Daniel Skripnik is Ukrainian gay artist, The Tyler Robinson Foundation Committee member, and has collaborated with Adobe x Billie Eilish, mentioned by Britney Spears and The Weeknd and creator of the national symbol of Ukraine, the sunflower.

The story of who? That’s the question I’ve asked myself through the years. I know who I am but I guess it wasn’t clear to the public. I’m gonna explain it, finally.

Since I was a child I have felt the judgmental eyes on me. My childhood was magical for me but it was very uncomfortable for the adults. My little world was filled with dolls and jewelry, but “the gem “ of it was my obsession with the little mermaid. I loved this movie because of the spirit of the character – she felt different and wanted to be closer to people, and so do I, but sadly nobody realized it, all I’ve heard was “the little mermaid look again?” “Stop doing it” “ it’s too gay”. Well, they all almost destroyed my comfort zone and my spiritual space. I was ashamed to hear about “the little mermaid” when I wasn’t alone. I was ashamed to talk about the meaning of the movie because I knew that judgmental eyes wouldn’t accept it. All they cared about was my masculinity.

Luckily, I had something that helped me survive. It was my art and one special person.
Since I was 7 years old I have known exactly who I need to listen to feel artistic and when I get older who would help me feel sexy and confident – Britney Spears. Watching her music videos and dancing, as well as listening to her songs, I felt what I want to express with my art and how I feel inside. In simple words – “Toxic” is my gay anthem.

The first drawings of the mermaids turned into something that gained positive interest from those who weren’t happy about my appearance. I started to focus more on what I create than on my personal life and state of mind. I almost forgot that I have to fight for my private space, my sexuality, and my rights. I thought that I shouldn’t mix art and my spirit but it was a mistake. I decided to change everything.

I’ve been sharing my art with the public since 2016. It all started from the illustrations of Imagine Dragons. It was a traditional painting, acceptable by people but still something that wasn’t about my honest mind.

After three years of doing different things and meeting with people from different countries I began creating a new space for myself – a safe space. I wanted to live my life and I started to follow this direction extremely fast.

I started to think about my past. What guided me and what made me feel real? The first thing that came to my mind was Britney. She was my source of confidence and helped me keep my real self-alive. Then I started to think deeply about my roots. I think that the origin of each person is the beginning of unique stories, and I wanted to visualize my origin in a specific way.

The symbol was born. The sunflower opened up to me.

As a child, I loved being in the middle of nature. I liked drawing it. Sunflowers fascinated me, but they were not just beautiful plants to me. They seemed like portals that took me to other dimensions, away from everyone and everything. The sunflower also represents the judgmental eyes. The eyes of aggressive people, haters and homophobes.

The first celebrity who helped me with showing this symbol to the world was Britney, obviously. The person who motivates me gave me opportunity to talk about my rights, my wishes and dreams. By retweeting my art she introduced me to the bigger audience and let me know the LGBTQ+ community more.

Since the beginning of 2019 and the Britney moment everything changed. I’ve tried to talk about the mental struggles of mine through my art. I was more confident but still not that open until another unexpected challenge. The War.

My country has been attacked.

We woke up at 5 a.m. it wasn’t an alarm, it was the sound of explosions. It was scary but we will get through this dark time.

it’s been almost 4 months since the beginning of war. Long time since I felt happiness and joy. Every day I think about people, myself, and the situation. I felt useless because of my health issues I couldn’t join army. I was depressed. I was angry with myself.
I lost myself. but a few weeks ago I asked myself – what the hell are you thinking about?

I have to keep my identity. I don’t need to lose this mental fight. I decided to recreate myself and release my real soul. This nightmare is the final chapter of my doubts. I thought that I need to separate my identity from my art but i changed my mind.

I’m gay and I’m proud of it. I’m an artist and I’m proud of it. Both statements are equal and should not be separated. So I have to say – I’m Daniel and I’m proud of who I am.

I’m not afraid to create what my heart wants. I’m not afraid to see judgmental eyes.
And I’m not afraid of Russia.

I feel inspired by people who are not losing this mental battle. I respect brave LGBTQ+ people who come out and show to the nation that they also can join the army and protect everyone. We have to be united and I believe that after the win in this war people of Ukraine will be free in every sense.

We are all beautiful. The story only begins.

Portrait by Dmytro Komissarenko