Drawing Basics: Chat With Colored Pencil Artist Alyona Nickelsen

16 Apr 2007

Drawing by Alyona Nickelsen--Orange with PeelRead the transcript from our online chat with colored pencil artist Alyona Nickelsen.

This chat was brought to you by Legion Paper.

2007-03-08 11:00:27.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Alyona Nickelsen, a colored pencil artist featured in the April issue of American Artist. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper.
2007-03-08 11:04:44.0
Administrator: Alyona, do you have any recommendations on how to choose colors for skin tones?
2007-03-08 11:06:25.0
jody: do you wear gloves or put paper under your hand so as not to smear the pencil?
2007-03-08 11:08:32.0
Administrator: Hold that thought--we are having technical difficulties. Our apologies...
2007-03-08 11:09:05.0
None: abc
2007-03-08 11:09:37.0
Administrator: we're back in business...thanks for your patience.
2007-03-08 11:09:48.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Alyona, do you have any recommendations on how to choose colors for skin tones?
2007-03-08 11:10:09.0
Alyona Nickelsen: For the color tones
2007-03-08 11:10:25.0
Alyona Nickelsen: it depends on the lighting-what color skin the person has
2007-03-08 11:10:58.0
Alyona Nickelsen: regardless of skin color, it's about using shading from lightest to darkest
2007-03-08 11:11:36.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I would start with a very light Prismacolor pencil-canary yellow or pink
2007-03-08 11:12:01.0
None: What paper do you like to use/prefer?
2007-03-08 11:12:06.0
Alyona Nickelsen: start with Prismacolor Verythin pencils-pinks and yellows, and use a light touch
2007-03-08 11:12:28.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and then increase the values in regular Prismacolor pencils
2007-03-08 11:12:37.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Alyona Nickelsen, a colored pencil artist featured in the April issue of American Artist. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper.
2007-03-08 11:12:40.0
Alyona Nickelsen: What paper do you like to use/prefer?
2007-03-08 11:12:55.0
Alyona Nickelsen: white Stonehenge paper
2007-03-08 11:13:04.0
Alyona Nickelsen: exclusively
2007-03-08 11:13:44.0
Alyona Nickelsen: it's inexpensive, archival, and it has enough tooth to hold lots of layers of pencil, and it doesn't buckle when I use mineral spirits, which is very important for my technique
2007-03-08 11:14:21.0
jody: approximately how many times do you use mineral spirits during the course of a painting?
2007-03-08 11:14:37.0
Alyona Nickelsen: The paper allows me to have rough and smooth textures in the same composition
2007-03-08 11:14:52.0
Alyona Nickelsen: approximately how many times do you use mineral spirits during the course of a painting?
2007-03-08 11:15:28.0
Alyona Nickelsen: sometimes I can use it only once at the end and sometimes I use it a few times depending on the number of layers of colored pencil
2007-03-08 11:16:15.0
None: What would be the circumstances for you to use it at the end? Can you give an example?
2007-03-08 11:17:01.0
Alyona Nickelsen: What would be the circumstances for you to use it at the end?  Can you give an example?
2007-03-08 11:17:30.0
Alyona Nickelsen: The mineral spirits smooth the strokes of the pencil from one value to another
2007-03-08 11:18:13.0
Alyona Nickelsen: For example, at the end I am using a heavier layer of pencil and if I go overboard I can use the mineral spirits to lighten it up
2007-03-08 11:18:29.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Or if I need to show the transition from one color to another
2007-03-08 11:19:00.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I always start out using a much lighter layer of pencil and then move to using
2007-03-08 11:19:11.0
Alyona Nickelsen: a thicker layer later-I press much harder towards the end
2007-03-08 11:19:26.0
None: Does using the mineral spirits also help if by chance you burnished too much?
2007-03-08 11:19:58.0
Nancy: Do you dab with cotton ball? Do you ever use a brush?
2007-03-08 11:20:38.0
AnnM: Have you ever tried any of the non-toxic citrus base thinners in place of mineral spirits?
2007-03-08 11:20:46.0
jody: Do you keep your hand elevated off the paper or do you wear gloves or put something under you hand so as not to smear the pencil or distribute skin oil to the paper?
2007-03-08 11:21:00.0
Alyona Nickelsen: If you burnish too much, yes you can dissolve the layers using mineral spirits
2007-03-08 11:21:09.0
artist67: What is your approach to shadows? some artists incorporate many different colors in shadows. What do you prefer?
2007-03-08 11:21:19.0
BruceM: I still use the old solvent pens for color pencil...do mineral spirits works better, or have more use in the medium?
2007-03-08 11:21:28.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I use a cotton pad, q-tip, or a niji water brush-a container for watercolor with a fine brush on the end
2007-03-08 11:22:20.0
Cristy: Do I have to let dry each color before I apply the next?
2007-03-08 11:22:31.0
Alyona Nickelsen: ok-I am going to take one question at a time, please-thanks
2007-03-08 11:22:40.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Alyona Nickelsen, a colored pencil artist featured in the April issue of American Artist. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper.
2007-03-08 11:23:11.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I have heard of using a citrus solvent but I haven't tried it yet
