Collages Inspired by the D.C. Landscape

I grew up in Northern Virginia, so I’ve become pretty familiar with the Washington, D.C. area over the years. And as I’ve grown to love different buildings and places, I’ve also found a lot of inspiration from my surroundings.

The Torpedo Factory by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Torpedo Factory.” Collage on paper. 12″x9″
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The Torpedo Factory is an art center in Old Town, Alexandria. As a kid, I used to take a number of art classes there. In high school, I was mentored by a painter that had a studio there. And after college, I became a visiting artist for a couple of months over the summer. So over the years, the Torpedo Factory has had a big role in my development as an artist – it’s no wonder that I was inspired to make a collage of it.

Downtown Shopping by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Downtown Shopping.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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“Downtown Shopping” was inspired by the townhouses in Old Town, Alexandria. Growing up, I used to wander around Old Town, and I became really familiar with the bright and colorful townhouses that line the streets.

Paddle Boating by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Paddle Boating.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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Whenever I walk by the Tidal Basin, the paddle boaters remind me of the days when I was a kid and went on field trips around the city, or visited museums with my family.

The US Capitol by Night by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The U.S. Capitol by Night.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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“The U.S. Capitol by Night” was inspired by one of the iconic buildings in the D.C. area. It reminds me of the times I’ve lived in the city, or walked along the National Mall.

Air Force Memorial by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Air Force Memorial.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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The “Air Force Memorial” is a collage of one of my favorite memorials in the city. I love how the Air Force Memorial is abstract and sculptural. The fact that it doesn’t look like so many of the other more traditional memorials or sculptures, is what really draws me to it. I’ve made a couple of pieces inspired by this distinct landmark.

The Botanic Garden by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Botanic Garden.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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The colorful glass sculptures outside the Botanic Garden have always caught my eye when walking past that building over the years. I like how they give the landscape a pop of color in an otherwise gray environment.

Air and Space Museum by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Air and Space Museum.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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I spent a lot of time at the Air and Space Museum back when I was in elementary school. I actually spent a summer going to space camp there, and always had somewhat of a fascination with space. It seemed only fitting to make a collage inspired by a place where I went on many school field trips and summertime outings.

National Gallery by collage artist Megan Coyle
“National Gallery.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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One of my favorite memories of art when I was a kid, was when I got to see a Vincent van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery. I’ve been inspired by van Gogh’s work ever since I was in the second grade and did a school project on him. Over the years, I’ve continued to stop by this gallery to admire their permanent collection or check out the latest exhibit. I’m pretty grateful that I live in an area where museums like the National Gallery are free to the public. It makes it a lot easier to frequent the museum, and to continue to gather inspiration from artists throughout history.

National-Museum-of-the-American-Indian
“National Museum of the American Indian.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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When it comes the Washington, D.C. architecture, the National Museum of the American Indian is by far my favorite building. I love how different it is when compared to the more traditional buildings in the surrounding area.

The Washington Monument at Sunset by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Washington Monument at Sunset.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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Over the years, I’ve made a number of collages of the Washington Monument. And I’ve also taken numerous photos of it whenever I’ve strolled by.

The landscape of the Washington, D.C. area reminds me of a number of experiences I’ve had while living here. With my collages, I enjoy focusing on these familiar places, and showing a them in a different way – in paper form.

Bosty goes to Quebec City

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Bosty wanted to visit Canada the other day, so he could check out Quebec City. He spent the first couple of days strolling around the streets, looking at all the colorful buildings with window boxes filled with flowers.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Since it was his first time visiting the city, he just had to pick up a few souvenirs at some of the local shops.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Then he went off to enjoy the sunshine while looking at sculptures and fountains in public spaces.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Bosty especially liked the public art he ran into, like this art installation of woven boats that were suspended above the water.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

It was such a beautiful day to admire the area’s architecture and parks.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

And he had a chance to get close to the Salvador Dali elephant sculpture.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Next he walked along the boardwalk to enjoy views of the city by the water.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

The Quebec City Film Festival was going on during his visit, so he had a chance to watch a few films that were being screened outside.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Then he was back to wandering around the streets to take a look at the street art. He really liked the intricate murals that were painted on this overpass.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

And he enjoyed how every now and then he’d run into an incredible mural that was painted on what would otherwise have been just a regular and plain building.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

Before ending his trip, he went whale watching in St. Lawrence, Quebec. It was actually a pretty foggy day, where he couldn’t see very much in front of him.

Bosty the Boston Terrier by Megan Coyle goes to Quebec City

While riding the boat out on the water, he got to see lots of whales. Unfortunately they moved too quickly for Bosty to pose for a touristy photo.

Overall, Bosty had a wonderful visit where he had a chance to see lots of beautiful murals and public spaces.

