Alyona Nickelsen


Alyona was born and raised in Ukraine. Since childhood, she has drawn for teachers and fellow students, published school newspapers, and created posters, displays, and entire art shows for various school events. "I guess I have always been an artist at heart. However, my art took a breather while I concentrated on completing my education and dealing with life's various surprises", she says.

Her creative bent awoke again after moving to Southern California in 1999. "Before then, harsh circumstances of life kept me from taking my art seriously. But then, an opportunity arose, thanks to my wonderful husband Tom (for his support and patience). Everything that has been and will be created, I dedicate to him!"

From the beginning, Alyona's favorite medium had been graphite and charcoal. However, colored pencils have now captured her inspiration and creativity.

"I began to understand that a medium I had overlooked from childhood could do so much more than just sketch and produce a wondrous array of colors and tones. I discovered new systems and methods that changed my perceptions and molded the results into something much more than I had ever thought possible", she says.

"A great influence on my work has been the talent of Hans Christian Andersen," Alyona says. "He could weave very innovative stories about the simple events in everyday life and make them fascinating to listen to. I use the language of shapes and colors to do the same with my paintings. Capture the simple movement of a leaf caught in a breeze and, though it may happen the same exact way only once in all of nature's complexity, it is saved for a lifetime when rendered by my pencils."

"People always ask me: Are you sure this is colored pencil?" Alyona's paintings really don't look like what you would expect from colored pencils. She applies 20 or more layers of color to give the drawing an oil painting effect – a process she calls "colored pencil painting" because of its surprising realism and intricacy. "Knowledge of the medium's essences, constant improvement of skills, tools, and techniques, searching for new ways to use the medium, and being open to experimentation are crucial keys for success. Hard work and passion bring results.

I am enjoying my journey and looking forward to new challenges."


Selective Resume

Alyona has been exhibited and won awards in numerous prestigious national and international juried shows such as The Salmagundi Club, American Artists Professional League, Allied Artists of America, Audubon Artists, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, Colored Pencil Society of America, and many others. Alyona was also invited to judge UKCPS 10th Annual Open International Exhibition 2011. Her work has been displayed in private and public collections. She is a Signature Member of the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA).

Selected Publications

  • Column writer for Colored Pencil Magazine, 2012.
  • Featured Artist in Signature Showcase, p. 112 (published in 2010 by Colored Pencil Society Of America).
  • Featured Artist in "Strokes Of Genius 3: The Best Of Drawing – Fresh Perspectives." pp.72-73 (published in 2011 by F+W Media, Inc.).
  • Featured Artist in the Artist's Magazine, May 2010, "Black Magic," pp.68-72.
  • Featured Artist in the American Artist Magazine, March 2010, "Interpret Reality with Colored Pencils," pp.34-41.
  • Featured Artist in the Artist's Magazine, January/February 2010, "White: A Delicate Explosion of Color," pp.34-38.
  • Author of "Colored Pencil Painting Bible. Techniques For Achieving Luminous Color And Ultrarealistic Effects," (published in February 2009 by Random House Publications).
  • Featured Artwork in American Art Collector Magazine, "Keeping It Real," January 2008.
  • Featured Artwork in American Artist Drawing Magazine, "Resources For Artists," Fall 2007.
  • Featured Artwork in the Art Business News Magazine, "The Palatable Palette," September 2007.
  • Featured Artist, Cover Art, and Featured Artwork in the International Artist Magazine, June/July 2007, "A Recipe For Eye Candy," pp. 62-69. Featured Artist in the American Artist Magazine, April 2007, "Painterly Effects With Colored Pencil," pp. 34-41.
  • Featured Artist in the American Artist Drawing Magazine, Winter 2007, "Top-Ten Finalist Cover Competition 2006", "Summer Time".
  • Featured Artist in the Artist's Magazine, January/February 2007, "Pencil Possibilities," pp. 112-113.
  • Featured Artist in the Art-Talk Magazine, "Rising Stars," August 2006.
  • Featured Artist in the Art Business News Magazine, "Emerging Artists," August 2006.
  • Featured Artwork in the Décor Magazine, August 2006, "Summer Time".
  • Cover art in the Art Calendar Magazine, May 2006, "Ripe Point Of View"

Selected Awards

  • 8th Annual FMP Exhibition, "Summer Time," Best of Show.
  • 93rd Annual National Exhibition 2006 The Allied Artists of America, Inc. The National Arts Club, The Pauline Law Memorial Award for Graphics, "Summer Time".
  • 2006 American Artist Magazine Drawing Competition A Top-Ten Finalist, "Summer Time".
  • 10th Annual 2006 National Juried Art Show "Lines into Shapes" Art Center of Estes Park, First Place, "Ripe Point Of View".
  • 21st Annual Conservatory Art Classic 2006 National Exhibition The Bosque Conservatory Art Council, Silver Medal Award Other Media, "Summer Time".
  • 14th Annual International Colored Pencil Exhibition CPSA, The Leon Mathews Century Award for Excellence, "Breaking Away".
  • 23rd Annual Artist's Magazine's Art Competition, A Finalist in the Still Life Category, "Curve Appeal".
  •  75th Annual National Exhibition Hudson Valley Art Association, Inc. The National Arts Club, New York, Arthur Harless Memorial Award, "Curve Appeal".
  • 7th Annual FMTP Member Show Online Colored Pencil Magazine, Second Place, "Curve Appeal".
  • 37th National Juried Fine Art Exhibition Associated Arts of Ocean Shores, Judge's Award, "Summer Time" – Judge Butch Krieger.
  • 13th Annual International Colored Pencil Exhibition CPSA, The Dick Blick Award for Excellence, "Ripe Point of View".
  • 37th Annual National Juried Art Exhibition "View Point 2005", The Cincinnati Art Club North Light Books Award, "Ripe Point Of View".

Artist's Statement

After years of work, I became fed up with colored pencils being labeled a "slow" or even "inferior" medium. I decided to see what I could do about it and prove that colored pencil medium can compete head-to-head with oil paints.

I have devoted a significant amount of research and my own time and effort, looking "outside the box" and reexamining the traditional methods artists have used to work with the colored pencil medium. I compared the various approaches used in painting with other mediums to the capabilities of colored pencils. I was looking for more efficient working methods, more specifically in the portrait genre, as it is traditionally considered the most difficult of an artist's tasks.

The idea of writing a book on this topic has bubbled in the back of my mind for quite a while now since the successful publication of my first book, "Colored Pencil Painting Bible." I have been repeatedly badgered about it by many of my readers, fans, and students.

I'm convinced that the typical colored pencil paradigm is familiar to any colored pencil artist: "keep your point sharp," "maintain a light touch and tight strokes," "work from light to dark," "reserve the white of the paper for the highlights," etc. However, for a non-artist or even an experienced painter, this methodology can be exhausting, awkward, and, to the experienced oil painter, downright crazy.

Though we loved it for many other reasons, we colored pencil artists became accustomed to the many limitations and restrictions that have dogged our medium. But is this really the only path available for us? Apparently – not at all.

Colored pencil is a very capable medium with unique properties and enormous potential. To unlock it takes only an appropriate set of tools and the right approach. You can read about the results of my undertaking in my "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits" book, as well as on the pages of this website, and I promise – there is a profusion of wonderful surprises in store for you.