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450 of 466 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2009
Colored Pencil Painting Bible: Techniques for Achieving Luminous Color and Ultra-Realistic Effects

I've long enjoyed Alyona Nickelsen's newsletter from [...] so I was aware of the beauty of her brilliant hyper-realistic colored pencil paintings. She favors Prismacolors on Stonehenge paper, with a fine eye for incredible detail and the patience of a saint to create rather large works with incredible, meticulous workmanship.

I already have several other good volumes on colored pencil realism -- Cecile Baird's Painting Light with Colored Pencils, Arlene Steinberg's Masterful Color, and quite a few Gary Greene volumes. I've successfully done colored pencils realism for years and have used Prismacolors since I was a high school kid in 1971 when I twisted my grandmother's arm to get the largest set of colored pencils then available -- 72 Prismacolors. I never looked back.

I looked at this new book as a sweet addition to my library. Some new projects, maybe a few things I'd never run into. I did not expect to find so many useful tips when I've already got so many good volumes! Alyona Nickelsen is an inventive person. She has her own solutions to many technical details about using the medium and she has a prose style that makes extremely advanced concepts clear even to a complete beginner.

I'm also a fiction writer and a good judge of writing style. English is not Ms. Nickelsen's native language -- and I believe this gives her a little bit of an advantage in explaining things. Every hard-won word that she uses is as concise and perfectly placed as the little flecks of color in her crystal and glass renderings that make the prismatic luminous effects we know and love in her paintings.

She tackles every showoff project a modern artist dares and a few that I haven't seen before. I was delighted to turn a page in the middle and find pearls! She did pearls with the luminous pearlescence and color that an Old Master might have rendered them, pearls worthy of traditional oil paintings from the days no one had photos to work from.

She often mentions that colored pencil realism is not a quick medium, that it takes patience, careful observation and precision. Yet she includes many of the timesaver methods used by Gary Greene and others and her color layering techniques are unique. Instead of relying on complementary value drawings as Arlene Steinberg does, which do give a very rich effect in many-layered realism, she begins with bright light tones and works light to dark in soft layers that are often washed with odorless mineral spirits.

Little tricks and conveniences abound, like her using a nylon waterbrush to hold her solvent. That idea is so obvious I can't comprehend why I didn't think of doing it -- I use my waterbrush with watercolor pencils all the time. Alyona is fearless when it comes to testing new materials and finding uses for new technology.

An added bonus in this book is a significant amount of instruction on using Adobe Photoshop to alter and prepare your reference photos. Most good art books these days will have some section on creating reference photos and combining or adapting them. She explained the hard part -- for me that IS the hard part -- in terms that left me considering buying Photoshop since she may have gotten me past the worst part of the learning curve. I have avoided it for years because new software is tough for me and I'm used to Gimp.

I've got a library of fifty or more art books, almost all have a section on composition, on values, on color mixing and other art basics. Alyona doesn't go so much into the sketching and drawing process other than to recommend a lot of practice and describe the benefits and drawbacks of many different transfer methods to get accurate outlines. Where her prose shines out for beginners is that I can compare her Chapter 2 "Laying a Good Foundation" with the same topic in many other authors' works.

That's where things I did master years ago were put into terms so clear and concise I was grinning like a fool. She packed a lot more clear information into those pages than many, it's readable and even easy reading. Her projects at the end are simple still lifes, downloadable outlines are available on her site and they include fruit, vegetables, a clear glass with water and a cut-crystal pattern, a crystal perfume bottle with a silver lid -- she demonstrates how to distinguish silver from crystal when you're patiently following all the hard juxtapositions of light and dark in a complex shining subject.

In her Appendix is a useful set of lightfastness charts for as many major artist grade brands of colored pencils as she could get information for.

She also includes tips on organizing and testing your colors in a method uniquely hers. So many of the topics in this book are familiar to me -- and every one of them, Alyona Nickelsen has added her own innovations and interesting, useful tips. I got a lot more out of this book and its demonstrations than I expected to, even though for me it was more of the same of something I've already gotten into for years.

Her section on textures is comparable to one of Gary Greene's texture romp books, and doesn't duplicate them because she adds things like a dandelion clock and the aforementioned pearls. She has probably read all of the good works out there to know what to put into this to claim her own place on my favorites shelf.

