Why is Art Important?

The Wise Lizard is a collage by Megan Coyle

Art is important for a number of reasons – it makes life more interesting and cultivates an inspiring environment. It helps define our culture and reflects the state of the world when a work of art was created.  Art is a wonderful tool, that allows us to:

1. Express Ourselves

Art allows us to tell stories visually, and share the way we see the world. There are so many different mediums or materials that can be used to make artwork, which is part of the beauty of using it as a form of expression. This makes it easier for artists to craft their own unique style and voice.

2. Inspire Others

Artwork can inspire others in the arts and even serve as motivation for people in different industries to create something of their own. Making your own artwork, and making it to the best of your abilities, can inspire others to make their own art – which can inspire others as well. Art-making can create this fantastic chain reaction of inspiration and creativity.

3. Make the World More Interesting

Without art, our lives would be pretty dull. We wouldn’t have artwork decorating our walls at home or work, and we wouldn’t get that inspiration from visiting art museums and galleries. There wouldn’t be designs and patterns on our clothing, bags, or rugs. There wouldn’t be cartoons or illustrations in publications or on TV. Quite honestly, the world would be a pretty bland place. Art makes the world a more vibrant and interesting place to live.

4. Record our History

Even if we’re not aware of it, the art we make helps record what life is like at a given point in time. This can be done simply with the materials used that can date the work, or the subject matter depicted. Art serves as a record of how life was when the work of art was created.

 

Overall, art makes the world a more interesting and beautiful place to live. It helps us make sense of life, and add meaning to different moments in time. Art is something that makes life a little more magical, allowing us to express ourselves and communicate our different viewpoints.

Rural Fields

Rural Fields by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Rural Fields” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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Landscapes are one of the subjects I seldom tackle. I suppose I’m more drawn to animals than I am to different environments. However, tonight I decided to sit down and complete a landscape piece from start to finish.

My landscapes have a tendency of looking more abstract, since I’m focusing more on abstract shapes of color and texture. I also wanted to limit my time on this collage so I wouldn’t overwork different areas of the surface.

I filmed a time lapse of this piece that you can view below:

Why Should You Plan Out Your Art Composition?

What a Pair (the Otter Sisters) is a collage made entirely from magazine strips by Megan Coyle

Art is a process, and figuring out your composition before you get started, will speed up the art-making process. So what does planning out your art composition really mean? It means figuring out what you’re going to create:

  • Define your subject matter
  • Define your color palette
  • Research (let that be via practice sketches or studying the subject in more depth)
  • When you’re ready to get started, sketch out your composition. That way you’ll have a guide to use as you develop the piece.

Why does planning out your composition matter?

1. Saves Time

Sketching out your composition first, saves you the time and effort of reworking your artwork when the composition you had in mind isn’t panning out. Planning this out before you start using your materials, will help you figure out what may or may not work.

2. Saves Money

Time is money after all, and if planning can save you time, it will save you money as well. Also, eliminating compositions that don’t seem to work when you sketch them out, means you don’t have to learn those lessons while working with your materials. For instance, if you’re making an oil painting, you won’t have to waste time and materials painting over an unplanned composition that just doesn’t work. Planning will uncover possible issues.

3. Defines the Vision for the Artwork

Planning can also assist with the direction of the art – with the tone, and overall look and feel.

4. More Control Over the Progress

By determining what your work of art will look like beforehand, you’ll have a better handle on how things progress.

5. Get More Consistent Results

If you have defined the vision of your work and have more control over the progress, you are more likely to get more consistent results. Identifying potential issues by working them out with sketches, will also give you more successful results.

 

Even after planning out your composition, there is still the possibility that it won’t work out the way you were hoping it would. These things happen, and they’re simply a part of the creative process. However, planning will ensure that more times than not, you’ll have a product you’re satisfied with.

The Serious Cheetah

The Serious Cheetah is a collage by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Serious Cheetah” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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I’ve taken a short break from my dessert-inspired collages to return to one of my favorite subjects, animals. This time I thought I’d tackle something I’ve never collaged before, a cheetah. I enjoyed working on the patterned background, as well as cutting out all the intricate shapes for the cheetah’s spots and whiskers.

After completing this piece, I realized that there’s a pattern with the color palettes I use. A lot of my animal pieces use oranges and greens. I suppose I’m drawn to the color green when it comes to the background for my compositions. And I’m looking forward to experimenting with something a little new for my next pieces.

Why do Artists use Sketchbooks?

