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Alyona Nickelsen's Colored Pencil Painting Portraits Book Review

Alyona Nickelsen's Colored Pencil Painting Portraits Book Review

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits By Alyona Nickelsen 

Alyona Nickelsen's "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits" Book Review

I would just like to start this review by thanking Alyona for asking me to write a review on her new up coming book, "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits". The book is not yet released and so I was incredibly fortunate and excited to get a copy months before the publication date in which to review. According to Amazon, the digital version of the book will be released on the 20th of June 2017 and the print publication is available now for pre-order but release on the 7th of July 2017. I would advise pre-ordering this book as soon as you can, as I have a feeling stock will move very fast once released.  

I actually feel a tad embarrassed about writing this next section, an introduction as to who Alyona Nickelsen is and her previous accomplishments in the world of colored pencil art. I personally feel this lady really needs no introduction at all. Alyona's name and reputation is exemplary throughout the colored pencil community and indeed the art community in general. Not just for her vast wealth of information but her incredibly kind and generous nature makes people automatically gravitate to her. Good natured souls such as Alyona are in short supply and so when discovered are not only refreshing but comforting. 

Alyona Nickelsen

Alyona is originally from the Ukraine but now currently lives in the U.S. As a young child Alyona was always fascinated with art and it was when she moved to the U.S in 1999 that her passion grew, helped by the vast array of opportunities available to young artists in the States. Alyona has since won many awards and show cased her art at many prestigious events throughout her illustrious career.

Alyona has already published an outstanding book for colored pencil artists called "Colored Pencil Painting Bible" a book I personally purchased long before I knew Alyona and found it to be of enormous value in teaching me the correct methods and techniques for using colored pencils.

However, Alyona's most notable success to date has been the "Brush and Pencil" kit that has become the must have tool for all colored pencil artists and enthusiasts. The kit comprises of 9 oz spray can of Advanced Colored Pencil Texture Fixative, another 9oz spray can of Advanced Colored Pencil Final Fixative, a 10ml bottle of Colored Pencil Touch Up Texture, a 14 gram jar of Colored Pencil Powder Blender and finally a 14 gram jar of Colored Pencil Titanium White. Unfortunately I have not used this revolutionary new kit myself, so I am unable to expand further on this, except for the fact that every single colored pencil artist who has used it, absolutely swears by it and can simply not do without, once tried.

"Colored Pencil Painting Portraits"  

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits" is the absolutely stunning visual feast laid out for the readers. Before jumping right into the book and learning the absolute wealth of knowledge Alyona has to offer, when you flick through the pages you will instantly be transformed to a visual paradise of remarkable and outstanding beautiful images from Alyona's own colored pencil art. Perhaps the first notion that will enter your train of thought will be along the lines of "are they really colored pencil paintings" on account of their beauty, realism and incredibly detail; but of course they are. 

It is always difficult writing reviews on books, you don't want to reveal too much information, making people feel they don't need to purchase the book, however, on the other hand, publish just enough information to tantalise interest in the book. I do think that with Alyona's up coming book "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits" the book really speaks for itself given how fabulous Alyona's work is and the fact that almost all colored pencil artists have struggled at one time or another on portraiture. 


"Colored Pencil Painting Portraits" is divided into seven chapters, not including the Forward, Appendix and Introduction. As previously mentioned, throughout the book you are treated to an absolute visual paradise for the eyes, full size pages displaying Alyona's own outstanding colored pencil portraits, many would pay handsomely for a book of just such wonderful art or to view such art hung in a gallery, however, "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits" is  182 pages of outstanding literature delight, detailing colored pencil methods. I almost wrote, tips and techniques, but this is simply not an adequate description of the concise and inspirational words delicately placed within these pages. 

Chapter 1 is Colored Pencil Revolution

Chapter One, goes through all the various stages of colored pencil art work, the pencils used, type of pencils, the various blending tools and the reasons you use blending techniques, the Brush and Pencil kit and a brief introduction to all aspects of the kit. Chapter one gently eases you into colored pencil art and the tools used by Alyona, the rest of the chapters start to get mind blowing after this. 

Chapter 2 is Rules of the Game

Some of you may think that Chapter Two is not relevant to you and skip it, which is of course your right, however, I would highly recommend reading it. I think, personally speaking, in order to become a good artist, at least a knowledgable artist, it is important to understand the great artists we all learnt about in school and the techniques they used. Chapter two also covers topics like color variation, color layers, color underpainting, all the important foundations of colored pencil art. 