How to Become an Artist

I often hear from art students and other aspiring artists who ask me for tips on how they can become an artist. I thought I’d share some advice on how someone can get started if they want to become an artist:

1. Start making art

You have to start somewhere, and the first step to becoming an artist is to start making art. Put your frustrations and negative thoughts aside and focus on putting the practice in. Watch YouTube videos of techniques that other artists are using, and try to use these techniques on your own. Practice sketching famous works of art, then start drawing from pictures you’ve taken or draw from real life.

2. Take classes

Take an art class to help encourage and motivate your work. Classes can help you get a better foundation in areas where you might be shaky, and with practice, comes confidence. They are also a great way to get advice and feedback from more experienced artists.

3. Evaluate your work and ask others to critique it

Every now and then, set your artwork aside and don’t look at it for a little while. Then return to it so you can evaluate your work with fresh eyes. Make note of what you think really works for the piece and what areas need improvement. Continue working on improving the work, or start over with a new work of art and keep what areas of improvement you need in mind. If you’re not sure how to improve a specific work of art, ask for others to help you out by critiquing your art. Ask them how you can improve your work and what they currently like about it. As an artist, it’s important to constantly improve and refine your craft.

4. Make time for your art

It’s a good idea to map out a schedule for making art, so you can constantly work on practicing your craft. It’s difficult to get better at something if you aren’t actually practicing it. For some more advice on this, checkout 7 Ways to Make Time for Your Artwork.

 

5. Build a portfolio

A crucial piece to promoting your work as an artist, is to build a strong portfolio. As you make art, take pictures of every finished piece. Then start sifting through the images and select your best pieces that also reflect the variety of work you can produce. You don’t want every piece in your portfolio looking too similar, but you also want to make sure that each piece reflects your strength as an artist.

6. Find a marketing strategy

One way that you can promote your artwork is by looking into local art centers and organizations that hold exhibitions, and start submitting your work to exhibits. Also figure out what ways you want to promote your work online – put together an online portfolio website and pick the social media platforms you’d prefer to use to post images of your work and share them with the world.

7. Connect with other artists

As you work on developing your craft and spreading the word of your art, it’s also important to connect with other artists you admire as well as more experienced artists in your local arts community. Seek out other artists who you can ask for advice.

 

Becoming an artist is journey that takes time and a lot of trial and error. I’m constantly trying to find ways to improve my artwork and the way I promote it. Some of the things I’ve tried have failed miserably, while other things have unexpectedly worked. You’ll never know for sure what can work for you until you start trying.

7 Ways to Make Time for Your Artwork

Daytime at the Capitol by collage artist Megan Coyle

Trying to find time to make artwork can be an intimidating task at hand. If you’re like me and have a full-time job, enjoy spending time with your family and friends, and also want to have time to make artwork, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything.

In an effort to make art making easier to fit into your schedule, here are a few ways you can make time for your creativity:

1. Make a schedule and stick to it

It’s easier to have time to do something when it becomes part of your weekly routine. Try carving out a few minutes a day during the week or on the weekend where you’ll devote some time to artwork. Even if you’re only devoting ten minutes a day, at least you’ll spend a little time at it. Plus, the most difficult part is getting started. Often times what was initially going to be ten minutes of creative time, can easily turn into a couple of hours once you find yourself getting caught up in your work.

2. Limit the time you spend on your smartphone or on social media

If you’re one of those people who checks his or her phone numerous times an hour, try to get into the habit of turning off your phone, or turning it on silent and hiding it, so you won’t get distracted by push notifications and other in-your-face alerts. It’s easy to get caught up in whatever is trending for a given hour when you’re constantly tied to your device. But when you set it aside for a while, it’s easier to have more time to do other things like make artwork.

3. Brainstorm the activities you want to do each week and map them out on a calendar

I like to come up with a rough idea of what I want to do each week. Then I map out what I plan to do every day of the week. I used to have a never ending to-do list, which quickly got out of control and got easier to ignore. I found that adding only one or two tasks for a given day was an easier way to cross items off my to-do list without getting overwhelmed. I found that this especially worked well when I wanted to make sure I did something art-related every day.

I also like to use an online calendar to manage these tasks, since digital calendars make it a lot easier to move things around if something comes up. You can always (and easily) reassign tasks to another day.

4. Take a class

Sometimes it’s not necessarily a matter of not having enough time to make artwork, it’s more along the lines of not being inspired enough to find time to make artwork. When you’re lacking motivation or inspiration, it can be difficult to set aside any time at all for art. By taking an art class, you can give yourself a little push to find time for art every week. You could also get some ideas from my post on 10 Ways to Get Inspired with Your Artwork.

