How to “Paint with Paper”

Commuters is a collage by Megan Coyle

I call the collage technique I use, “painting with paper,” because I manipulate magazine strips in such a way that they mimic the brushstrokes in a painting. By focusing on color and texture, I cut magazine pages into various shapes that make up the shadows and highlights of different compositions.

If you’re interested in making your own “painting with paper” collage, here are the steps you can follow:

1) Gather your materials

You’ll need:

  • a stack of magazines
  • watercolor paper or some sort of material to make your collage on
  • pencil and eraser
  • scissors
  • acid-free glue stick (this makes it easier to make adjustments to your collage when it’s still a work in progress)
  • UV-protective varnish

Materials that Megan Coyle uses for her collages

2) Pick a composition

Figure out what you want to collage. I like to take photos when I travel, which I later use as reference images for my artwork. I typically like to use animals, still life, landscapes, and people as the subjects for my art.

3) Sketch our your composition

On the support you’re using, sketch out your composition so you have a plan for the direction of your collage. The detail of the sketch may depend on the composition – for example, it may be simpler for minimalist landscape compositions, or more detailed when capturing the likeness of someone for a portrait.

Sketch of Commuters by collage artist Megan Coyle

4) Select colors and patterns

Page through the stack of magazines and tear out pages that have colors and patterns you’d like to incorporate into your collage. Sometimes I like to sort the magazine pages by color to make it easier when it comes to piecing together the collage.

Materials that Megan Coyle uses for her collages

5) Cut and paste shapes from the magazine pages

Cut out different shapes from the magazine pages based on the different shapes of shadows and highlights that compose your composition. Paste them on top of your sketch. You may want to cut several shapes before you start pasting, or paste the shapes down as you go.

Work in Progress of Commuters by collage artist Megan Coyle

6) Keep piecing it together

Add as many layers as you need in order to have the collage looking the way you want it to look. What’s great about collage, is that you can easily peel back previous layers if they aren’t working for you. You can also add layers to different sections.

Commuters by collage artist Megan Coyle

7) Varnish your collage

Once your collage is complete, varnish it with a UV-protective varnish so all the magazine strips stay in place. This will also help protect the paper from sunlight. Paper is a delicate material, and you’ll want to take as many steps as possible to protect your artwork.

8) Frame your collage

I’d recommend framing your collage with UV-protective glass as well.

 

And there you have it – the steps for making your own “painting with paper” collage. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or need some clarification on the process.

How to Develop a Creative Support Network

"One, Two, Three Giraffes" by collage artist Megan Coyle

Criticism and hard work come with the territory of being an artist. And in order to move past all that criticism, and make all that hard work not seem like work, it’s good to have a strong support network in place for yourself. A support network can help you achieve your creative goals by being a source of motivation and encouragement.

Here’s how you can build your own creative network:

1. Ask for Help

Reach out to local artists you admire for advice. Who knows, maybe you’ll build a few friendships out of those connections, and artistic friendships are powerful.

2. Surround Yourself With Your Champions

Spend more time around people who encourage you. Spend less time or avoid the naysayers. You want to surround yourself with people who lift you up and challenge you in good ways, while distancing yourself from those who discourage or put down your work.

3. Give Back to the Community

Volunteer your time as a creative – let that be by visiting schools or organizations to talk about your technique and process, or by offering career advice to aspiring artists. Giving more than you get is a great way to not only grow as an artist, but as a person.

4. Network

Get to know other artists and art enthusiasts in the community by attending local art openings and exhibits. You can also meet other artists or aspiring artists by taking art classes or attending creative meetups.

 

A strong network can serve as a great resource for helping you shape your art career. It can also encourage you when you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. It’s always helpful to know that you’re not alone with the struggles and joys of living the creative life, and hearing other artists share stories about their experiences can help you feel relieved about the direction you’re headed with your work. And best of all, a network can inspire you – meeting wonderful people who do their own exciting work, can motivate you to challenge yourself in new ways.

How to Become an Artist

"The Daydreaming Fish" by collage artist Megan Coyle

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.

8. Never give up

One of the biggest parts to being an artist is being persistent, and never giving up. If one technique doesn’t seem to work for you, try focusing on something else for a little while before returning to it. Being persistent and pivoting when necessary, is an essential part to being an artist.

 

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.

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.