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.

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.

Mandarin Duck

“Mandarin Duck” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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Birds are always a fun subject to tackle since there are so many different species out there. This particular collage is my first attempt at tackling a mandarin duck in collage form. I love how colorful these ducks are, and I definitely enjoyed piecing this together from so many pieces of bright magazine pages.

If you’ve been following my work lately, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve shared quite a few animal collages. I’m thinking I should probably change gears in a bit and try to tackle portraits or still life sometime soon. We shall see though…animals are always a favorite subject for me, although it is good to break out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

Heels Collage

Heels by collage artist Megan Coyle

Although I started making collages back when I was in high school, I didn’t start getting serious about the medium until I was in college. “Heels” is a collage that I made in my free time outside of the painting classes I had to take as a painting major.

For this piece, I played around with using different patterns and textures, while still using some solid bits of color for the floor and wall in the background. Working on collages like this one is exactly what kept me interested in pursuing collage as a medium for my artwork.

Sea Explorer

Sea Explorer by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Sea Explorer” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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When I was growing up, turtles were one of my favorite animals. I remember I had a number of turtle figurines, and even had a turtle jewelry box. But of all the different species of turtle out there, my absolute favorite was the sea turtle. I thought they looked like such elegant creatures.

The other day I decided to piece together my first sea turtle collage, and as I was working on it, I remembered all those years that I was in awe of this creature. I think I should definitely tackle this subject matter again in the future.

Mark and Sophie

Mark and Sophie by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Mark and Sophie” Collage on paper. 9″x12″
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“Mark and Sophie” is a portrait that I was commissioned to make for the wife of a former boss of mine – she wanted to give it to her husband for their anniversary.

It’s been a while since I’ve made a portrait collage, so this piece was definitely a bit of a struggle for me. Usually my collages are relatively flat when you look at the surface – I don’t usually use that many layers. However, for this piece, there are definitely sections where I built up the layers more so than others.

Here’s the sketch that this piece started off with:

Mark and Sophie sketch by Megan Coyle

You can see that it looks a lot different than the final piece. Sometimes my sketches don’t exactly look the way I want the final product to look, but they do give me an idea of how to block out the entire composition.

Anyway, although this piece was a struggle, eventually all the pieces fell into place. Just goes to show that if you keep at it with something, eventually you can accomplish your goal.

Foxy

Foxy collage by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Foxy” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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The other day I had a chance to finally finish a new collage – this fox portrait. I also was able to make another time lapse video, which was a lot of fun to put together:

What’s actually a little amusing is that for the previous time lapse videos I made, I used to sit underneath a tripod that held the video camera, trying with all my might not to bump into it while working on the collage. With this one, I realized I can just film the whole process upside down, then flip it when I edit the video. That way I’m free of working under a tripod. In the future, I’d also like to work on using better lighting for these to make it easier to see my process.

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.

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.

Malachi

Portrait of a Dog by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Malachi” Collage on paper. 9″x12″
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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.