This Kazakh Canadian Illustrator is Killing it as an Artist

Ola Volo is an artist, muralist and illustrator, based in both Vancouver and Montreal, and she’s living her dream. Choosing to be an artist was the best decision Ola Volo ever made, but it was also her hardest.

Ola gave herself no plan B. She left her job, gave up her apartment and bought a one-way ticket to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time artist. She had no other option but to make it happen. “Nobody will ever believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. I went into that mentality; I will do everything I can, and if it fails, at least I am in a happier state of mind.”

Moving from Kazakhstan to Canada with her family at the age of 10, Ola used art as way to help integrate and stay interested in something without language. She found art to be a universal language, and something that she always felt confident and curious in. So, as a young adult, when Ola found herself in a marketing job, earning good pay and surrounded by ambitious people, there was no reason why she shouldn’t have been enjoying herself, except that she wasn’t. There just wasn’t any room to pursue her art.

“It wasn’t until a year after I graduated that I got into such a low state of mind. I just couldn’t do this job anymore because it just completely wasn’t making me happy.”

“I felt soulless to be honest, and I decided to give everything I have. I’ll paint 100 paintings if I need to just to make rent. My income needs to come from something I really believe in.”

So the relentless pursuit to find work started, she wrote hundreds of emails, and received just as many rejections. “I started to reach out without any shame, no shyness, no hesitation. I was like, ‘It’s not a time for that.’” “There were so many rejections, but I also got some opportunities because I was that hungry. I think without having a plan B, I had so much energy for it.”

Since 2007, Ola has been making a list of her goals; comprising of the biggest and coolest things she could dream of achieving. “I can’t believe how limited my horizon was in 2007. I could only see this far, and I could only dream of having a website. I could only dream of having a portfolio together. Once I achieved that, I was able to write a new list, and the horizon just moves up.”

Today, Ola’s pinching herself. She has a constant flow of well-known clients, creatives and companies seeking her out. She’s painted the walls of Hootsuite and Starbucks, collaborated with Louis Vuitton, has had her illustrations on beer, athletic pants and shoes, and has painted murals on city walls over the globe.

If there’s one piece of wisdom Ola would impart, it’s to work damn hard. What really changed her pursuit of art was the removal of the idea of creating only when inspiration strikes. “Doing the actual work will actualise your dreams… without you doing anything, nothing will come about.”



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