All in a Row sketch by collage artist Megan Coyle

Sketchbooks are a great tool for artists to practice their craft. You can think of sketching as creating a rough draft of a work of art. Sketchbooks often hold a collection of sketches or ideas for new work.

Here are a few reasons why artists keep sketchbooks:

1. Practice

Sketchbooks can be used to master the art of drawing something specific, like the figure.

2. Exploring Ideas

Before committing an idea to canvas, or whatever the materials are that the artist is using, the idea can be explored with a series of sketches. That way the artist can determine beforehand what the piece might look so she or he won’t waste materials.

3. Troubleshooting Layout Issues

If the composition for a work in progress isn’t quite working out, sketching can help figure out possible solutions to the composition’s layout.

4. Journaling

They can be used like a visual journal where an artist can sketch out his or her thoughts on a daily basis (or however frequent is necessary).

5. Inspiration

Through the sheer force of practice, if an artist forces his or her self to frequently sketch or do different exercises in a sketchbook, even when feeling uninspired, it can help spark inspiration.

6. Works of Art

Other times it’s simply an easy way to store polished works of art.

 

If you’ve used a sketchbook for some other creative reason, feel free to share about it in the comments below.

How to Create a Portfolio

Portrait of a Horse by collage artist Megan Coyle

If you want to start exhibiting or selling your artwork, it’s important that you build out a portfolio so people can sample the work you’ve done, or see the work you’re capable of doing. Review the artwork you’ve made thus far, and select the strongest pieces. How do they compare when they’re grouped together? See if you can meet these requirements to ensure that you have a good portfolio:

  • Is there enough variation?
  • Do they show that you have range?
  • Are they consistent?
  • Is each piece memorable in its own way?
  • Do you have at least 10 pieces?

If you weren’t able to meet all the requirements, or if there were any pieces you weren’t thrilled with, you can make more art so you can fill in any of the gaps. Your portfolio should be a body of work that you’re proud of, so you should replace anything that you’re not crazy about with newer, better art.

If you’re compiling a portfolio to apply for an exhibit:

  1. Make sure the artwork speaks to the gallery – meaning do the research on what they’ve exhibited previously, and if your art looks like something they’d show there.
  2. Make sure it fits the requirements.
  3. Organize the art in such a way that it flows nicely – that each piece can call attention to itself and that there’s a good balance of color.
  4. Have someone look over the portfolio and provide feedback. Often times it’s easy to stare too long at our work and get to a point where it’s difficult to curate or edit the pieces.
  5. Provide supplementary information with your portfolio, like an artist bio, artist statement, resume, and any good articles that have been written about your work.

When it comes to pulling together a portfolio when you want to sell your artwork, you’ll want to use it to mainly market your work:

  1. Make sure the portfolio has a good sample of the work you want to sell
  2. Have someone take a look at the art you selected and provide feedback. Does the work make them want to see more?
  3. Come up with a strategy for how you’d like to market your art from your portfolio. How will you share the images?
  4. Have an online store where you can direct users to.

As an artist, you’re never done building your portfolio. You will constantly review the new work you’ve made and update your portfolio when needed to keep it current.

Collages Inspired by my Family

Bill by collage artist Megan Coyle

Back when I was a senior in college, I created my first cohesive body of collage work where I made collages entirely from magazine strips. My senior thesis exhibition included a series of portraits, with several inspired by my family. At that time, I wasn’t interested in making portraits of famous or well-known figures, but figures that were well-known to me.

The image above is a collage, “Bill,” that was inspired by my father. I had taken a series of photographs of him and ended up working from a few reference images in order to complete his portrait. I wanted to make a portrait of my father because I’ve really appreciated how he’s influenced my interest in art. When I was a kid, I remember that he used to paint landscapes and still life scenes when we went on vacation. And over the years, he’s been an avid photographer.

Jean by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Jean.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Jean” is a portrait of my mother that was also part of my senior thesis exhibit. I remember that my mother’s portrait was a bit of a challenge because of all the details involved with the background – the windows, the bookshelf, the faint hint of color variation for the blinds, and of course, the detail of her shirt. Over the years, she’s worn many hats, one of which I’d like to think of as her counselor hat, being helpful in giving me advice in life. She seems a bit serious in this portrait, almost as though she’s about to impart some advice.

Bren by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Bren.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Bren” is a portrait of my brother. I’m realizing that he’s appeared in several of my figurative collages over the years. What can I say? My brother has always had a tendency of being great at making expressive faces. He is also pretty artistic, and growing up, I was inspired by the artwork he made. He studied animation back in college, and currently works as an animator/3d artist.

Ali by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Ali.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Ali” is a portrait of my cousin, who I like to say seems more like a sister to me than a cousin, simply because we spent so much time together when we were growing up. Like my brother, I feel like she can be pretty expressive, and she’s appeared in a couple of my portraits.

Scott by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Scott.” Collage on paper. 18″x24″
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“Scott” is a portrait of my cousin who passed away back when I was in high school. When I was in college, I really wanted to create a work of art in memory of him. I remember that I struggled with this portrait, since I really wanted to make sure I could capture his likeness. This portrait was also part of my senior thesis exhibition.

Boy with Dog by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Boy with Dog.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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After college, I started exploring different ways of tackling portraiture. “Boy with Dog” was one of my first pieces that looked at portraiture involving a person and a pet. This piece was also inspired by one of my younger cousins, Drew.

Sightseers by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Sightseers.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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Later, I started creating images where figures were interacting more with their surroundings. “Sightseers” is a piece that was inspired by my mother and brother when we were on the rooftop of a building in New York City, admiring the view.

The Hikers by collage artist Megan Coyle
“The Hikers.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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For several years, my family went to West Virginia for Thanksgiving. We’d rent a cabin, and it usually snowed at some point during our stay. “The Hikers” is inspired by the walks I’d occasionally take with my family in the snow. For this piece, I explored using more abstract shapes, as well as fragments from photographs of nature.

Snorkeling by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Snorkeling.” Collage on paper. 24″x18″
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Growing up, my family spent a few summers in Maine. Sometimes my brother and I would go snorkeling in the ocean, and since the water was always so cold, we’d wear wetsuits. “Snorkeling” was inspired by those summers spent snorkeling and exploring tide pools.

I have my family to thank for inspiring a lot of my earlier portraiture work. I actually haven’t explored figurative collages in a while, and I suppose you could say I’m well overdue for that. Perhaps I should turn to my family and friends again, and see how they can help inspire future works of art.

What to do with your Older Artwork

Rebellion by collage artist Megan Coyle

Over the years, artists can accumulate a lot of artwork. We make art when we take classes, experiment with different mediums, and create different bodies of work for a series or exhibit. And an artist might want to find ways to get rid of that older work since it can show visual inconsistencies with her or his inventory.

So if you’re an artist looking to get rid of older work, here are a few ideas of things you can do:

1. Sell it Online

Create a separate site or section of your site to market and sell your older artwork (especially if the style varies greatly from your current style).

2. Donate it

Donate your work to a charity art auction. If you’ve grown tired of your older pieces, and have no desire to market and sell them anymore, why not give them to an organization that can benefit from your art?

3. Run a Giveaway

I think giveaways are an excellent way to declutter your studio by removing artwork that is no longer relevant to your visual style or career. It also helps generate some excitement for your fans who follow your work. And people who are truly interested in a piece will enter, which is much better than giving away your work to just anyone.

4. Rework it

Try revisiting your older work to make it better. You can turn one of your older pieces into a newer work of art by working on it again. Who knows, you may even improve it in such a way that you’d want to proudly feature it in your portfolio.

 

When you’ve gotten tired of your older artwork, or want to clean up your studio a little bit, there are plenty of ways to find a new home for your work. Or if you don’t want to find a new home for it, you can always revisit and rework it.

Cupcake Time

Cupcake Time by collage artist Megan Coyle
“Cupcake Time” Collage on paper. 5″x7″
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I’m having a sweet time making all these dessert collages. With this piece, I enjoyed incorporating more texture for the background, cupcake base, and the cherry on top. However, this collage was more of a struggle for me – I felt like I was overworking the surface for the frosting.

If you take a look at the collage in-person, you’ll notice that some parts are built up more with quite a few layers of paper. Whenever there’s more paper layered in a particular area for me, it means that I was struggling with getting a certain section looking the way I wanted it to. Although, that’s making me think that it could be interesting to build up different areas on purpose to see what happens.

Indian Ink Drawing of Blocks from College

Indian Ink Drawing by Megan Coyle

I was an art major in college, and part of our curriculum was to take a couple of studio drawing classes. This Indian ink drawing was a piece I completed for one of those courses.

Back in college, still life always seemed to be a bowl of the same plastic fruit that had been in the art department for years. Occasionally other objects were thrown in, although usually I was pretty bored with the subjects we tackled. For this piece, I thought it was pretty unique that we drew from a block arrangement. Using Indian ink made the composition even more interesting, since we had to focus closely on the variations in contrast for the highlights and shadows.