If you have no experience with colored pencils or colored pencil realism, this book will take you from total beginner to gallery level brilliant hyper-realism with a clear, easy to read and use style along with enough about design and composition that you can start drawing anything around you from life -- and get good photo references of it and adapt them in Photoshop. One of her fine points is that in many of her demonstrations, like the Artist's Photo Reference series I love, she talks about and shows how to look at a reference photo, even a good one, and improve on it to result in a painting far richer than even its good photo.

The more different techniques and methods you learn, the easier it is to develop your own style. Her Afterword is a brilliant essay in itself on art, technology and growth as an artist. Alyona Nickelsen combines the patient craftsmanship of European tradition with a wild inventive delight in new technology and discovering its uses. Enjoy.

Alyona Nickelson is very down to earth in this book. She mentions the little conveniences and problems and their solutions that can make colored pencil painting a joy or a headache, giving me another huge boost of inspiration. Even if, like me, you have a lot of other books on this topic, The Colored Pencil Painting Bible deserves a place on your shelf. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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128 of 131 people found the following review helpful
Finally- a truly outstanding and beautifully researched and presented book on today's colored pencil artwork. The appendix alone is worth the price of the book- which has charts showing the lightfast ratings of (almost) all major brands of colored pencils (including the brand new Caran d'Ache Luminance pencils, Derwent Colorsoft, Faber-Castell Polychromos and many more)...well, all except standard Prismacolors since the manufacturers would not give the author that information. A very useful color index is also given for colors when it was available, which gives you information about what pigments were used in the manufacture of the pencils...and another thing I have been wanting- an up-front break-down of which pencils are waxed based and which are oil based.

This book has all the information you will need- such as materials, including much needed information on solvents to achieve a paintery look that puts colored pencils out of the 'drawing' stage and into the 'fine art painting' stage. Information about how to rough up paper to achieve certain effects (such as orange peel)and how to frame colored pencils is included, and a great (and easily understandable) section on color theory, light (and shadows). Her explanations are so clear and easy to understand that they are like a breath of fresh air.

Mastering Essential Techniques is a terrific section, that includes the use of photos and photoshop. I loved seeing the equipment she uses too- including the new electric hot and cold colored pencil drawing tablet.

A truly exciting section is included on creating surfaces and textures that includes:
Backgrounds (my real weakness)
Greenery (grass and leaves)
Flowers including white petals (very difficult for me to handle)
Water (including dewdrops, liquid, and ice)
Fire (I have never seen this included- I want to do volcanic eruptions)
Surfaces (beautifully done Wood, Silver, Pearls, Cut Crystal, Fabric, Denim, Lace)
Fruit and Vegetables

The book contains a large section on practicing with simple still lifes, which have downloadable patterns and reference photos from the author's website including a pair, cherries, an orange, Indian corn, a dandelion, a wooden mortar and pestle, crumpled lined paper, eggs, a clear glass of water, multicolored glass saltshaker, marbles, a swirled glass perfume bottle. The exercises go from simple to very complex and challenging. After I finish them all I have no doubt that I will be able to paint almost anything in colored pencil.

In short, I have loved colored pencils with a passion since the '70's, but still, many decades later, get frustrated with the results and techniques that I have found in other colored pencil books (in particular trying to use complementary colors which always seemed to grey out my result)- so I piddle along off and on and do my own methods...which have not given me results I can be happy with, so I put down the pencils and switch to other art forms off and on. This book inspires me to work through the exercises with the author, read every word, and in short, finally get serious about colored pencil art.

I hope the author covers water-soluable colored pencils in a future volume.

Oh, and a big thank-you to the author about speaking out on using your OWN set-ups and photos, and not copying other's work (for gallery sales and shows), as well as not printing out photos and coloring over them and calling them original CP work. This is useful information that a lot of artists do not understand the legal implications of, and I for one am very grateful that all new CP artists will have a heads-up. This should give CP work added integrity in the art world.
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116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2009
This is an outstanding and exciting book for those of us who love the control and feel of pencil drawing, but have longed for the intense colors, textures and realism of other media such as oils or acrylics - yet didn't want the expense and mess of those methods. Alyona's text is extremely well written - clear and helpful, with excellent illustrations. The examples of her art contained in the book are stunning. She also will provide pdf files via email of outlines and original photographs for the student to use in learning and practicing the techniques outlined in the text, for those who purchase the book and then contact her. Her correspondance with me clearly indicates her desire to instruct and share the joys of colored pencil with others, an enthusiasm quite clear throughout the book as well.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2009
In the last three years I've purchased six or seven colored pencil books. With each book I took out my pencils, paper and other materials to work on various exercises spelled out in the publications. A few months ago I read about Alyona Nickelsen's book, Colored Pencil Painting Bible - Techniques for Achieving Luminous Color and Ultra-realistic Effects in an art magazine. This book is clear, well organized and takes the reader step by step through her colored painting process. Alyona also shares special techniques and methods she uses to create her colored pencil painting. I began to experiment with these methods. The instructions are easy to follow and the exercises are thoughtfully spelled out. I was so excited about the results I was having that I emailed her and enrolled in her online Course 1 which is an in-depth study of some principles in her book. I learned so much during this one month course with Alyona who is dynamic, demanding and very supportive. I have now finished her challenging Course 2 and am looking forward to participating in Course 3.

