Color Pencil Figurative Study

Back in college I kept a few sketchbooks where I’d work on studies of various subjects. This color pencil drawing is from one of those sketchbooks, when I was studying different expressions for my upcoming series of collage portraits for my senior thesis. I was also playing around with different color schemes, which is why this is done with cool colors.

Still Life Oil Painting

Still Life Oil Painting by Megan Coyle

This still life oil painting is a piece that I made back in college during my freshman year. I made this back when I was studying painting in school, although I still worked on collages in my free time. I remember that this was made during a time when I was still learning the ins and outs of mixing and blending paint colors, so it isn’t as expressive as some of my other paintings.

In the Garden

“In the Garden” is a collage that I made back when I was in high school. It was made when I first started experimenting with collage. I had deemed the collage “finished,” and set it aside for some time. Then a couple of years later, when I was in college, I came across the collage and decided it wasn’t finished yet. So I proceeded to add in some more detailing with shadows and highlights, and then felt like it was closer to being “done.”

This might sound odd, but I never really feel like a work of art that I’m working on is ever finished. I simply give up on it after a certain amount of time. This is the only collage I’ve ever revisited after some time, however, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to start getting into the habit of reworking my older artwork.

Code Artist by Day, Fine Artist by Night


People often think I’m a full-time visual artist, although I’m actually a full-time web developer who makes artwork part-time. I still consider myself a full-time artist in a sense, since my day job involves the art of developing and building applications and websites. Instead of using scissors and paper for my tools, I’m using different pieces of code, and thus creating what you could almost call a digital collage. Regardless of what tools I’m using, I’m still able to satisfy that inherent drive I have to make things. I am able to live the creative life full-time – whether it’s code I’m writing or collages I’m constructing.

I like to tell people that I’m a code artist by day, and a fine artist by night. And I like how these two worlds of mine inspire each other. I first got started with working on websites because of my artwork. Back in college when I was studying painting, I took a class where one of our projects was to create an online portfolio. The first version of my site was pretty terrible, but I was so proud that I made a functional website all on my own. I managed to teach myself enough about coding to create and deploy a website – and that’s what got me hooked with web development.

Hermit Crab by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Hermit Crab” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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Over the years, I’ve continued to grow as a developer. The direction of my art career often inspires changes on my portfolio site, such as updating the overall layout or adding an online store. And sometimes the coding I do for my art website inspires the coding I do for my day job. Other times I’ll make something at work that inspires the direction of my portfolio site.

As a web developer, I’m able to tackle problems with my web presence as a fine artist and come up with creative solutions. When my site was fairly new, I noticed that I kept hearing from students and teachers who wanted to learn more about my work. So I came up with the idea to make things easier for them by developing an education section for my website. The section includes information about my process, as well as online lesson plans to help teachers teach my technique in class. As a result of launching this section, I started hearing from more and more classes around the world.

Student Collages inspired by Megan Coyle

When people hear that I’m a full-time web developer, they often ask if I want to some day become a full-time visual artist. I always answer “no,” because I enjoy the variety in my work. I like how I’m able to live the creative life with two fields that inspire my work in both areas. I’m happy that I’m able to challenge myself creatively in a number of ways, and because of that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Rebellion

Here’s a collage that I made back in high school, “Rebellion.” It was part of the series of collages I made at that time that really inspired the overall drive and direction of my work over the years. At that time, I was focussing on cutting and pasting paper while looking for solid colors and patterns in magazines. Then I manipulated the paper in such a way to create the shadows and highlights of the figure. I also remember that I really enjoyed cutting up the type that’s being used for the background here.

Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Bosty wanted to explore one of the museums in the Washington, DC area, so he decided to stop by the National Gallery’s East Wing. He was excited to see artwork by famous artists like Pablo Picasso.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

As he wandering around the museum, he was drawn to Piet Mondrian’s simple geometric shapes and bold colors.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Wassily Kandinsky’s colorful abstract work also caught his eye, and he enjoyed seeing one of Gustav Klimt’s figurative and patterned paintings.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Wayne Thiebaud’s cake painting made Bosty feel a little hungry. Cake, anyone?

