Meet Our Illustrator... Katya
From time to time, we’ll be highlighting different artists and creatives that contribute to What’s for Dinner? magazine. To kick it off, we’re doing a highlight featuring our talented illustrator who’s been bringing our pages to life with her incredible artistry.
It's not just her incredible talent that we admire, but also her resilience in the face of adversity. Working in a war-torn Ukraine, she faces power outages and air sirens on a regular basis, yet she never lets that dampen her spirits or creativity. She continues to pour every drop of her love and imagination into her work, and we are all the better for it.
Tell us a bit about yourself. My name is Katya. I'm 35 years old. I was born into a family of a construction worker and a geography teacher. My home is in Kyiv, Ukraine, but due to the full-scale war, my family and I had to move to a safer place in Western Ukraine. We also brought our two cats with us—a large ginger-striped cat and a tricolor cat from a shelter. They bring joy and warmth to our lives, although they can be mischievous. By profession, I am a textile designer, but currently, I work as an illustrator, creating artwork for children's books and magazines, digital illustrations for various interesting and inspiring projects, including What’s for Dinner? magazine.
When did you realize that you wanted to dedicate your life to drawing? I have been drawing my whole conscious life, since I was around 5 years old, maybe even earlier—I can't remember exactly. I always attended art clubs and workshops—clay modeling, painting, a children's art school, private lessons in watercolor painting, and a batik studio (silk painting). From childhood, I knew that I would become an artist. Although, around the age of 13 or 14, I had a few moments of doubt: maybe I wanted to be an artist simply because I excelled at it? But as time went on, I became more and more aware that this was my path to understanding the world, communicating with people, personal growth, and bringing joy and inspiration to others.
What inspired you to start creating illustrations for children's books? Since childhood, I have been fascinated by beautiful books—I often had fairy tales or captivating stories read to me before bed. I loved examining the illustrations down to the smallest details. It so happened that shortly after university, I decided to create cards and notebooks with my own illustrations. One of these cards caught the attention of Ukrainian children's writer Oksana Lushchevska, who has been living in America for a long time. That's how my journey of illustrating books began. I couldn't even imagine that one day my drawings would be printed by publishing houses. The first one was a coloring book about Saint Nicholas and gingerbread cookies. And to this day, I have had 10 books and over 100 magazines printed with my illustrations.
I can confidently say that holding a book with my own illustrations is an unparalleled feeling.
It's the fusion of literature and art, the understanding that children and adults will flip through and explore the books just like I did in my childhood, realizing that my illustrations can captivate, inspire, or uplift the reader's mood—and that's wonderful. What do you enjoy about being an illustrator? I thoroughly enjoy the process of drawing itself. Lately, I have taken on more of an observer role rather than a creator—the ideas come to me, and I simply capture them on paper or a tablet. It's a fascinating experience. Overall, I love exploring new techniques and approaches in drawing because working exclusively in one style is challenging for me. I crave freedom and experimentation.
Does your daughter participate in your creative process? I have a daughter named Sofia, who is 13 years old. Usually, when I'm drawing, she occupies herself with her own activities, but sometimes I ask her for advice—and her suggestions are always on point and often humorous. For example, thanks to her idea, in one of the houses on the Christmas scratch-off poster, a cat appeared on the Christmas tree—you know how cats love holiday decorations!
Could you describe your life before and after February 24, 2022? Before the war, life was carefree (as we all now understand) and often on autopilot. After February 24th, everything is lived more consciously. It's like waking up from a dream – you understand what is real and what is not. Suddenly, gadgets, apartments, cars, and other secondary things ceased to be interesting. The most important thing is to live, to live in peace, to love, to ensure that everything is well with your loved ones, to be healthy and inspired – that is the real treasure. When you realize this, life is filled with spiritual lightness.
Tell us about a typical day in your life. In the first half of the day, I take care of various daily tasks (grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, going to the post office) and do some work. Recently, I started doing exercises, which add energy, optimism, and clarity to my thoughts. After lunch, the main work begins. I work on illustrations and create sketches for drawings, sometimes I take walks and observe the world to find hints for new projects. When the war started, the air raid alarms greatly disrupted my work routine. But due to their prolonged presence in our lives, we managed to adapt to such conditions because life goes on, regardless of anything.
If you had to characterize Ukraine with one word, what would it be? People. I am constantly amazed by Ukrainians – how brave, courageous, strong, free, invincible, beautiful, determined, and sensitive they are. This list can be endless. It's simply astonishing how, despite the extremely challenging conditions of war, Ukrainians not only haven't lost the ability to love, create, work, help, and create a cozy atmosphere around them, but they have multiplied all these qualities by 100.
Besides the war ending as soon as possible, what do you wish for children and families in Ukraine the most? Inspiration. The inspiration to live, love, and create goodness.