2007-03-08 11:23:45.0
Alyona Nickelsen: mineral spirits are odorless and doesn't leave any residue or yellow the paper
2007-03-08 11:24:19.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Under my hand I always have a sheet of clear acetate to prevent smearing
2007-03-08 11:24:38.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and I also use a drafting brush to clean stuff up
2007-03-08 11:25:46.0
Alyona Nickelsen: You see all colors in shadows, so generalli I used reds, yellow, and blues in all shadows-a mixture of all shadows. They are very colorful.
2007-03-08 11:26:08.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Shadows are never flat, never solid black. There is always life inside the shadow.
2007-03-08 11:27:02.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I still use the old solvent pens for color pencil...do mineral spirits works better, or have more use in the medium?
2007-03-08 11:27:20.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I only have used mineral spirits, so I am not sure about using solvent pens.
2007-03-08 11:27:36.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Do I have to let dry each color before I apply the next?
2007-03-08 11:27:56.0
Alyona Nickelsen: It depends on what you going for.
2007-03-08 11:28:08.0
None: If I messed up on my highlights or lighter patterns on my drawing, can I fix them up somehow? Where it is too dark?
2007-03-08 11:28:13.0
Cristy: Can I use a dryer to speed the dry time?
2007-03-08 11:28:20.0
Mark Klinger: sorry to be late, but how do you apply the mineral spirits to selected parts of the drawing not the whole thing?
2007-03-08 11:28:36.0
Alyona Nickelsen: If you want to move colors a little bit and you want the colors to be wet so you can mix the next color on the paper.
2007-03-08 11:29:19.0
Alyona Nickelsen: None: If I messed up on my highlights or lighter patterns on my drawing, can I fix them up somehow? Where it is too dark?
2007-03-08 11:30:11.0
Alyona Nickelsen: You can use blue tack reusable adhesive to lift color
2007-03-08 11:30:27.0
Alyona Nickelsen: to do more severe layers-if you really mess up-you can use scotch tape
2007-03-08 11:30:41.0
Alyona Nickelsen: but you need to have to let the color dry first before you use the scotch tape
2007-03-08 11:30:59.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you can also use an exacto knife once the layer is dry to take off a small piece
2007-03-08 11:31:10.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Can I use a dryer to speed the dry time? Mark Klinger: sorry to be late, but how do you apply the mineral spirits to selected parts of the drawing not the whole thing?
2007-03-08 11:31:21.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Alyona Nickelsen, a colored pencil artist featured in the April issue of American Artist. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper.
2007-03-08 11:31:58.0
Alyona Nickelsen: A dryer has never helped me. Sure, but it dries pretty quickly. You have to be careful because you are applying heat to wax pencil, so I actually wouldn't recommend it.
2007-03-08 11:32:18.0
Alyona Nickelsen: but how do you apply the mineral spirits to selected parts of the drawing not the whole thing?
2007-03-08 11:32:30.0
jody: I'm curious about the length of time it takes you to complete something. For example, the demo in the magazine of the orange. How long did that take you?
2007-03-08 11:32:37.0
Alyona Nickelsen: use a q-tip for a smaller area
2007-03-08 11:32:54.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and if you need to cover a large area-use a cotton pad to tap it on-DON'T SMEAR IT
2007-03-08 11:33:10.0
Alyona Nickelsen: or you can use the niji water brush for a very small area
2007-03-08 11:33:33.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you can also use mineral spirits to smear
2007-03-08 11:33:55.0
Alyona Nickelsen: shavings from art sticks-woodless colored pencil- to get a great cloud effect
2007-03-08 11:34:13.0
Mark Klinger: Is it the case that the layer of mineral spirits is a light coating?
2007-03-08 11:34:35.0
Alyona Nickelsen: yes
2007-03-08 11:34:41.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you never use a lot of mineral spirits
2007-03-08 11:34:52.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you never want to WASH the paper with mineral spirits
2007-03-08 11:35:23.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I'm curious about the length of time it takes you to complete something. For example, the demo in the magazine of the orange. How long did that take you?
2007-03-08 11:36:00.0
Alyona Nickelsen: If I do step-by-step, it takes a while. If not, then about 40 hours.
2007-03-08 11:36:34.0
None: How long have you worked in color pencil? And did you ever work in another medium?
2007-03-08 11:36:56.0
Nancy: How do you store your completed work?
2007-03-08 11:37:06.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I worked in graphite, charcoal, and a little watercolor and pastel.
2007-03-08 11:37:20.0
Alyona Nickelsen: With colored pencil, I started in 2002.
2007-03-08 11:37:29.0
Alyona Nickelsen: How do you store your completed work?
2007-03-08 11:37:30.0
Mark Klinger: In applying the mineral spirits, do you just work very carefully up to edges? A Q-tip sounds like it would be difficult.
2007-03-08 11:37:31.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Ha, ha.
2007-03-08 11:37:38.0
Alyona Nickelsen: In the gallery. Just kidding.