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

He spent a little time staring in awe at one of Jackson Pollock’s large paintings that was part of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Wow, is that an Andy Warhol? Bosty is a big fan of pop art.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

He also enjoys Impressionist paintings, and was excited to see some work by Claude Monet.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Bosty took a final look around and enjoyed seeing Alexander Calder’s large mobile pieces. He was a little worn out from wandering around every floor of the museum, so he went outside to enjoy the sunny spring weather.

Megan Coyle's Bosty goes to the National Gallery

Before leaving the National Mall, he strolled around the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden. It was a beautiful day outside, and it was a wonderful day to see some colorful works of art.

Malachi

Portrait of a Dog by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Malachi” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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Animals are one of my favorite subjects to tackle when it comes to piecing together my collages. Here’s a piece where I was commissioned to collage a dog that has two different color eyes. I’m thinking my next couple of collages will involve some more wildlife.

In other news, I’m planning to get started with exploring a couple different mediums. As much as I enjoy making collages, it’s always good to change things up every once in a while.

Running Water

This is a mixed media collage that I made back in high school, “Running Water.” I remember that I made this around the same time I started exploring the collage medium, and quickly grew to love it. This piece is a little more like a traditional collage since you can see distinct fragments that I cut from different magazine images. I also used acrylic paint and oil pastel along with the magazine clippings.

The Ongoing Discouragement Factor

Colorful Collages by Megan Coyle

I’ve been told that as a kid, I used to draw an abnormal amount. I’d spend hours with coloring books or craft projects, like making my own paper dolls. When art stopped being a hobby for me and became a part of my daily routine, I noticed a pattern – some people shot down my dreams of becoming a professional artist almost immediately.

When I was graduating from high school, and was getting asked the whole “what’s your plan” question, I remember talking about my creative interests. And I remember hearing a few people tell me sarcastically, “good luck trying to make a living at that.”

And this pattern continued. Later on I decided to pick up art as a second major in college, and started exhibiting my work in galleries after I graduated. Even then I remember hearing the phrase, “it’s difficult making a living as an artist.” Or sometimes, “not many artists can make it big.” And although I had a wonderful support network of friends and family who encouraged my artistic endeavors, I kept having run-ins with people who were trying to dissuade me from the creative life.

Coffee Time by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Coffee Time” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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So why do so many people feel the need to discourage the artistic lifestyle? Is being an artist really as tough as some people say it is?

Well, being an artist is difficult and so are a lot of other careers. As an artist, you’re essentially running your own business, and being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and that there aren’t people out there who live and work as full-time artists.

For whatever reason, our society likes to feed the idea that art isn’t important, that it’s valued less than math or science. Society tells us this in a variety of ways – let it be the starving artist stereotype or how funding for the arts is usually one of the first things gutted whenever money gets tight. Cultivating this type of thinking gives birth to art naysayers. Or should I call them art un-enthusiasts?

Moo-ve-Out-of-the-Way
“Moo-ve Out of the Way” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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So the next time someone tries to discourage you from your artistic dreams and goals, just remember, you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. If it’s your dream and passion, then you’ll make it happen. When faced with setbacks and failure, you should never give up – you should pivot or rethink your approach, but never give up. Success happens when you persist. As for all the naysayers you run into along the way? I say you use them for motivation to work even harder, so that you can one day prove them all wrong.

Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit

As an artist, I’m constantly finding inspiration around me. Sometimes that inspiration comes from the beautiful sights I see when I travel or go for walks, and other times it comes from unique experiences I have. This past weekend I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the popular Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn. It was an incredibly inspiring show.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit

The exhibit consists of five small rooms where two to three people are allowed inside for twenty or thirty seconds. Each room made me feel like I was exploring a new world. The rooms were covered in mirrors and had either lights or sculptures arranged in a pattern that was repeated infinitely in the mirrored walls.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit

My museum visit lasted hours. My tickets were for 12:30pm but we weren’t admitted until after 1:30pm. The entire show required waiting in line for a chunk of time before we were able to enter each of the five rooms. Although there was a lot of waiting involved, I thought it was well worth it. Only once in a while do I find myself going to an art exhibit where afterwards it leaves me marveling at the beauty of the world. Kusama’s exhibit left me feeling just that- and it left me feeling hopeful, with my imagination reenergized.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit

So if you have a chance to see Kusama’s work, I highly recommend doing so. Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit was an experience like no other.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit