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.

15 Inspirational Quotes About the Creative Life

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~Andy Warhol

“If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”~Edward Hopper

“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.”~Paul Klee

“Creativity takes courage.”~Henri Matisse

“To create one’s own world takes courage.”~Georgia O’Keeffe

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”~Pablo Picasso

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”~Joseph Chilton Pearce

There is only one way to see things, until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes.”~Pablo Picasso

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”~Pablo Picasso

“I don’t like to say I have given my life to art. I prefer to say art has given me my life.” ~Frank Stella

“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”~Auguste Rodin

The best way to describe the creative life:

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.”~Vincent van Gogh

I like to think of this quote as a reminder that there will always be challenges in life. It’s just a matter of teaching yourself how to power through the tough times so you can reach those successes.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”~Kurt Vonnegut

“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”~Vincent van Gogh 

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”~Andy Warhol

Why I Make Collages

I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. I guess you could say that first I learned to walk, then I learned to draw. When I was in preschool, I spent an unusual amount of time in front of an easel. During grade school, I took after school pottery classes and other artsy classes, like bookbinding and drawing comics. In college, I continued to make art in my free time until I decided to major in it. And now, I can’t go a week without working on something.

But why collage? I’ve been making collages since high school, and over the years my style and technique have shifted. There’s just something about collage that makes me come back to it year after year.

Sea Explorer by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Sea Explorer” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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With collage, I like how I’m constantly surprised with what I’m making. I especially like the medium because I’m working with found materials. And since I’m not mixing my own colors, and I’m relying entirely on what colors I can find in other images, I’m never quite sure how a piece will turn out. It’s always a surprise.

There’s also something therapeutic with the repetitive motions involved with constructing a collage – paging through magazines, cutting and pasting paper. I’m drawn to how these motions help me relax and escape from the stresses of life. And for a moment, I can stare at something other than a computer screen.

Flamingo Dancers by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Flamingo Dancers.” Collage on paper. 12″x16″
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Back when I was first learning how to paint, I was taught to look at objects as being constructed of different shapes. With collage, I can actually cut out those shapes. Thus it makes it easier for my process as an artist, when it comes to visualizing my compositions.

Lastly, I am constantly amazed by artwork that challenges the limitations of different mediums. I love art that looks like it was made from one medium, when it was actually made by something entirely different. That’s why with my artwork, I like to manipulate paper in such a way that it mimics the brush strokes in a painting.

Collage is a medium that I’ve worked in for years. I’m drawn to how it surprises me, and how flexible it is – I can easily layer paper and pull up previous layers. And when it comes down to it, collage brings me joy, and I’m trying to do more things that bring me joy these days.

Top 10 Things to do When You’re in a Creative Rut

Coffee Cup Collages by collage artist Megan Coyle

I was recently in a bit of a creative rut. I was feeling uninspired and noticed that my attitude about my work was getting increasingly negative. I had developed this “what’s the point in making artwork anymore?” mindset, which was clearly toxic and needed to be fixed.

I started making some changes in my life, and found that several of them were pretty helpful. So if you find yourself in somewhat of a creative rut, here are a few things to keep in mind that can help you get out if it:

1. Take a vacation

If you have a day job and you’re working on your artwork on the side, or if you’re a full-time art entrepreneur, you might find yourself having trouble figuring out when to actually stop working. The danger of having a “never stop working” attitude is that you run the risk of burning yourself out. So if you’re finding yourself uninspired, and feel like your creative passion is beginning to fade, take a vacation. Your body is telling you that you need a break.

2. Give yourself pep talks

I realized I was being too hard on myself, and I needed to start talking to myself the way I talk to my friends or family members when they’re going through a hard time. Instead of dismissing my work as “terrible,” I started editing my thoughts so they’d be more like, “this might not be where you want it yet, but it will get there.”

Afternoon in the Park by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Afternoon in the Park” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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3. Take better care of yourself

Taking a step back from your work and focusing on yourself can really help. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat, and exercise. If you’re worn thin physically, it’s difficult to work hard on your craft.

4. Go to a museum

Simply setting aside your work for a while, and going to an art museum or gallery to admire the work of others, can help you get inspired. It can also give you another perspective by showing you what else is out there, and how your work fits in. Or how you can do things differently now that you have learned about a new artist or body of work.

5. Spend more time with friends or family

Spending time away from your artwork and around others can help you get motivated again. Conversations can jumpstart new ideas.

6. Go to a concert or play

Seeing the work of other creative artists can help you get passionate about your work again.

7. Do something for someone else

Doing something for someone else can help you get out of your head, and you can start focusing on something new for a while. It can also help inspire future works of art.

