Monday, June 6, 2011

Artist Trading Cards: Introduction

Above is a group of Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs as they are more often called. ATCs are small pieces of artwork that measure 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches and are created with the intention of exchanging with others, rather than selling. Wikipedia, refers to ATCs as "miniature works of art about the size of baseball cards." And indicates that their origin traces back to 1996. 

As you can see from the photo of 10 ATC's, they can be either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) in presentation. All are on card stock or otherwise substantial enough that the term "card" applies.

There are few perimeters to making ATCs with the exception of the size (3.5 x 2.5 inches), density (card stock or other substantial base) and a label on the back that would look something like this: 
         Title:     "Deco Roses"
         Series:    1 of 3
         Date:      June 2011
         Artist:    Mary Jones
         Contact info: m.jones@_____

Since the cards are often exchanged in small swaps or in round robins, recipients want to know the artists' names and titles of their cards. In addition, like printmakers, if the same or very similar ATCs are created, then individual cards in the series are denoted. In the above example, since very similar cards of "Deco Roses" with ribbons were made by the same artisan, so each of the three cards was labeled 1 of 3, 2 of 3, or 3 of 3.

Media and Embellishments
Some of the media, mixed media and embellishments might include (but are not limited to): 
  • watercolor
  • pen and ink
  • hand stamping, embossing
  • collages
  • fabric
  • cancelled stamps 
  • Glossy Accents (product purchased from Michael's)
  • scrapbook paper
  • paper and graphics from calendars, books, magazines, pamphlets, paper napkins, gift wrap, gift bags
  • ribbons, lace, buttons
  • faux jewels, bits of regular jewelry
  • photographs
  • origami
  • decorating chalks
  • stickers
  • pressed flowers, silk flowers
  • glitter, puffy paint
  • metal bits, such as small gears
In the photo above:
  • Two of the ATCs feature cancelled stamps: the first example and the Beethoven card.
  • Four include hand stamping (feather/stamps, fish, strawberry, dragonfly), one of which goes a step further and is embossed (the feather in the first ATC is embossed).
  • Four utilize Glossy Accents, a liquid product in a squeeze bottle that is applied to selected surfaces. When the product dries, it is clear, glossy and emphasizes that area. Examples: 1.) the fish is raised by using Glossy Accents; 2.) King Tut's blue "stripes" employs this product; 3.) the strawberry in the middle row is shinier and raised with Glossy Accents; and 4.) the dragonfly wings on the bottom row are also accented with this product.
  • One of the above examples is a painted scene using acrylic paints on watercolor paper. (Middle, top row.)
  • Two of these examples are ink on watercolor paper: the old phone and the paisley design.
  • Three incorporate satin ribbon as an extra feature: fish, strawberry, dragonfly.
  • Two of these examples employ the collage technique: dragonfly and watches. The collage part of the dragonfly card shows two small squares that were cut from a larger collage sheet of torn and cut paper. The watch ATC used pictures cut from a high quality paper catalog.
  • Two have focal points that are layered to give depth by using thick foam tape: the first stamp and feather card and the Beethoven ATC.
  • Most of the ATC's are cut from scrapbook card stock. Others, not pictured, are cut from empty cracker or cereal boxes to recycle/upcycle.
  • Some of the backgrounds of these cards are from scraps of regular scrapbook paper, magazines or discarded books. 
There are many online sites that have great examples of ATC's, information about swaps and monthly contests. One of the sites is called ATCsforall. By doing a google search you can find sites that either feature or are exclusive devoted to Artist Trading Cards and see many fine examples of miniature pieces of art. In addition, there are several youtube videos showing how to make ATCs.

Creating ATCs can be entirely free flowing with each individual card a unique small piece of artwork or ATCs might be created by focusing on a theme. Below is a series of 6 ATCs painted similarly and called "The Olympic Forest."

Other examples of series might include: the seashore, holidays, seasons, flowers, vintage items, a particular animal, a sport, a country, a color, an art period (deco, art nouveau, impressionism) and cards based upon words used as graphics. The possibilities are endless.

Uses of ATCs
The purposes of ATCs are many and individual:
  • After trading and exchanging, they may be considered a small art collection and kept in a box or albums for viewing. A collection of interesting cards might be a great coffee table addition and conversation starter.
  • ATCs have been used as a means of getting the creative juices flowing. Creating them can really unplug bottled up creativity. Once in production, the artist's later cards often increase in creativity. 
  • Seeing and receiving others' ATCs provide inspiration on different techniques, media and themes for further creating.
  • Creating and exchanging ATCs is a great student project. What fun to see what unfolds when lots of media, magazines, calendars, markers, glue, tape, and whatever is on hand for creating are set out for burgeoning artists to jump start their creativity. Adults interested in supporting such a project would likely need to precut the cards to size to avoid problems with sharp cutters and a backup of preparation, instead of creating.
  • Vacation Bible School activities: ATCs can be a creative way to add scripture with art for a great learning and sharing experience.