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 dealt 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, 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 brings results.
I am enjoying my journey and looking forward to new challenges."
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, Catherine 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).
When I was a little girl every time I kissed my Mom goodbye before a long day at home, I asked her to bring me "something good" from work. She knew that I didn't mean candy or toys. Pencils were the sweetest candy in the world for me. I liked the smell of the wood; I liked to touch their glossy surface; and their colors brightened the childhood days of the gray and not so bright reality of the Soviet Union.
Now, after many years, I look back at my youth and understand that colored pencils were my shelter; a little miracle that kept the totalitarian machine from killing the uniqueness of an artistic soul. It is little wonder that I chose colored pencils for my primary medium as a professional artist.
I think of myself as an independent individual, not a follower. That is probably the reason that instead of simply following in the tracks of others, I created my own colored pencil painting techniques. The overall finished look is reminiscent more of oil paintings than what you would expect from a drawing. Using various types of pencils in layers, working with fixatives, blenders and odorless mineral spirits I can cover the surface of the paper blazingly fast and eliminate pencil strokes completely. Colored pencils allow me to have complete control of the medium and to depict the finest details of my subjects.
If you are familiar with Ukrainian or Russian culture, you may recall the bright women's shawls as one element of the folklore costumes. As a child I was always fascinated with the striking effect of those bright colors against deep black backgrounds. I think about black backgrounds as a symbol of hard reality and bright colors, such as those seen in the patterns of a beautiful shawl, as a challenge to it. It is a hymn to Life and the Human Soul. In my work, as a reminiscence of a child's vision, I use the highest contrast, vivid colors and seek the most realistic rendering possible for an eye-popping effect. So, even a small artwork can attract attention from across the room and really make a statement.
I am an optimist. I think positively. I have faith and I have hope. In my artwork I show the bright side of life and use shadow only to emphasize light. I believe that beauty will save the world. In my small way I am contributing to it by spreading the word in the language I know best - shapes and colors.
© Alyona Nickelsen