What Stories Do You See?

Karim's Father by collage artist Megan Coyle
Megan Coyle. Karim’s Father.

It is not unusual for different people to have different ideas of what the story is behind a work of art. In fact, it’s the norm. Why is that? Well, different settings, objects, and body language can remind people of their own unique memories. A portrait may even remind you of someone you know.

Take a look at a few of Coyle’s up-close portraits. (Click on a thumbnail below to view a larger image)

What do these portraits have in common? Do you notice that they all have simple backgrounds? Simplifying a background can make the person look more noticeable. Did you find yourself focusing on the person’s expression or face more than the environment? Pick one of the portraits above, and imagine who the person is. What do you think his/her life is like?

Think about how color helps create a story. What colors are used in the collages that look peaceful? How about in the collages that look thoughtful, happy, or sad?

Coyle has also made portraits of people in detailed settings. What can a setting tell you about a person? (Click on one of the thumbnails below to view a larger image)

Imagine that you’re one of the people in one of the collages listed above. What’s your story? Why are you doing what you’re doing? How are you feeling? Come up with a short storyline for one of the collages. Having trouble thinking of a story? Start off by comparing the collage to something that’s happened to you. Now change the situation a little bit and make the story about a fictional character.

After studying Coyle’s collages, how about getting started on making your own narrative collage? Print out the worksheet.

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