These days, we’re all about recycling…art! Just ask fine artist and illustrator, Megan Coyle.
Here’s the backstory. While scrolling through Instagram last week, I found myself slipping down into a wormhole following an artist who’s following an artist who’s following an artist. What a treat to come across collage artist Megan Coye’s IG post and page at the end of the tunnel. Her work and palette were too stunning and her passion for recycling paper into art too clever not to feature on the school’s blog.
I’m so happy this artist accepted my invitation to be interviewed. I hope you enjoy learning about this original artist and her work that elevates recycling.
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Q1. Your website refers to your style of collage as “painting with paper”. For my art students and readers, would you please describe what this style means or represents?
A1. “Painting with paper” refers to how my style involves manipulating magazine cutouts in such a way that they mimic the brushstrokes of a painting. Oftentimes viewers mistaken my artwork as being made from paint. Using the phrase “painting with paper” helps communicate what my art is made of when it isn’t immediately noticeable.
Q2. That’s brilliant! Perusing your website, I noticed much of your recent work features animals, people, places and still life. What is the story or inspiration behind your choice of subject matter?
A2. I studied creative writing back in school and I’ve always been drawn to stories, which is one of the reasons why I’m drawn to making representational artwork. I also enjoy tackling familiar, everyday subjects while using magazines for my materials. I like the idea of cutting up pages of ads with idealistic images of glamor and fashion, and repurposing them into images of something from everyday life.
Most of my portraits are inspired by friends and family, while my landscape/cityscape pieces usually recreate scenes from trips I’ve gone on.
My animal portraits are inspired by visits to the zoo or when I encounter wildlife on trips or hikes.
Still life is a subject that I tackle when I’m trying to challenge myself, since it’s outside of my comfort zone, and I typically like to explore familiar food and objects.
Lately I’ve been focusing more on making animal portraits. I like how there are so many colorful animals in the world. I find endless inspiration in recreating different animals in paper form, especially since magazines allow me to explore surprising textures as well as solid colors that I can incorporate into every composition.
Q3. My students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. May I please inquire your preference for adhesive and magazine papers? What brands and types of cutting and pasting tools work best for you? Do you ever make your own paper strips or have custom papers made to order for any of your projects? Do you finish with a varnish or leave as is?
A3. When I’m working on a work in progress, I like to use an acid-free Elmer’s glue stick since it gives me more flexibility than using a more permanent glue. I can easily peel back previous layers if I’m not satisfied with how certain sections of a piece are turning out. I can also easily add additional layers.
For the surface that I collage onto, I like to use Strathmore acid-free watercolor paper. I prefer paper to canvas since I can manipulate the surface when I need to. For cutting, I like using a pair of scissors since it’s quicker for me to cut out different shapes of paper with them. I’ve tried X-Acto knives in the past, but I’m drawn to scissors since I’m more comfortable with using them as a tool.
I’ve previously worked with rice paper and I used to incorporate more mixed materials with my work. I started focusing more on manipulating found paper from recycled magazines since I enjoy the challenge of making art from the colors I can find. I like how it limits my color palette and forces me to get creative with how I use textures and patterns.
Whenever I complete a collage, I always varnish it with a UV-protective varnish. I like using Liquitex® varnishes. Since I use a temporary glue when working on a work in progress, it’s important for me to varnish the collage when it’s complete to ensure that all the magazine cutouts are sealed in place and don’t fall apart over time.
Q4. That totally makes sense. Thank you for sharing your product and process intel. Fascinating! It sounds like you have a great work ethic as well, taking care and pride in your beautiful work, the heart of a true artist. At what age did you realize you were an art spirit?
A4. I’ve been told that when I was growing up, I used to draw a lot more than other kids my age. I also used to take art classes every year as a kid, but I don’t think I ever realized how important art was to me until I was in college. Before it was just a part of my everyday life, and I didn’t think twice about the fact that I was constantly drawn to art and creativity. When I was in college, I became more aware of what art meant to me and how important it was for me to make time for it in my life.
Q5. It’s refreshing to hear that you followed your heart into the arts. Did anyone try to talk you out of fulfilling your dream as an artist and illustrator? If so, how did you handle it?
A5. Yes, I remember a few people trying to discourage me from my dream of being an artist and illustrator. I was often told it’s too difficult to become an artist and that it’s too competitive out there to pursue a creative passion. It was difficult hearing that kind of feedback when I was growing up, but I found that my love for art was far more powerful than anything a naysayer could say. Art brought me joy as a kid and it still brings me joy as an adult. And I’ve found that doing what makes you happy is far more meaningful than worrying about or following what other people tell you to do.
Q6. Amen to that! May I ask, is your work represented by a gallery? If so, how did the gallery and you become acquainted? Did you seek them out or did they find you?
A6. My work isn’t currently represented by a gallery. I used to exhibit my art quite a bit a few years ago, but lately I’ve been finding ways to share my work with others through social media and my website. A few years ago I put together online lesson plans on my website, and since then I’ve heard from students and teachers who have studied my art and made their own collages. I get a lot of joy from seeing what others come up with when they experiment with my technique.
Q7. Art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, Pastimes For A Lifetime partners with CoachArt.org to provide free art classes and piano lessons for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you would like to share with my readers?
A7. At the beginning of this year, my father lost his battle with brain cancer. Since then, I’ve been really passionate about the National Brain Tumor Society and helping raise funds for that organization. I haven’t incorporated my art with brain tumor awareness yet, but that’s something I’d like to pursue in the future.
Q8. Wow. My deepest sympathies. Thank you for mentioning this organization. It’s always good to pay it forward whenever possible. In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a creative block, that you would like to share with our readers?
A8. Whenever I get a creative block, I find this quote by Andy Warhol to be pretty helpful – “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.”
Brilliant words. Thanks for the inspo! Hey, that quote might make a nice collage, no?
Megan, thank you so much for your gracious time sharing your story and beautiful work. My students and readers will no doubt enjoy perusing your website and social media platforms. I’m thinking about commissioning a work at some point.
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To learn more about this eclectic artist and her work visit her website and social media platforms. If you’re ready to place an order or commission a work, please email Megan directly.
Did this interview inspire you? If so, please feel free to share with those who would enjoy.
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