated to the army and volunteers.

Bucha by Nata Levitasova

I’ve hung new pictures all around the house. The shadows they cast look like bloodstains, and the canvases themselves are the wounds. My wounds. Some artists say they cannot draw the war, but I can’t help drawing it. Mountains? Doves? Peaceful Carpathian huts? Drawing all of it has no sense anymore. I’ve sent a photo of my pictures to my curator in Europe. He started crying. I am sorry if my paintings bring you grief too. But I won’t stop.

List of Charities

Here’s the list of credible organizations to which you can donate money:

We are beyond grateful to all the fantastic people who agreed to participate in this Creative Talks entry and do their best to help Ukraine. We are trying to do our part and hope this article helped you understand Ukrainians better and learn more about what they have to live through. Thank you.

If you’ve missed Part I and Part II, you can check them out by clicking the corresponding link, and if you think Approval Studio is able to help you with your charitable project to spread information about war or raise funds for Ukrainian cause — please contact us.

Слава Україні!

Picture of Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts

A guy with wide spheres of interest — from project management to board games and to spicy guitar riffs. Has a solid experience in marketing, creative team management, translation, teaching, and occasional freelancing masochism. Big and bald.
Picture of Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts

A guy with wide spheres of interest — from project management to board games and to spicy guitar riffs. Has a solid experience in marketing, creative team management, translation, teaching, and occasional freelancing masochism. Big and bald.

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