When you think of colored pencils, what comes to mind? Whatever you imagine, your perception will most likely change once you have seen the fabulous colored pencil art by Rhonda Dicksion. Fortunately, many of her paintings are on gallery display until the end of April at the Sky River Bakery, 117 1/2 W. Main St. in Monroe.

Rhonda’s art is striking in the intensity, depth of color and the intimacy of her subjects. Once viewed, they are unforgettable. According to Rhonda, colored pencil artists consider their work to be paintings due to the many layers of color and blending applied to the canvas. This technique renders a rich deep look that truly brings the subjects to life.

As a youngster, Rhonda spent Saturday afternoons watching and drawing cartoons. Although she loved to draw, she felt she would not be able to pursue art as a career without formal training. But in the ‘90s, she says, “I got a wild hair to send two of my cartoons to a publisher.” This resulted in two cartoon books and launched Rhonda as a self-syndicated cartoonist. As an independent artist, she sold her cartoons to various newspapers and magazines for several years.

After taking a hiatus from cartooning and moving on to other activities, Rhonda attended a “Paint and Sip” event in California in 2014. There she rediscovered her passion for art. Rhonda purchased a set of acrylics and began painting upon her return home. However, she was not satisfied with the medium, as it didn’t give her the subtle colors she was imagining.

So she pulled out a set of colored pencils she had never used and began experimenting. The result was her first stunning painting of a pink rose, which can be seen at the Sky River Bakery. Rhonda was so delighted — not only with the painting, but also with the experience of working in the medium — that she has been creating with colored pencils ever since.

In addition to being an artist and photographer, Rhonda developed skill as a website designer while working as the manager of the Monroe Monitor, then owned by Ken and Debbie Robinson. When Ken decided he wanted a website for the paper, Rhonda volunteered to learn the process and created one. The website was very successful, and several other people asked her to build websites for them. She had so many clients, Rhonda was able to resign from the paper in 2008 and start her own website and graphic design business, Indigo Dog Design.

Her logo is a blue cartoon dog of her own creation. When asked why she chose this name and logo, she says, “Because it makes me smile.” A dog lover, Rhonda encourages everyone to take some time to do a dog circle at least once a day.

Rhonda is also the co-publisher, along with Krysta Gibson, of New Spirit Journal, an online resource of inspiration and practical spirituality. Founded in 2005, the publication is devoted to helping people live fuller, more centered, healthier and happier lives.

Once Rhonda began working with colored pencils, she took an online class. Then, in 2015, she traveled to North Carolina to participate in a weeklong workshop taught by Kristy Kutch, a nationally known colored pencil artist and instructor. While there, a political consultant offered to purchase the painting Rhonda was working on called “Fall Color.” This painting of Indian corn now hangs in the consultant’s home in Washington, D.C.

Last fall Rhonda studied with Ann Kullberg, considered one of the best colored pencil portrait artists in the world. Rhonda spent a week receiving individualized instruction from Kullberg, and then was surprised a couple of months later when Ann asked her to create a tutorial for other artists to appear in Color, the international magazine for colored pencil artists, which Kullberg publishes. The subject of the tutorial, a bouquet of hydrangeas entitled “Rustic Blues,” was featured in the February 2017 issue of Color, and can also be viewed at the bakery.

More recently, Rhonda was commissioned by Kullberg to produce a tutorial on how to create a highly chromed Harley Davidson in colored pencil. This tutorial, “Dazzling Chrome,” goes on sale worldwide through www.AnnKullberg.com in mid-April. The subject for that tutorial was a motorcycle Rhonda spotted in Monroe last summer, and her painting of it is also on display at the bakery.

Rhonda shares that all of her life experiences seem to have clicked together when she began working in colored pencil. Each painting is an investment of at least 40 hours, and the larger ones like “Wild Sky” take up to 80 hours to complete. Rhonda says she loves the Zen of it; it is like a meditation, and the satisfaction is enormous.

“I am living my dream,” she says.“There is always something different ahead, and I am open to the possibilities.” When asked which is her favorite painting, with a big smile Rhonda says, “The one I just finished.”

Rhonda is a member of the Seattle chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America. This organization had a show earlier this year in the University District. Of the 40 pieces on display, five sold and one of them was Rhonda’s.

More feathers in her cap are the first prize ribbons and champion rosettes her paintings won at the Evergreen State Fair in 2015 and 2016.

Rhonda used her skills to design her personal website, www.901Art.com, which showcases her art. Here you can see and purchase prints, cups, tote bags and T-shirts decorated with her beautiful images. But seeing them in person is a must.

Stop by the Sky River Bakery, say hi to Andrew and Mary, sit down with a cuppa and a scone, and appreciate Rhonda’s paintings. You will feel the joy that is expressed in the bright colors and the happy heart of every one.