2007-03-08 11:38:10.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Generally I keep it flat in a protective, archival, plastic envelope.
2007-03-08 11:38:46.0
None: What size do you prefer to work in?
2007-03-08 11:38:51.0
Alyona Nickelsen: My solution is put tape around the edges of the paper
2007-03-08 11:39:10.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and then peel it off when you are done and you will have straight edges.
2007-03-08 11:39:13.0
jody: Do you using masking material? If so, what kind and for what areas (hightlights, lines, etc.)?
2007-03-08 11:39:16.0
Tenacious B: Alyona, the article on you and your work says you are primarily self taught. How did you acquire her skills in colored pencil and drawing?
2007-03-08 11:39:25.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I started with bigger sizes and went down to smaller sizes
2007-03-08 11:39:37.0
Alyona Nickelsen: right now probably 11 x 14, medium sizes
2007-03-08 11:39:54.0
Alyona Nickelsen: It people want something quick and simple, you do 5 x 5, or if not
2007-03-08 11:40:01.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you do something on a bigger scale
2007-03-08 11:40:21.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Do you using masking material? If so, what kind and for what areas (hightlights, lines, etc.)?
2007-03-08 11:40:38.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Yes I used colorless art masking fluid
2007-03-08 11:41:01.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you apply it to the paper to preserve white areas of the paper
2007-03-08 11:41:12.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and then at the end you carefully lift it off
2007-03-08 11:41:33.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Alyona Nickelsen, a colored pencil artist featured in the April issue of American Artist. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper.
2007-03-08 11:41:34.0
Carol Harris: What is your favorite paper to work with?
2007-03-08 11:41:47.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Alyona, the article on you and your work says you are primarily self taught. How did you acquire her skills in colored pencil and drawing?
2007-03-08 11:41:53.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Practice, practice, practice!
2007-03-08 11:42:02.0
Alyona Nickelsen: And working really hard.
2007-03-08 11:42:12.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Looking at other people work and experimenting a lot.
2007-03-08 11:42:27.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Stonehenge paper-favorite paper
2007-03-08 11:42:36.0
None: Whose work do you admire?
2007-03-08 11:42:58.0
Alyona Nickelsen: classical work
2007-03-08 11:43:22.0
Alyona Nickelsen: like Vermeer
2007-03-08 11:43:23.0
Mark Klinger: about applying mineral spirits - say you wanted to do a leaf against a back ground. Would you just pt the min spts on the leaf and try not to get any bleed over into the background?
2007-03-08 11:43:31.0
Cristy: Can this pencil system work can be framed the same way other colorored pencil work?
2007-03-08 11:43:45.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and artists from the Russian classical school
2007-03-08 11:44:26.0
Alyona Nickelsen: about applying mineral spirits - say you wanted to do a leaf against a back ground. Would you just pt the min spts on the leaf and try not to get any bleed over into the background?
2007-03-08 11:44:33.0
Alyona Nickelsen: First of all, always do your background first.
2007-03-08 11:44:59.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Because whatever colors you put down in the background will affect the layers on top of it
2007-03-08 11:45:07.0
None: Are you in any Color Pencil society? And are they exhibiting any where so that we may view them?
2007-03-08 11:45:13.0
Alyona Nickelsen: So put down the basic background values first.
2007-03-08 11:45:36.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Also be careful of your edges. Things that are closer to you always have sharper edges.
2007-03-08 11:45:56.0
Alyona Nickelsen: So I would put the mineral spirits wherever I neede to as I worked.
2007-03-08 11:46:36.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I am a double award winner of the Colored Pencil Society!
2007-03-08 11:46:50.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Cristy-I am not sure what you are asking.
2007-03-08 11:48:05.0
Cristy: Do I need to frame the finished work (done with this system of min.spir.) the same way I do any other colored pencil work?
2007-03-08 11:48:38.0
Alyona Nickelsen: No-framing is the same
2007-03-08 11:48:46.0
None: What do you find is the best pencil sharpener?
2007-03-08 11:48:47.0
Cristy: thanks
2007-03-08 11:48:53.0
Alyona Nickelsen: And I actually use clear varnish to preserve the colored pencil at the end.
2007-03-08 11:49:08.0
Alyona Nickelsen: So it doesn't matter
2007-03-08 11:49:12.0
AnnM: When doing lace, do you do the entire background under the lace then come back with white or work around the lace?
2007-03-08 11:49:40.0
None: Can you explain more -- your last statement about varnishing at the end????
2007-03-08 11:49:43.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Yeah-you would do it the same way. Do the bacground first
2007-03-08 11:50:01.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and then after the background dries, you start with the lace and the shading.
2007-03-08 11:50:15.0
Alyona Nickelsen: And you always want to use very thin pencils to shade.