5. Find ways to ease art into your schedule

There are times when making a schedule for your art seems too structured and intimidating, and you’d prefer other ways to work it into your life. One way is to ease art into your life gradually. If you enjoy watching the news or a little bit of TV at the end of the day, one way to start incorporating art-making time into your life is by working on a project while the TV is playing. That way, you can not only follow along with the news or other TV show, but you can also get some art done.

6. Have a designated space for making artwork

If you have no real workspace for your art, then making artwork will become more of a hassle when you have to recreate your studio environment every time you want to work on a project. If you set up a space where your supplies and work in progress are set out, it will make it a lot easier to continue working on a piece. In fact, any work in progress sitting in your studio space can serve as a reminder that you should get back to art making at some point in time.

7. Set goals

Without any concrete goals or a tangible vision, you can easily get lost. By defining your goals and what you want to accomplish with your artwork, you’ll have an easier time setting aside time for art when you have an end-goal in mind.

 

The art making process is indeed a process, and you should keep that in mind when making artwork and working on refining your style and technique – art making takes time. And the only way you can continue to grow as an artist, is if you work on finding that time to develop your craft.

XYZT: Abstract Landscapes at ARTECHOUSE

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

Last night I had a chance to see the XYZT: Abstract Landscapes exhibit at ARTECHOUSE – the show is closing soon, so I’m glad I had a chance to stop by. The exhibit is a world-travelled installation by French contemporary digital artists and multimedia choreographers Adrien M & Claire B.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

Lately I’ve been trying to get out the studio more to gather inspiration from other artists. And I’m happy I had a chance to see this show since it allowed me to experience an art exhibit in a new way.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

The show was a digital playground for people of all ages. I went to the evening admission, where only adults were admitted, and it was amazing to see how grown adults were playing with the exhibit like they were kids again.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

The exhibit consisted of several digital projections, and most of the projections were interactive. The image above shows a floor projection, where when you walked across it, the different particles would sense your movement and move.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

This pieces was a really fun, interactive one. It was a large cube that you’d walk into, with letters or patterns projected on the walls. You could move your hands near the walls and the letters and patterns would start moving based on your own movements.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

Here’s a touchscreen that had a pattern where users could create a ripple-like effect by pressing on the screen and moving their hands or fingers.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

Above is another touchscreen that had letters falling from the top towards the bottom of the screen. By pressing on the screen, the letters could get blocked by your hands from falling to the bottom of the screen.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

Probably one of my favorite pieces of a show was a projection that distorted the viewer’s body. It was like walking up to funhouse mirror.

Inspiration from ARTECHOUSE

And lastly, here’s a piece where particles would clump together in sections where they sensed a viewer was standing.

Overall, the exhibit was a refreshing experience. Instead of your typical stuffy museum setting, ARTECHOUSE has a modern look and feel, and the show XYZT: Abstract Landscapes let me experience the digital world of art in a new way. However, I did think the exhibit was a lot smaller than I expected. Despite being thrown off by the size of the room, the show was an incredible experience.

10 Ways to Get Inspired with Your Artwork

Puppies in Jail by collage artist Megan Coyle

Inspiration can take work, just like being an artist takes work. As an artist, you need to consistently schedule the time to practice your craft. When it comes to inspiration, you need to be dedicated to discovering and exploring different ways that you can jumpstart your creativity.

I usually find that getting myself out of my comfort zone helps energize my mind and makes me ready to tackle new and exciting things. So if you’re having trouble getting inspired, here are a few ideas of things you can do:

1. Walk around your neighborhood and challenge yourself to take ten creatively cropped pictures

This will help you start thinking creatively about common, everyday things and settings by looking at them in a new light.

2. Make a claymation inspired by a dream you had

Working with clay and thinking creatively about illustrating different moments in time, even if they can seem silly and nonsensical like dreams, will help you find the art in moments.

The Ewok Terrier by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Ewok Terrier” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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3. Play with your food

Find different and unique ways to rearrange the food on your plate. This can help you find the fun in everyday activities. And who knows, perhaps this could inspire a fun new series.

4. Find ten different items in your room and create characters inspired by them

This is another exercise in finding the art in common, ordinary things. Our lives can’t always be really exciting or inspiring, so it’s up to you to find that inspiration in what might otherwise be drab or dull.

5. Write a poem where the first line comes from the first thing that pops into your head

Brainstorming ideas can sometimes feel like a chore. Turning it into more of a game can help you find inspiration, and get into a brainstorming rhythm.

6. Take a series of photos to make a flipbook

It’s great to look at things you’re used to and might normally overlook in a new way. Making a flipbook can help you focus on making mundane actions interesting.

7. Make a collage entirely from cutting and layering text

This allows you to look at typography in a new way – by focusing more on the shape and color of text than the actual content.