Chapter 3 is Working The Medium

Chapter 3 goes into amazing detail regarding application of colored pencil, the various blending methods in much more detail, showing you exactly the type of results you can expect from using solvents after applying too much pressure of the pencil as opposed to an even application of light pressure. Alyona goes through dry blending and the purpose of layering with ACP textured fixative and the reasons why you might use this particular method.   

Chapter 4 is Controlling Colour

Chapter 4 really digs deep into the obstacles colored pencil artists face with regards to applying color, especially highlights etc. This isn't paint we are dealing with, were mixing color is relatively painless if you know your color theory, colored pencil art is a very different beast and Alyona explains this in perfect detail. Covering subjects such as color mixing, the light and shadows of color, the illusive subject of white pencils and black pencils and how they display various levels of opacity or opaqueness and utilising these abilities of colored pencil. 

Chapter 5 is Portrait Facts and Fiction

Chapter 5 is starting to get into the real detail of portraiture, covering everything from how to take amazing photographs of people for your subject piece, the lighting required, the correct posing positions, your camera settings giving you the best possible outcomes, aperture settings, ISO settings and shutter speeds.  Alyona also takes a look at well know portraits, briefly explaining them and of course your right to adding some artistic licensing.  

Drawing Supplies

Chapter 6 is Practicing The Essentials

Chapter 6 also takes a look at some of the more well known portraits such as Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and others. Alyona also covers the subject of facial planes, the importance of backgrounds for your portrait, an area I personally struggle with, the actual skin tones and color combinations used for lighter skin tones, medium skin tones and dark skin tones. Chapter 6 also covers hair and all the complexities surrounding this subject, the various types of hair your are likely to encounter from old hair to baby hair. 

Eyes are also covered, but not just a generalisation on eyes, eyes from different cultures are covered, lips, ears, hands, feet and of course noses are also detailed. These complex and sometimes frustrating facial details are explained in detail like no other portraiture book I have read. 

Chapter 7 is How To Keep Freidns And Make Clients Happy 

Chapter 7 is like no other chapter you are likely to read in a colored pencil art book, however the importance of this chapter is so clear. Alyona talks about some of her own personal experiences which lead nicely into this delicate subject. How to deal with clients when they ask you to paint a portrait of a loved one and the importance of not just the reference image but also getting to know the individual you are painting, whether they are deceased or still with us, and their characteristics. All subjects that must be approached with compassion and delicately chosen words. 

Alyona takes you through step by step stages of her own work in this area, clearly showing the reader the process from start to finish. 


Drawing Supplies

It may seem odd to be writing about an appendix of a book, however, this section in "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits", Alyona has included incredibly valuable tables of information. Each table has information relating to a wide range of artist quality colored pencils from Caran D'Ache Pablo, Luminance, Derwent Artist, Coloursoft, Lyra, Prismacolor and a few others. The information highlighted is regarding blending properties of each pencil, showing you the various results from various blending products, it is incredibly unique and valuable. 



As I have mentioned, it is really difficult writing a book review, especially one that has not been released yet. I am constantly conscious of not giving away too much information, to the extent people feel they do not need to purchase the book. Running the risk of destroying years of hard work and research on behalf of the author. There is so much to say about "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits", but to do so would spoil it for potential readers. 

However, I can tell you in great detail what I thought of the book and what I felt I personally gained from it. I fell in love with the medium of colored pencils, I found so much freedom and escape from severe clinical depression and PTSD with colored pencils and the creative freedom of expression they offer. My passion only stared approximately a year and a half ago and throughout this time I have purchased and read almost every book written on colored pencils, so I like to think I have a good understanding of what is generally available to colored pencil artists and enthusiast in terms of literature.

I have to say, that Alyona Nickelsen's "Colored Pencil Painting Portraits", is the single most concise book I've ever read regarding portraiture with colored pencils. So many colored pencil artists struggle with portraiture, whether it is portraiture in its entirety or just a specific feature of the face, however, this book helps to build you up, right from the very foundations of portraiture art. Guiding you through every area you have perhaps at one time or another struggled with.

Alyona is such a highly respected authority in the world of colored pencil art and for good reason. Her knowledge is limitless and her passion to spread such wealth of knowledge unsurpassable. Alyona's passion for the medium shines through in her work. Alyona's first book on colored pencil art, "Colored Pencil Painting Bible" is a must have reference for colored pencil artists and enthusiasts alike. To have both these books on your studio library is in itself like having your very own colored pencil Alyona guru at your side, just waiting to help you overcome any colored pencil related challenge you may face.

To have access to this amount of knowledge on behalf of Alyona is to have a serious tool in your arsenal. This is a must have book for all colored pencil artists and not just those interested in portraiture but those looking to really understand and master the art of colored pencils.  




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