Room 8 Studio opens Ukraine to the world through art

Cover art by Elena Semenko

The world was in shock after Russia started a full-scale invasion of Ukraine one year ago today. The implications of modern conflict mobilized millions of people from all nations to uphold justice in every possible way. The world has sent help in the form of donations, supplies, and massive displays of support and encouragement. 

As a global company, Room 8 Studio joined the worldwide effort to provide support and encouragement to the people of Ukraine, but also felt the need to celebrate the inner strength of Ukrainian people and their unwavering will to prevail.

It is not the first time the people of Ukraine have faced adversity. The twentieth century was witness to several events that put the country’s moral fabric under strain. But they have always kept their identity and will intact through the clever use of art that transcends world events.
Room 8 Studio decided to honor this brave tradition by producing a series of illustrations that show both the beauty and richness of Ukraine’s culture and heritage. Our “Love for Ukraine” collection is a way to symbolize hope, celebrate their culture, and raise awareness about what’s going on in the country.

The Story Behind “Love for Ukraine”

Three days after the start of the Russian invasion, many of our artists felt they needed to use their talents in a positive way. Vadim Kraevoy, Head of Art Service Line, proposed the creation of a bold collection of illustrations that could be shared by the gaming and artists community with ease, to help raise awareness about the war. The key message was the resilience of its culture, the shared values, and symbols of the people, and their will to prevail.

Karyna Khoroshailo, our Character Concept Art Team Lead, was immediately on board with the idea. She gathered a team of highly motivated and talented artists, and defined the concept and visual style of the collection. The team decided on a timeless style that resembled classic charcoal drawings and ink and could be easily recognizable and shared. Then each artist set out to look for inspiration in traditional paintings, folk tales, and historical and religious roots to find the elements that make Ukrainian culture unique.

The result is a stunningly beautiful and diverse collection of more than 80 illustrations that are now available to our Instagram followers.

The portrayal of women

Traditionally, women in Ukraine have been associated with the fertility and wholesomeness of the Motherland. Consequently, many of their ancient tales and customs focus on the feminine force of mother nature and her creative power.

Woman as a metaphor for the Motherland. Artwork by Anna Tolstikova.

Artwork by Yana Kabaniuk.
Artwork by Evgenii Ostapov.

Women are both the givers of life and the enforcers of nature’s will. Many depictions of Ukraine’s landscapes contain the image of a powerful woman either as part of the creation or holding it in her caring arms.

Ukrainian Crafts

Ukraine’s diversity has been expressed through the artistic style of every community for centuries. Historically, its people absorbed technological advancements and ultimately distilled them through ancient traditions to give birth to an incredible variety of artistic styles.

Embroidery is a key element of Ukrainian culture. Different regions of Ukraine are represented by different embroidery patterns. Artwork by Maksym Solomakhyn.
Artwork by Natalia Breeva.

Embroidery was among women’s most common manual crafts, being taught formally in educational workshops for the better part of the past two centuries. Patterns were used as amulets that decorated shirts, bed covers, towels, and much more. As a result, Ukraine developed over 100 techniques and types of embroidery, making it one of the most prolific countries in northern Europe.

Wall paintings on Ukrainian ethnic houses. Artwork by Valentyn Soroka.

Many traditional homes were decorated with lush paintings of bouquets and flowers around windows and doors. They would resemble friezes because of their complexity. Village women also heavily decorated the insides of homes, especially the area around the oven.

Cossacks and peaceful village life. Artwork by Anastasiya Danko.
Artwork by Anastasiia Pomohai.
Artwork by Lidiia Shishkina.

Shades of Ukrainian heritage

Traditions and art in Ukraine have always been closely linked to politics, especially during times of oppression. For example, Kobzars, Ukrainian bards, were very popular by the 15th century and were the keepers of historical memory. However, this made them unpopular during the Tsarist regimes, who prosecuted them, fearing they would stir the national sentiment of the Ukrainian people. Kobzars were practically eradicated during the soviet era for this very reason, but there has been a renaissance of Kobzar performances in the land.

One cannot speak about Ukrainian art without mentioning Maria Prymachenko, a folk artist who, during the Cold War years, expressed the desire of its people for peace and the end of senseless conflict. Unfortunately, last year, a historical museum that housed a collection of Prymachenko’s work was burned down. However, the people of Ivankiv were able to save many of the pieces and preserve her memory.

As you can see, Ukrainians have always loved peace and valued freedom, holding their tradition high against the background of an always-changing world.

The image of Maria Prymachenko with her famous works. Artwork by Daria Demenkova.
Trembita — Ukrainian folk wind musical instrument, common in the Carpathians and Hutsul region. Artwork by Elena Semenko.
Chumaki (merchant caravans) on the Poltava Way, the oldest street in Kharkiv. Artwork by Daria Kovalova.
Kobzars were wandering musicians, keepers of folk songs, poems, and fairy tales. And kobzar is a symbol of freedom. Artwork by Danylo Dodonov.
Sunflowers are one of the most iconic Ukrainian symbols. Artwork by Vladyslav Martynov.

Religion in Art

As happens in many countries of Europe, religion played an immense role in the history and culture of Ukraine. Slavic traditions revolved around rites and ceremonies that celebrated the fertility of the land and sought to please nature so it would shower them with blessings of plenty and strength. This can be seen in traditional artwork depicting rural landscapes, and holiday celebrations filled with joy.

A wealth of ancient stories involved the sun, the moon, and the stars. Moreover, many fables would have wild animals as their lead characters symbolizing cunning, wisdom, and strength. Many of these stories are still embedded in popular culture, serving as foundations for some of the most recognizable video game franchises today.

Orthodox Easter is a great Ukrainian tradition, and Easter eggs are an important Ukrainian symbol. Artwork by Denis Pospelov.
Artwork by Oksana Khlaponina.
Artwork by Olha Karvytska.
Celebration of the Kupala holiday — an ancient, pre-Christian holiday. Artwork by Inna Burmachenko.
Performance of folk songs preserved through oral tradition, from generation to generation. Artwork by Yevhen Bodrenko.

In the 10th century, Volodymir the Great became a powerful prince consolidating the Kyivan Rus. He sent emissaries to other parts of the world for a religion that granted blessings to its people. Word reached him that the Byzantine empire was so beautiful and just his messengers didn’t know whether they were in Heaven or on Earth. So Volodymir decided to make Kyiv Christian, introducing the Byzantine Law code as a foundation.

Many traditions today combine pre-Christian traditions with orthodox celebrations, like the intricate designs of Pysanky eggs used for celebrating Easter every year.

Our illustrators perfectly captured the feelings of awe and inspiration transmitted by folk tales and tradition over the centuries.

Monument to the founders of Kyiv. Artwork by Vladimir Slobtsov.
Prince Volodymyr the Great — the ruler who baptized Kyivan Rus. Artwork by Igor Avdeev.
Scene from Mykola Gogol’s novel Evenings on a Farm near Dykanka. Artwork by Natalia Khranovska.
Animals, especially storks, are frequent guests of Ukrainian fairy tales. Artwork by Igor Kotsiuba.

Bottom Line

A year after the invasion of Ukraine, we are proud to present a collection of over 80 illustrations that perfectly encapsulate the country’s rich history and cultural diversity. The goal is for the world to witness the resiliency of this great nation and the universal values they defend. This artwork gallery also showcases the talent of our artists and their will to continue inspiring people around the world and producing valuable concept art for video games and stories.

As Karyna Khoroshailo said: “We fell in love with every pixel of these works.”

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    Elena Natsvlishvili
    Head of production
    Vadim Krayevoy