Franklin the Cat

Franklin the Cat by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Franklin the Cat” Collage on paper. 7″x5″
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Earlier this year I got to work on a cat portrait for a commission. I had a lot of fun tackling this portrait, specifically because one of the reference photos had the cat wearing a cute, striped bowtie. The client was also wonderful to work with.

Over the years I’ve made a number of cat portraits, but usually the custom art orders I receive are dog portraits. It was fun working on something a bit different as far as my custom artwork goes.

Q&A: Where Do You Get Your Inspiration From?

Koala by collage artist Megan Coyle
Koala by collage artist Megan Coyle

I get a lot of my inspiration from everyday life. My portraits are inspired by people I know or familiar figures, while my landscape/cityscape collages are usually based on the sights I see when traveling around a new city or exploring a place that I’m familiar with. My still life pieces are influenced by common, everyday objects, while my animal portraits are usually inspired by my visits to the zoo or whenever I encounter wildlife on my travels.

Aside from finding inspiration from the world around me, I also like to get inspired by seeing what other artists are making. I draw inspiration from art museum/gallery exhibits, as well as by connecting with fellow artists online. Seeing what other creatives are making is a great way to tap into your own creativity.

Other times the materials I work with prove to be very inspiring. Sometimes when I’m paging through a magazine, I’ll find a pattern or fragment within a photograph that sparks interest in using a specific color palette or tackling a specific subject. Usually when I’m working on a work in progress, I find paging through magazines to be especially inspiring, since I never know what colors and patterns I’ll find. There’s always an element of surprise that makes the entire process exciting.

Q&A: What Do You Love About Your Medium?

Watchful Lion by collage artist Megan Coyle

I’m often asked why I’m drawn to making collages entirely from magazine cutouts. Why not paint my own paper or use different types of paper? Why not make paintings instead? There are so many different mediums out there, and I do enjoy experimenting with different materials. However, for my main body of work, I like making art from repurposing magazine strips.

Here are a few reasons why I’m drawn to this medium time and time again:

1. Flexibility

I really enjoy working on a work in progress with an acid-free glue stick, so that I have the flexibility to peel off previous layers if I’m not crazy about the way certain sections of a piece are turning out. And that’s the type of flexibility that I don’t have when I paint with acrylic or oil paint.

2. So many colorful options

I prefer using fashion magazines because they usually have a lot of colorful ads and patterns. Often times I’ll find interesting or unusual patterns and textures that I wouldn’t have been able to think of on my own.

3. It’s a creative challenge

One of the struggles of working with colors from magazine pages is that my color palette is limited to what I can find. However, I enjoy the challenge of searching for ways to incorporate the colors I find within a given composition. It forces me to hone the way I view images and think about how I can repurpose them to construct entirely new images.

4. It’s always a surprise

I never really know how one of my collages will turn out and I really enjoy that about the process. Sometimes I’ll find colors and patterns and work really well together. Other times it’s more of a struggle, and I’ll work on adding layers only to peel them back up and start over again. I like how I never really know how things will turn out, and whenever the layers flow together nicely, it’s such a satisfying and rewarding feeling. I enjoy the art of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

5. The possibilities

One of the things I really enjoy about my process is manipulating paper in such a way that it mimics a painting. I like creating the illusion that my work is made from one medium when it’s actually made from something entirely different. I enjoy the possibilities involved with manipulating paper. At the moment I enjoy mimicking the brushstrokes in a painting, but who knows what’s next? Perhaps I’ll start mimicking drawn lines in sketches.

Caffeine Fix

“Caffeine Fix.” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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It’s been a while since I’ve made a coffee cup collage, so I figured I might as well film the process of making one. I’ve had so much fun making time lapse videos in quarantine, and this piece is number sixteen in the video series. I plan to take a break from making these for a little bit so I can focus on other areas of my art. I’m looking forward to finding new ways to share my art and technique with others.

Q&A: When Did You First Realize You Are An Artist?

Art always had a big role in my life when I was growing up. It was just something that I did and I didn’t think twice about it. I took art classes at local art galleries and took an art class every year at school. I don’t think I actively thought that I was an artist or thought about becoming an artist until I was in high school.

High school was when I started becoming more serious about art. I was mentored by a local artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, and had a couple of my first-ever group exhibits. I found myself spending hours of my free time painting at an easel and experimenting with mixed media. But again, I don’t ever think I thought “I’m an artist” or “I’m going to become an artist.” At that point in time I was wrapped up with becoming a writer, which is what I initially went to college for.

