Interview with Ola Volo


Ola Volo (BFA, Emily Carr University) is a Canadian illustrator from Kazakhstan with a distinctive style drawn from history, multiculturalism and folklore. Her intricate works bring animals, people, architecture and nature together to articulate diverse stories rich with symbolism and elaborate forms. Ola creates winding narratives that lovingly acknowledge the subtleties of human nature while celebrating the little surprises of everyday life. Her work is widely recognized for its inventiveness and imaginative gesture; every character is full of spirited personality and inhabits a dynamic environment. Her work also lends itself often to the public realm with several of her murals helping to shape and beautify outdoor spaces in Vancouver. As well as creating commissions for a wide range of international clients including HootSuite, Vancouver Opera, LuluLemon and ENI, Volo also finds time to do her own gallery artwork and book projects.

I interviewed Ola at The Heatley Restaurant/Bar on Hastings Street in Strathcona.

You can follow Ola Volo on twitter @OlaVee

Growing up did you always have an interest in Painting?

Yes I started painting when I was 5 years old. I took professional art classes “Russian artists” with an Emily Carr professor. I then took Emily Carr courses while I was still in highschool.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Storytelling is a big thing for me. I enjoy people’s stories, I am a great visual storyteller, it has opened up so many doors. I also love listening to storytellers podcasts.

Tell me about Black, White and everything in between, how do you define this?

When it comes to the process and my art (my background is Kazakhstan and Poland), folklore, Eastern European culture and patterns, ink work, line work and connecting with people.

What is the ONE lasting impression you want to leave in your paintings and illustrations?

Nobody ever interprets the story how I want them too.

How would you describe your style of painting?

  • Narrative Illustrator
  • Decorative illustrator
  • Define the space, and being a positive piece

How did you get into painting your illustrations in restaurants and such?

My first mural was at Hootsuite headquarters in January 2013, from there I have done work for many tech companies, restaurants and breweries.

In your travels, which city gives you the most inspiration for your work?

When I moved to NY for a bit, everything was vivid there and fashionable. Traveling to Poland and Kazakhstan people still live through fables and stories that have been passed on.

Is there a gallery, country or city you have always wanted to have an exhibition but have yet to do so?

The Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea in New York (it’s my favourite gallery)

What is your favourite cuisine to eat?


What are your favourite dishes to eat either in Vancouver or anywhere in the world you have travelled?

  • Asparagus Salad at Le Pichet in Seatttle
  • Crispy duck springrolls at the Stableshouse in Seattle
  • Kale Caesar Salad and the Meatballs at The Heatley in Vancouver

How long did The Heatley take from concept to completion? And it was involved?

1 month from concept to finish. “The Men in the Boat” is based on Michael’s (owner) life and how the Heatley has come together.

Hastings Street Planters

Hastings Street Planters

Tell our readers about the planters on Hastings Street

I was fortunate to be asked to paint 3 planters as part of a street art project on Hastings in Strathcona which are located across the street from The Heatley.

I understand you have worked with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, tell me how that came to be?

They found me last year and I got involved with them designing identity and graphics for their t-shirts, waterbottles, posters and programs. This year I am doing it all including all the design elements.

Tell our readers about your project with Doan’s Craft Brewing

I was fortunate to be chosen as their designer from the beginning and I designed their beer labels as well as the mural inside the brewery tasting room and pretty much do all their graphics.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to express themselves to paint professionally?

Look within your culture and family and let that guide you work.

What is next for you?

I will be going to an International mural festival in Portland in August.

By: Richard Wolak

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