Feathered Fancies

Sensations of Spring

by Mel Unger

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, my adventure found me in Costa Rica. Being surrounded by dozens of hummingbirds while eating breakfast with my spark bird, the Baltimore Oriole, my life has been enriched in so many ways.

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

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, 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? Or 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. The other birds were drawn from reference photos from very supportive international photographers and birding tour guides who 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 fall 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, I will 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 enthusiasts, and birders.

I DREAM MY ART WILL TAKE ME PLACES UNIMAGINABLE. LIKE A JOURNEY WITH NO END GOALS, BUT FULL OF SURPRISES, CONNECTIONS, AND EXPERIENCES. THROUGH FINE ART, I WANT TO BRING AWARENESS TO WILDLIFE AND CONSERVATION EFFORTS BY SHOWCASING THEIR BEAUTY AND VULNERABILITY.


Materials used: Faber-Castell Polychromos on Strathmore Mixed Media Vellum 184lb paper (14x11 inches)

This mini illustration was created as a sample for a mixed-media series I prepared for my live demos and talks at     Opus Art Supplies     on behalf of    Faber-Castell    (Canada).

This mini illustration was created as a sample for a mixed-media series I prepared for my live demos and talks at Opus Art Supplies on behalf of Faber-Castell (Canada).

Mel Unger