2007-03-08 11:50:46.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I use the spray varnish because if you want to show artwork without glass
2007-03-08 11:50:56.0
Alyona Nickelsen: the clear varnish lets you do that
2007-03-08 11:51:04.0
Alyona Nickelsen: some galleries want you to show art without glass
2007-03-08 11:51:34.0
None: So the varnish will NOT smear or blend the color pencils???
2007-03-08 11:51:38.0
Alyona Nickelsen: you cover masonite with gesso
2007-03-08 11:51:45.0
Alyona Nickelsen: so it's archival and then you mount the artwork
2007-03-08 11:51:49.0
laura tm: hi just got here!
2007-03-08 11:52:02.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and then you cover it with fixative
2007-03-08 11:52:12.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and then you spray with a clear varnish
2007-03-08 11:52:21.0
Nancy: Can you use any brand of spray varnish
2007-03-08 11:52:26.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Alyona Nickelsen, a colored pencil artist featured in the April issue of American Artist. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion. Sponsored by Legion Paper.
2007-03-08 11:52:33.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I use Golden
2007-03-08 11:52:45.0
Alyona Nickelsen: the varnish won't smear the colors
2007-03-08 11:52:50.0
jody: "and then you mount the artwork "... What do you use to mount it?
2007-03-08 11:52:58.0
Alyona Nickelsen: after you spray the final fixative nothing will smear the colors except for your finger!
2007-03-08 11:53:24.0
laura tm: yes mounting tips please
2007-03-08 11:53:32.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I use this paste called Yes paste
2007-03-08 11:53:37.0
Alyona Nickelsen: it's acid free
2007-03-08 11:53:50.0
Alyona Nickelsen: it's like glue
2007-03-08 11:54:23.0
None: So, you spray with a fixative first -- then varnish next? Yes?
2007-03-08 11:54:33.0
Alyona Nickelsen: yes
2007-03-08 11:54:39.0
Alyona Nickelsen: sorry if that wasn't clear
2007-03-08 11:54:52.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I am working on a book on my techniques that should be out next year-hopefully
2007-03-08 11:54:58.0
laura tm: great!
2007-03-08 11:55:06.0
None: Wonderful!!
2007-03-08 11:55:07.0
Alyona Nickelsen: it should be helpful
2007-03-08 11:55:24.0
Alyona Nickelsen: and I am going to have webinars
2007-03-08 11:55:27.0
laura tm: any workshops soon also?
2007-03-08 11:55:35.0
None: Is it Watson Guptil or Northlight?
2007-03-08 11:55:40.0
laura tm: i guess that answered my query
2007-03-08 11:55:40.0
Alyona Nickelsen: in june
2007-03-08 11:55:48.0
Alyona Nickelsen: in Washington state
2007-03-08 11:55:56.0
Alyona Nickelsen: more info on my website
2007-03-08 11:56:04.0
Alyona Nickelsen: www.brushandpencil.com
2007-03-08 11:56:13.0
Alyona Nickelsen: but don't leave the chat to go there!
2007-03-08 11:56:26.0
Alyona Nickelsen: the webinars will be workshops
2007-03-08 11:56:29.0
Cristy: Will you offer a workshop in Florida?
2007-03-08 11:56:34.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I don't know who will publish the book
2007-03-08 11:56:45.0
Alyona Nickelsen: If you organize it!
2007-03-08 11:56:49.0
Jenny: Your drawings look like paintings. Do you paint as well?
2007-03-08 11:56:51.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Maybe!
2007-03-08 11:57:12.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I have some background in watercolor.
2007-03-08 11:57:12.0
laura tm: is this whole chat available later for viewing, as I missed most of it?
2007-03-08 11:57:25.0
Alyona Nickelsen: But it is more important for me to control the medium I am using
2007-03-08 11:57:30.0
Alyona Nickelsen: so I prefer colored pencil
2007-03-08 11:58:11.0
Administrator: Thank you for joining us for this chat with Alyona Nickelsen. A complete transcript of this chat session will be posted on the site tomorrow. Feel free to continue chatting with your fellow artists in this area (we will be shutting down the room at 4pm EST), or simply move over to the Artist’s Forum to talk about colored pencil art--or any of the other topics posted there. And if you haven’t already done so, check out the feature article on Nickelsen now accessible on our homepage—and listen to her audio slideshow in our Demonstrations area that explains, step by step, Nickelsen’s technique in drawing “Orange Thoughts.” Thanks again for participating, and a big thank-you to Legion Paper for sponsoring this event.
2007-03-08 11:58:19.0
Jenny: Do you know of other artists who use your techniques?
2007-03-08 11:59:02.0
Alyona Nickelsen: I have no clue.
2007-03-08 11:59:04.0
Carol Harris: On your painting of the apples, the background is black. Did you start with black paper? If so, what kind?
2007-03-08 11:59:08.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Thanks for coming everyone!
2007-03-08 11:59:25.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Visit my website to contact me if you have more questions.
2007-03-08 11:59:29.0
Alyona Nickelsen: Bye!
2007-03-08 11:59:42.0
laura tm: i've heard that some CP only accept CP work that hasn't had any blending mediums used just CP is this true?
2007-03-08 11:59:54.0
laura tm: CP shows
2007-03-08 12:00:11.0
laura tm: Thanks Alyona!
2007-03-08 12:00:18.0
Jenny: Thank you!
2007-03-08 12:01:03.0
laura tm: anyone else staying to share tips?
2007-03-08 12:01:16.0
Nancy: Thankyou so much, this has been very informative
2007-03-08 12:01:28.0
Carol Harris: thanks so much for your information
2007-03-08 12:04:04.0


