Art has been used as an escape and a tool for healing for centuries. Not just a hobby, artists find beauty in an ever-evolving world.
They find it for themselves, they harness an idea or situation as a prompt for commission pieces and they expand the intricate and nuanced beauty of the world around us. Some of the best artists can elicit emotions from a simple brush stroke, a peaceful landscape, or an enticing color palette.
Artwork from tragedy
The same could be said, especially, for art that is born from war. Ukrainian artist Olga Wilson has been keeping a list of entries on her Instagram account that she has titled “war notes.” Though her art comes through as digital drawings and not as written messages — as the title of the project would lead you to assume — the words included in the captions are just as profound as the immense talent found in the vibrant artwork.
Wilson’s message through this series? Clear and concise, as told through its introduction on her website:
“I would like to share my “war notes” made through drawings. We have only one home – it’s our planet. We should keep it safe. In the 21st century we, all people and countries, should evolve and never act from a position of force, but from a position of negotiations, diplomacy, rationalism and consensus. It’s the main goal of humanity. War is the worst mistake. The best solution for war is never to start it. We all are connected. Our energies and souls are connected.Use your energy to create good, not evil.”
The series has hosted updates almost every single day since March, and some days far more than once. Wilson has detailed the waves of grief and intense heartbreak that are currently being experienced in war-torn Ukraine. She uses stars to weave every piece, every digital entry, together. They are a symbol of remembrance for all of those who have been lost. The drawings themselves are whimsical in their existence, with shimmering blue hues utilized to depict those who are no longer on this earthly plane.
Artwork that unifies
When an artist can capture a moment, a feeling, an energy that many people share, it can help to validate those feelings for anyone who is experiencing them. Finding common ground can be a unifier between individuals who otherwise may feel different than everyone else. In creating the “War Notes” series, Wilson helps to bring the Ukrainian population’s struggles and fortitude to the forefront of the global conversation. However, this work also helps to communicate a shared experience that many of us will never have to go through.
But grief. Grief is tricky and we can all feel it heavy in our hearts at times. Wilson’s art helps to connect people around the world to the tragic losses in Ukraine. Those of us who are not near it may be less likely to feel its impact, but the art puts the very real losses right in front of us to see. For example, her recently posted reel puts a sampling of the project to music, asking us to consider the ramifications of war.
Artwork that heals Ukraine
The art series itself has been heavily impacted by outside influences. While Wilson was able to easily find the stories of many fallen Ukrainians, she has now garnered a following. People have been sending in submissions of the loved ones that they, too, have lost to the war, with tidbits about the individuals to help her create stunning, timeless portraits.
Although the art will never bring back the losses that Ukraine has encountered recently, it can memorialize the people, places and small details of their lives that will never be forgotten. Wilson’s artwork stands as a monument, existing like a tapestry that is in the midst of being created. It is living history, and we are here to witness it as it unfolds and teaches us lessons for the future. While each new piece of art that is added stands for another soul (or soul) lost to nonsensical violence, there is beauty in giving the deceased a place to be acknowledged and revered.
Artwork that heals the world
If we are to view the work in the way that Wilson has intended, then the world can acknowledge its pitfalls and see how senseless its fighting is. Works like this–that can draw empathy from viewers–do have the potential to make a far bigger impact than just being viewed in passing. As we see a rise in fury over gun violence stateside, revisiting these portraits feels like even more of a reason to stand for the innocents.
Aside from this art’s specific references and the potential it holds to keep a record of the immense loss of one country, these digital drawings may deliver a sense of peace to Wilson, and to her comrades in Ukraine. A 2017 evaluation by arts and mental health charity Arts and Minds revealed that artists in the program felt a substantial decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression. Over 75% of those who were polled noted an increase in their well-being.
For those who are struggling mentally and emotionally from the fallout of the war, art of any kind – the creation, thoughtful dissection and enjoyment of artwork – can help to heal their wounds. Check out Wilson’s artwork as it updates to honor the lives of those lost.