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Q&A with Megan Coyle

Collage artist and illustrator from the Washington

My name is Megan Coyle, and I'm a collage artist and illustrator from the Washington, DC area. I take common, everyday magazines and turn them into works of art with a process that I call "painting with paper." I also dabble in other media like digital sketching and painting, although cutting and layering paper is my preferred area of expertise.

How did you get started as a collage artist and illustrator, what is your background?

Growing up I always took art classes in school or at a local art gallery. In high school I started experimenting with collages and got hooked on the technique - there was just something therapeutic about paging through magazines to find my materials. In college I studied painting and creative writing, but continued to work on collages in my free time. In fact, my art senior thesis exhibition focused on collage portraiture. Since then I've continued to work on developing my craft. I'm also always looking for new ways to share my work with others.

Where did you study art? Looking back, would you recommend your path for beginners?

I studied art at Elon University in North Carolina. It's difficult for me to recommend any one path for beginners since I feel like the artistic journey is so different from one person to the next. You might start practicing one art form and then find yourself doing something completely different years later. What I can recommend is to take classes when you're starting out, so you can teach yourself how to get into an art-making routine. Classes at any stage in one's art career can also help you find inspiration if you're ever in a creative rut.

What is a turning point in your professional career?

Now that's a tough question - over the years there have been a number turning points that have helped shape my career. But if I could only choose one, I'd have to say it was the first time I received an email from a teacher who found my work online and was teaching my technique to a class of art students. It made me realize that my work had the power to inspire others, and I had never felt so proud of all my hard work than I did at that moment. To this day, whenever I hear from teachers and students who study my work, I am always overjoyed. For me, being an artist is about sharing my work and inspiring others to make artwork.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you work in your studio all day long or mix a few activities?

I'm a bit of an artistic nomad - I like to work wherever I have a large, flat surface. Often times my workspace shifts depending on my mood or interests for the day. Typically I work in my apartment, but even there I'm constantly shifting places from my home office desk to the kitchen table to sprawling out on the floor with my supplies. Where I work also depends on whether or not I want to listen to music, the radio, or play movies and TV shows in the background. I also typically make artwork at night, and sometimes during the day on the weekends.

Back in 2010 I had an opportunity to work in an open studio for a couple of months at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. It was a nice change of pace having a separate workspace to go to everyday. One of these days I might work in an outside studio space or at the very least have a home studio. But for now, I've been pretty content with my constantly shifting and temporary workspaces.

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

I enjoy strolling around the National Mall in DC and stopping by the Smithsonian museums on a whim. It's especially nice wandering around the National Mall during springtime or autumn, when the trees and plants are more interesting to look at. I also like to visit the National Zoo from time to time, since it's actually one of the top places I go to gather inspiration for future works of art. I like to take pictures of the different animals and then go home to create my zoo-inspired collages.

I spend a good amount of time exploring different neighborhoods in the area and checking out some of the local coffee shops and restaurants - right now I really like spending time around U Street and H Street. It's always fun when you stumble upon a neighborhood that you didn't noticed before, and finding time to get to know it.

One of the greatest things about living in a city is that there's so much to see and do. I am constantly finding inspiration for future works of art just by walking around and seeing all the different people, places, and colorful food. There's nothing like the bustle of a city to spark some creative inspiration.

Who are the designers and illustrators, colleagues you admire most?

This day and age with so much information being shared online, I feel like I'm constantly learning about new designers and illustrators whose work I really admire. There are so many wonderfully talented people out there creating absolutely amazing things. So in general I am in complete awe of what so many artists are accomplishing these days. A couple of artists that I've continued to admire over the years are Chuck Close and Eric Carle. When I was intensely working on portraiture collages, I studied Close's work a lot, and I am constantly amazed by his realism and level of detail. As a kid I always enjoyed Carle's illustrations, and I think his style is fun and inspiring.