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Creating a Sensory Experience Through Art

The Embrace by Marney-Rose Edge
The Embrace by Marney-Rose Edge

Fill your senses with Spring! Two artists share how their sensory experience of their subjects, flora and fauna, becomes part of their work, both in process and in the completed piece.

Thank you to Marney-Rose Edge and Melody Unger for speaking so beautifully on this subject.


Florishing Flowers with Marney-Rose Edge
marneyroseedge.com | @edgefineart

How does your sensory experience of the flower you are painting enhance the painting you are creating?

I’m a true romantic in every sense of the word. How I feel about the flower flows into the work from my memories of when I captured the photos that I paint from. I get goosebumps from the sensation of excitement when the light is just right, giving me the beauty and translucency I’m looking for. I enjoy all phases of the flowers, from buds to fading, and incorporate these into my painting allowing me to capture a passage in time. The sensitivity of my soul to the memories I have includes everything from the sensuous velvet feel of the petals to the incredible perfume I breathe in.

Marney-Rose Edge, Oh Canada
Precious Peonies

Do you consider your experience of the flowers as you're painting them?

I consider all the senses when I paint. It's about feeling the space the flowers occupy, feeling the fragility of the petals, and building slowly and with thin layers to convey that in paint. I often paint from my own photographs and the experience I have when capturing the reference material is infused in my paintings. My memories are triggered as to how the petals feel and how they smelled when I captured the images – I imagine I am caressing the petals with my brush, building them to the look and feel I want.

How do you create a sensory experience for the viewer through your art?

That is the big question. When I paint, it is such a joyful and peaceful “zen” experience, involving my subconscious more than being a conscious feeling or thought. Emotions are expressed with brushwork and colour in particular – exaggerating the colour beyond what I see helps them feel they are alive.

Artists infuse their emotions into their work whether they are aware of it or not. I believe the love I have and my familiarity with the flowers plays an important role in creating this sensory experience for the viewer. The excitement comes when the layers of paint build strong contrasts and the viewer can feel the fragility of a flower with their eyes and sense the perfume around them when they take a deep breath. •

Discover tips and tricks from Marney-Rose about How to Paint a Blossom at opusartsupplies.com/marney-roseblossom


Feathered Fancies by Melody Unger
melleebee.art | @melleebee.art

Sensations. The word itself tickles me like a feathered fan. I was always a sensitive child who loved playing outdoors and spent time observing plants and insects. Although I never imagined I would one day embark on an adventure illustrating our avian friends, I found myself in Costa Rica. Being surrounded by dozens of hummingbirds while eating breakfast with my spark bird, the Baltimore Oriole, my life was enriched in so many ways.

Art is euphoria for the soul, an expression of one’s passion, a connection to a larger community. Some may call it an obsession in a subject or medium. Mine comes in the form of birds and coloured pencils.

Mel Unger, Romeo & Juliet
Mel Unger, European Bee Eater

When illustrating birds, I imagine my coloured pencils purposefully dancing across my page. The sound of the pencil tip painting rainbows lulls me into a trance. Colours layering, melting, transforming. Hours will pass before I notice it’s nightfall or before I notice it’s sunrise.

At some point I awaken and begin to articulate what I am seeing and feeling. When creating custom bird art, I spend countless hours looking at dozens of images and videos. I want to know how they look from every angle and in every lighting. I want to observe them until I can feel myself stroking their bodies in real life and can imagine how they would feel in my hands. Are they fluffy like a puffed up Chickadee in the winter? Are they sleek like a Cedar Waxwing? Are they curious in nature and cock their heads like Burrowing Owls? Or are they fierce and stoic like Bald Eagles?

Currently I have illustrated two custom designs to reflect my clients’ stories. Other birds are drawn from reference photos from very supportive international photographers and birding tour guides I’ve become online friends with.

When deciding what to draw next, I opt for something I want to practice (such as a colour or a texture), a composition that I find attractive, a bird that I fell in love with, or a photographer I really like. Whatever choice I make, my heart needs to skip a beat when I see the image. Only then will I have the patience to diligently stroke in every nuance of every feather.

Ultimately what I love about birds and my art today is the ability to connect my two worlds into one, creating a beautiful online community of artists, wildlife photographers, and birders. •

Want to see Mel Unger create a feathered masterpiece in person? Sign up for one of her demonstrations at your local Opus! Melody will be visiting six of our stores - click below on preferred Opus for more details:

Opus North Vancouver // Friday, April 5 from 1–3 pm
Opus Downtown Vancouver // Sunday, April 7 from 1–3 pm
Opus Granville Island // Monday, April 8 from 1–3 pm
Opus Coquitlam // Tuesday, April 9 from 1–3 pm
Opus Langley // Wednesday, April 10 from 1–3 pm
Opus Victoria // Thursday, April 11 from 1–3 pm