At Elon University I studied creative writing, but quickly realized that I felt lost without having some sort of visual art outlet. I picked up painting as a second major. After graduating from college, I finally realized I was an artist. I had this drive to make new work and exhibit my art. And I realized how important art had been in my life all along.

It’s funny how something can be in your life for so long, and it can take you a while to realize how much it truly means to you. I’m glad that what I once thought of as a hobby or creative outlet, is something I now know I need in my life. I’m glad that I eventually found my way to calling myself an artist. And these days I’m continuing to hone my craft and share my technique with others.

Hedgehog

“Hedgehog.” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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When it comes to my animal portraits, I’m mainly drawn to making bird and dog collages. So the other day I decided to work on a hedgehog collage for the first time. I wasn’t sure how this one would turn out, since I figured the spines might be difficult to recreate. I was pleasantly surprised with how I found some texture that worked well with making the hedgehog’s spines. It’s nice to go outside of your comfort zone and try new things.

Golden Retriever

“Golden Retriever.” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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One of the silver linings of quarantine is that it’s forced me to get more productive with my artwork. I can’t believe that this “Golden Retriever” collage is time lapse video #14. Nearly every week since lockdown has been going on, I’ve been striving to complete one of these time lapse videos. And I was pleasantly surprised with how this piece turned out.

Why Do Artists Create Art?

The Daydreaming Fish by collage artist Megan Coyle

Artists have been making artwork for centuries. For those non-artists out there, you’re probably wondering what is it that makes artists want to make art? Where does that drive come from? I like to think that it comes from the following:

1. Inherent Love

Artists have this deep-rooted love for making art. They enjoy what they do, and they can’t live without it. Just as anyone who has a career or hobby they love, artists love what they do and have this drive to pursue it.

2. Form of Expressing One’s Self

Art allows artists to express their thoughts and views. It also allows them to explore different emotions.

3. Imagination

When artists make art, they can tap into their imagination. They aren’t limited by the real world, and can explore worlds that they imagine.

4. Way to Communicate with Others

Sometimes artists can use art to communicate thoughts and ideas that they are unable to communicate with words. It also allows them to communicate different views to others.

Artists are drawn to the art-making process for a variety of reasons. It allows them to be creators who use the valuable tool of expression.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Hummingbird.” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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I keep trying to work on a different subject, but I’m consistently drawn back to animals. What can I say? I think animals are more exciting to make time lapse videos of. This was an especially fun collage to make since it was my first attempt at making a hummingbird.

What Tools I use for my Artwork

The Curious Penguin by collage artist Megan Coyle

When you see one of my collages in-person, it’s difficult to tell what they’re made of. I think when it comes to art in general, it’s hard to imagine how a work of art was completed from start to finish. I like to post time lapse videos of my process every now and then, but I also thought I’d share more information about the tools I use to make my artwork:

1. Magazines

These are the main ingredient of my art. I like using fashion magazines since they’re full of patterns and bright colors. I also like using magazines like National Geographic when I work on landscapes.

2. Scissors

These are my tool of choice when I cut paper for my collages. I don’t ever use things like X-Acto knives, although I’ve heard of some collage artists who enjoy using them for cutting intricate pieces of paper.

3. Watercolor paper

I like using this as my support or the material I make my collages on. It’s lightweight enough that I can cut out pieces of a collage I’m working on – if it isn’t quite working out – and glue them down on another sheet of watercolor paper. It’s also durable enough that it can last for years.

4. Acid-free glue stickes

This is my adhesive of choice. I like using glue sticks when I’m working on a work in progress, since the glue isn’t completely permanent, and I can pull up previous pieces to undo any details that aren’t quite working.

5. Graphite pencils and erasers

Every collage I make begins as a sketch. It helps me map out my compositions so I can get a sense of how well a given idea will work. And erasers are necessary for when I need to redo parts of a sketch.

6. UV-protective varnish

When one of my pieces is finished, I’ll varnish it with a UV-protective varnish. Varnish helps seal the magazine strips in place, and gives them a more permanent adhesive than the glue sticks I use when the artwork isn’t quite complete. It also helps protect the paper from sunlight over time.

7. Archival frames

Whenever I frame my artwork, I like to use UV-protective glass and acid-free mats to help protect my artwork over time.