Jeri Robinson
Santa Barbara, CA
August 2009
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2014
If you're an intermediate or advanced artist with colored pencil experience this is a good book.

If you're new to colored pencils like I am this is not the right book for you. It starts out covering a lot of things as if you have never used colored pencils, then moves onto advanced topics.

What bothers me is the book title and description saying: `incredible realism- with simple you-can-do-it-processes!'. Which is very misleading. Same thing when you look inside the book and see it starting with basics like colored pencil choices and paper choices. I assumed that it was going to progress from the very basics all the way through.

The highest rated 5-star review is titled: `Great for beginner to expert' and says: `If you have no experience with colored pencils or colored pencil realism, this book will take you from total beginner to gallery level brilliant hyper-realism'.

Almost every example goes something like this: I layered black, blue, red and green on the background and used yellow, pink, etc on the light areas. And it shows one small photo of the drawing. Then I applied a solvent and touched up areas. Then showing a beautiful completed photo. I would have appreciated to see way more steps and photos.

If you're a beginner I would recommend to start drawing and watching online tutorial videos. With the videos you can watch the artist drawing and pause the video while trying to recreate what they are doing. Once you understand color better and how to make decent looking drawings then look into this book.

I don't know who would disagree with me about that. You should be able to draw a decent drawing with colored pencils BEFORE you try to create ultra realistic effects. You need a lot of experience drawing and working with colors and so much else to create drawings that look ultra realistic. It's not just a matter of following along with the 'simple you-can-do-it-processes' in this book.

A more accurate title would be `advanced colored pencil techniques'.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
If you need a good book that touches on every aspect of colored pencil drawing, this is it. It covers information about the supplies you need to get started creating some serious art pieces. It also has invaluable information for the beginner about color, hue, values, design, composition, textures and patterns. It's like a good art class right there in your hand. I recommend this book to serious beginners as a great place to start making some awesome artwork.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2009
Alyona does an excellent job presenting first all aspects of colored Pencil basics. She then goes on to give a great deal of sample images to try as well as some more complex works.I have several Colored pencil books and not only is this a must have book It is the first book you should buy. A large extensive book about 180 pages. On her brush and pencil website patterns and reference photos are available for download.
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84 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2009
The book showcases Nickelson's techniques but is not a bible in the traditional sense of covering all coloured pencil techniques. If you want to draw like Nickelson, then this book is for you; if you want to develop your own unique style of drawing then it is not. Many classic techniques are missed such as different blending methods, different pencil stokes, various papers and supports, etc.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2009
If you've ever wondered how to get certain effects with colored pencils, this is the book for you. It will tell you how to paint an apple, orange or lemon that makes your mouth water. Have you ever wondered how to make glass sparkle, silver shine, or wood that looks like you just polished it? Alyona has done all the trial and error and shares all her how-to's with us in this book. This is a great book to have on hand and refer back to whenever you want a special effect. I've taken her online classes and this book adds to what I've learned. I'm pretty new to colored pencils but the techniques are clearly explained and easy to master.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2011
OK. This is a good book, just not as good as I had hoped. The author/artist's technique info is good and useful. This makes the book worth getting. However, and I am trying to say this without sounding like a moron, she is somewhat excessively wordy for my taste. The author writes nicely and presents things well. However, there is a good portion of the book taken up by basic art fundamentals that can be found in many other books (If you are a complete novice, you'll find it helpful). And a lot of what she put in it seemed like filler. In addition, the instruction/learning factor would have benefited from more photos in the book, especially of work in progress demonstrating the techniques being discussed. It just seemed I had to read a heck of a lot before I found something useful and then read a whole lot more before the next useful tidbit. I also found myself wanting to see what she was referencing in her descriptions of technique, but alas, it was not pictured. In summary: Great artist, great art work and useful information in the book once you sift through it.
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