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Comments

C D wrote
on 19 May 2007 7:54 AM
Hello, I read once that one can use mineral spirit with coloring pencils. How do I do that? Is this just applied to the paper before coloring or is it done afterwards? Thank you...Celeste
Bobbie Meyer wrote
on 22 May 2007 6:23 PM
I just saw your art in International Artist, which is just amazing, and wanted to know more about where to see more about it. I also saw the dialog after finding your comments on the internet. Thank you for sharing, and I will be attempting this "new" medium for myself!
Larry Marx wrote
on 16 Jan 2013 11:02 AM

Alyona, Thanks for coming out with your Bible.  I took it out of the library and instantly fell in love with using colored pencils.  I bought your book after looking at the amazing paintings and the simplicity of your explanation on how to create my own.  My first picture was using the pencils without any other techniques, the second using some of the air brushing hints regarding the sky and I used that technique on sand.  My last one was using only pencil dust to create a scene with birds on sand.  I would like to know how you put footprints in the sand and how to do clouds better.  I bought the pencils used on the page with sky and clouds but getting the white of the clouds needs alot of work on my part.  I guess you use sky blue, which gives a white appearance.  I noticed you mention that in the page with the two eggs.

I look forward to hearing from you.  I am hooked.

Regards and thanks, Larry Marx.