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Meet Olga Tenyakova

Today we’d like to introduce you to Olga Tenyakova.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Several years ago, I took evening classes at the Society of Figurative Arts in Dallas with Michael Mentler. I was still new to the US, still exploring a new culture and atmosphere. During a model break a fellow student saw me doodling and exclaimed, “Wow! You can draw horses too!” His surprise puzzled me because I believed that if one can draw an anatomically correct human figure, one can draw pretty much anything. As I learned later, it is not always the case. It made me realize that my versatility is a rare skill, and for this I credit my classical art training.

Combined with a natural curiosity and sense of adventure, my creative spirit leads me into exciting new territory. If I’d been asked a decade ago, I probably would not have considered children’s book illustration to be a profession of choice. And yet now I work full time on such a picture book, pushing limits of my technique, and learning rules of a new milieu.

Please tell us about your art.
How do I describe my style?
My current tools are watercolor and ink on paper enhanced by digital post-processing. Since I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) in 2016, I’ve been developing a new “fairytale” style for my children’s illustrations. I have had my share of trial and errors, and learned from critiques by fellow illustrators, editors, and art directors – and now I’m encouraged by the results.

Why children’s books illustration?
Having young kids of my own I fell in love with the amazing world of picture books. Quoting Laurent Linn, an art director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, “The art of the picture book is unfiltered story telling” that speaks directly to a child. Reading a book together, traveling through pages filled with illustrations creates a bond sealed with joy. It’s priceless! The world needs more of the love that comes with a beautiful children’s book. And I hope I am contributing to that development.

While I have my own stories to tell (still in a form of rough sketches and notes), I also enjoy helping other writers bring their ideas to life by creating that very “unfiltered narrative”, becoming a partner in this fascinating process of completing a book. This is where my business education and management experience come into play: estimating, planning, scheduling, budgeting, setting and following deadlines to complete our production phase successfully. I strive to make my business process as transparent as my watercolor paintings.

What influences my art?
I was born and raised in Russia and my family is bilingual, so I fill our home with books from all over the world. I turn to them for inspiration, which I believe enriches my art. I work constantly and attend a wide range of courses, workshops and professional conferences. For example, I’m looking forward to participating in the SCBWI Winter conference in New York next February.

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Be a fearless explorer in everything you do!

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My artwork is frequently on exhibit in venues around the San Diego area, including Distinction, La Bodega, Front Porch, and the L Street Gallery, to name a few. I’m also a member of OMA Artist Alliance. Samples of my illustration artwork can be found online at In addition to my professional illustrator portfolio, I maintain Instagram and Twitter accounts. And my work is available for purchase in my Society6 store and on Etsy!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Artist photo by Gleb Tarro

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