“City Sunsets” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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8. Organize your life

When your “to do” list is growing out of control, it’s difficult of feel in control of your life, and it’s easier to fall even deeper into a creative rut. Getting organized can make tasks related to your artwork more manageable. I’ve also found that mapping out what I plan to do for the week on my calendar, really helps breakdown my workload into manageable chunks. Plus, if I don’t have enough time to get to one item, I can easily reassign it to a new day. So instead of taming an incredibly long “to do” list, I’m working on a couple of tasks every day.

9. Set goals

First, I think it’s helpful to list out what you’ve already accomplished. It’s useful to keep a running list, so if you’re ever feeling negative about your work, you can pull out the list to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved thus far. Then I think it’s helpful to work on setting new, manageable goals, to continue to move you along with your artistic career.

10. Change something

It’s easy to become a creature of habit and fall into the same routine day in and day out. But if you’re in a rut, changing things up a bit can really help. It can be something as small as taking a different route to the grocery store, or experimenting with a new medium with your artwork. Change can take you out of your comfort zone and help move you forward.

 

Have you tried something else that’s helped you get out of a creative rut? Feel free to share what worked for you in the comments!

A Snail’s Life

A Snail's Life by collage artist Megan Coyle
“A Snail’s Life” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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With this piece, I decided to focus more on using texture. There are a few areas where I used solid color, although for the most part, I wanted to see how I could layer several different textures together. For the snail’s shell, I wanted to outline the shape with solid color so that the shell could stand out more.

This is my first time tackling a snail collage. I think it might be fun to rework this subject with arbitrary color – actually it might be good to play around with colors for a new series. Lately I’ve been making collages that use more realistic colors, so we shall see what I’m able to come up with next.

Acrylic Self Portrait Painting from High School

Before I was immersed in studying painting in college, I made quite a few acrylic paintings in high school. This piece was part of a series I made where I played around with using color to convey different moods. As you can see here, I used cool colors to convey a somber tone. I also painted the background a dark color that I lightened up a bit by painting a thin layer of white paint over it.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Bosty decided to take a break from the Washington, DC area, and headed up to Hamilton, New Jersey to check out Seward Johnson’s Grounds for Scuplture. He spent the entire afternoon wandering around the sculpture park and museum.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Some of the sculptures were fairly abstract, like William Wiley’s “To Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, Artist, Tool and Die Maker.”

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

There were several sculptures that were recreations of famous works of art and people by Seward Johnson. Bosty was fascinated by Johnson’s attention to detail.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Bosty liked Gunnar Theel’s “Nature’s Laugh,” which somehow managed to tie a sculpture to nature. Theel’s sculpture was almost like a large flower pot, with plants growing out of it.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

After wandering around for a little while, Bosty took a break to admire his beautiful surroundings. He loved the lily pads the covered the ponds in the garden.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

He was amused by Seward Johnson’s sculptures of people doing common, ordinary activities, like this fisherman.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

He really liked the life-sized recreation of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

And he decided to pose next to Seward Johnson’s sculptures of sightseers to make it look like they might be searching for Bosty…

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Brower Hatcher’s sculptures really caught his eye, with the intricate and interesting way that the sculptor used stainless steel, glass, and iron.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Joan Danziger’s “October Gathering” had a whimsical and fun look.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

And in between wandering around sculptures, Bosty decided to take a break by resting on a bench with a couple more of Seward Johnson’s sculptures.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

He noticed a sculpture that he had also seen in Washington, DC, George Segal’s “Depression Bread Line.”

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Some of the sculptors used a lot of movement in their work, like Clifford Ward’s “Jubilant Dancer.”

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Bosty enjoyed all the sculptures that depicted different animals, like Karen Peterson’s “Beast.”

He was also a fan of simplistic shapes, like the use of line in Roy Wilson’s “Resting Place.”

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

One of Bosty’s favorite pieces was Benbow Bullock’s “Pillars of Hercules.” He liked how colorful Bullock’s work was, and his use of geometric shapes.

Bosty goes to Grounds for Sculpture

Bosty ended his day by visiting Autin Wright’s “The Sleep.” Bosty was exhausted after a day of wandering the sculpture garden grounds. He had a lot of fun, and enjoyed posing next to so many exciting and interesting sculptures.

Oil Pastel Self Portrait Drawing from College

I made this oil pastel self portrait drawing during my sophomore year of college. At that time, I was taking quite a few studio art classes. It’s also around the time I decided that I was going to pick up art as a double major, instead of just minoring in it.

I really enjoyed working on the face and eyes for this piece, although the hand was a bit of a struggle. I thought it was fitting to share a piece from my past, to illustrate how much your work can change and develop over time. Your work won’t always be “perfect” or turn out the way you’d like it to, but each new work of art you make will help you grow a little more as an artist.