Portrait of a Dog by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Malachi” Collage on paper. 9″x12″
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8. Make a painting without using a paintbrush

Again, this gets you thinking outside the box. Without a brush, what kind of shapes and strokes can you make with other objects or tools that are dipped in paint?

9. Find the music in normal sounds and dance to it

Avoid succumbing to the humdrum of routine and the ordinary, by training your ears and mind to find the music around you.

10. Pretend you are someone else – what kind of work would you make? Try it!

Learning to see things from someone else’s perspective is a useful skill to have. If you’re making art from someone else’s point of view, it could help you think more about the messaging behind your work.

Slow and Steady

“Slow and Steady” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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I’m drawn to making animal collages because I love how much variety there is when it comes to animals. They come in so many shapes and sizes. Each species has its own expressive quality and personality with whatever shape and form they take.

As a child, I used to be a bit of a nature kid. I loved animals, loved reading about them, visiting them at the zoo, and buying knick-knacks and souvenirs of them. I used to spend hours playing outside, playing games with my imagination where there were always some sort of animals present. And I suppose today, the way I stay in touch with that part of childhood, is by continuing to create different images and depictions of animals in my artwork.

This turtle collage is another example of how I’m continuing to explore compositions of different animals, as I continue to play with texture and solid colors to construct each image. For the background, you can see that I used fragments of images that had clouds and terrain in them. For the turtle, I focused on various solid greens, and made sure the shell had fragments of texture from images of street signs and shrubbery. Overall, I had fun making this piece – at times it was a bit of a struggle, but I’m happy everything got pieced together in the end.

How to Build a Wall of Positivity for Your Creative Self

As a creative, it’s easy for my confidence and self-esteem to take a hit from time to time. I am putting myself out there as an artist, which means it’s easier for my work to get rejected and criticized. And although I can get better at dealing with rejection when it comes to my work, that doesn’t mean it won’t sting from time to time.

In an ideal world, I’m sure all artists would love to have every piece they’ve made to be thought of as perfect and beautiful to every viewer. The truth is, not everything we make will be great and not everyone will like our work. But that’s part of the beauty of being an artist – the exploration of our work and process. It’s a fantastic journey where we experiment with making things. Some of those experiments won’t turn out well, while others will make us stand back in disbelief that somehow we made something that came together just right.

But for those days when I’ve felt discouraged and frustrated with my work, I realized I needed to find a way to remind myself that I am capable of doing good work. So today I decided to do an exercise. I decided to build a “wall of positivity,” and I thought I’d share it so that it can help anyone else out there who needs a little bit of a creative confidence boost.

  1. I took a stack of three different color sticky notes. One color would be used to focus on my achievements as an artist, another would highlight my skills, and the last would focus on my personality traits.
  2. I wrote down a different achievement or positive way to describe myself on separate sticky notes.
  3. As I wrote down a thought, I took the sticky note and stuck it to a blank wall.
  4. I kept writing down thoughts until I had a few rows of notes on the wall.
  5. I took a step back and stared at the notes for a little bit. It’s difficult to feel discouraged with your work when you have a wall of positivity staring back at you.

I think it’s important for artists to find creative ways to remind themselves why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s good to recognize your successes no matter how small, so you don’t forget the great things you’ve accomplished and where they can lead you next.

Bell Pepper Oil Painting Series from College

Bell Pepper Oil Painting by Megan Coyle

Before I started focusing extensively on making collage art, I was a painter. I studied painting back in college, and during my freshman year, I had an assignment to create a still life series that used a different technique for each painting. I decided to make a series of bell peppers, and my first painting (pictured above), was meant to mimic the style of Vincent van Gogh.

Bell Pepper Oil Painting by Megan Coyle

My next painting focused on only using the complimentary colors orange and blue.

Bell Pepper Oil Painting by Megan Coyle

The next piece in the series used arbitrary color. Blue is actually one of my favorite colors, so it was only fitting that I used blue for this particular piece.

Bell Pepper Oil Painting by Megan Coyle

And lastly, I made a painting using more natural colors. I decided to make the piece look flatter so I could simplify the overall composition even more.

Golden Girl

Golden Girl by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Golden Girl” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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I’ve always been a bit of a dog person. I grew up with a dog, and I always appreciate getting to visit my friends who own dogs. This is a piece inspired by one of those furry friends.

If you look closely at the Golden Retriever’s fur, you’ll notice that it looks like the texture of hair. That’s because I cut out fragments of images of blonde hair from models in the magazines I paged through, in order to construct this piece. The background is composed of fragments of landscape scenes, and the nose is made up of a few interesting textures I found.

Overall, I enjoyed making another collage of a grinning dog. Golden Retrievers are such fun dogs, and I’m especially a fan of adorable Golden Retriever puppies.