Olga Rybalko and Bill Higginson are living their bliss in a match made in heaven. Equally gifted and passionate in their artistic endeavors, the dynamic duo team up for live painting events that bring people together to celebrate the visual arts. The gregarious artists entertain crowds with their shared vision and synergistic brushwork. Securing first place honours in prestigious competitions like the Golden Brush, not once but twice, stamps their shared experience with euphoric highs and renewed enthusiasm for their craft.
Their skillful artistry and playful imaginations are vividly demonstrated in Pencil Trees, one of their winning canvases. Created in just over an hour, and thematically bound by the concept of evolution, the whimsical painting suggests that trees will give way to coloured pencils in some futuristic surreal environment. It boggles the mind. The juxtaposition of the traditional landscape and the tools one might use to create it spark interest and delight. The realistic portrayal of billowing clouds and sharpened pencils only add to the intrigue. No wonder this dreamlike creation made such a profound impact on the audience, who selected it as the piece best representing the theme.
The award-winning team lights up the room as they co-create on canvas at contests, charity events, and fundraisers. “We thrive on the crowds and the adrenaline,” shares Olga. Having gained so much pleasure from their combined talents, the pair decided to launch their own company, Firebird Live Art. “Imagine having a wedding, business function, private party or anything you can conjure up in your imagination caught on canvas while it is actually happening!” says Bill. “Here’s a wedding we painted recently at Bridges Restaurant on Granville Island. The city and sunset views were an amazing backdrop for the painting—and a fun crowd to go with it!”
The secret to the couple’s success may be their mutual positive regard. They continually compliment each other. “Olga’s the master at figure drawing and gesture—I leave that aspect to her,” says Bill. “And of course I was masterfully outpainted when we competed side by side in an Art Battle. Suffice to say, I would never put myself in that position again. I am trying to preserve my career,” Bill laughs. Unlike the Golden Brush, Art Battle is a competition in which individual artists have only a short twenty minutes to complete and 18 X 24 canvas. Olga won with her potent brushwork, dynamic perspective, and scintillating palette in this scarlet streetscape.
Coming from the Ukraine, Olga basks in the magnificence of British Columbia’s rugged wilderness. “There were no expanses of nature like those found here”, she shares. And the preponderance of her work reflects her infatuation with the natural beauty of her newfound surroundings. Take On the Mountain, for example.
This majestic landscape captures the essence of Olga’s fascination. Confident brushwork details firey grasses and golden wildflowers bursting forth amidst a bed of burnished rocks. A grove of crimson trees rises and sways against an expansive mountainscape. The painter plays with complimentaries to bring out the beauty and vibrancy of the setting. Atmospheric perspective adds depth and grandeur to the exquisite rendering of this peaceful Whistler vista. The serenity of the scene is a reflection of the artist’s state of mind. Having dedicated herself to drawing and painting for the better part of her life, Olga finds that her art delivers a priceless gift in some sort of karmic compensation. “For me, painting is a meditation,” she explains. Even when working from reference, she feels mystically transported into the scene. “I can actually hear the sounds,” she reveals. And while Olga manages to sell almost every landscape she paints, the proceeds pale in comparison to the tranquility painting brings to her everyday experience. .
“Bill is the really the mastermind when it comes to business, she confides. “I’ve learned so much about marketing working together on his new online venture, Direct2Artist.com.” “I couldn’t have done it without Olga,” adds Bill. “She’s the voice behind all of the search-engine-friendly educational material that draws artists to the site.” The Vancouver-based company provides a ready-made website complete with e-commerce, newsletter, social media, marketing tools, and analytics to artists in 70 countries worldwide. In two short years, they have created a gateway for artists to effectively market and sell their work directly to the consumer; likewise, making it easy for collectors to discover the latest in original artwork. Ingenious!
“Bill is truly a creative genius,” says Olga. He’s done everything under the sun from abstracts to landscapes to photorealism.” And his attention to detail in Afternoon Stroll, a Tofino seascape, will leave you breathless. The analogous colour scheme soothes the soul, and the perfection in realistic rendering leaves the viewer awestruck.
Together this couple puts the pizzazz back into painting and takes on the world. Their positive energy and total engagement with life are an inspiration. “One plus one equals three,” explains Bill. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.