Hefferlin studied at the The Academy of Fine Arts (Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture) in St. Petersburg, Russia, under Andrei Mylnikov. She was the only American to study at that academy during the Soviet period, and was preceded only by James Whistler, who studied there in 1884. She also attended the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga under Alan White, and Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, where she apprenticed with painter Michael Newberry. Hefferlin has exhibited with River Gallery, Tennessee; Greenhouse Gallery, San Antonio, TX; and Gallery Kartina in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Pastel Painters of Spain and Painters and Sculptors of Spain, and a signature member of Pastel Society of America. Hunter Museum of American Art presented a solo exhibition of her works in 2001. Hefferlin has guest-taught at the University of Tennessee and was Professor of Painting at Southern Adventist University for two years. Hefferlin has work in the permanent collections of Seimens, Hunter Museum of American Art, the Russian Academy, the city of Olvera, Spain, Ronda, Spain and others. She co-wrote a coffee table book about Russian painting, Traditions Rediscovered, the Finley Collection of Russian Art. She has lectured on Russian art history. She speaks Russian fluently, and some Spanish. Melissa Hefferlin was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA, and divides her time between the USA and Spain.