How To Make an ATC

Tiny Pieces of Art to Swap

ARTIST TRADING CARDS are miniature works of art created on 2 ½ X 3 ½ inch  card stock.

"They are originals, small editions and, most importantly, self-produced. anybody can produce them.
the idea is that you trade them with other people who produce cards, either at TRADING SESSIONS or wherever you meet another ATC trader in person." That is the definition found at the ATC site where it all started.
You don't really need to know the history, but I find it helps me to sort out a reason to participate and take the time to make ATC's. Well, maybe that was true for me before I ever made one! I wanted to know the why, what, when and where so I could know what I was doing!
 Basically you need to know 2 things about ATC's: They should only be 2 ½ X 3 ½ inches in size and you trade them. Never sell them- this goes against the spirit in which they were intended to be made.

To begin, I use old playing cards as a base. They can be found at Goodwill or other consignment stores for as little as 59 cents. I sand off some of the wax and either cover that with cardstock or watercolor paper. You could make a large sheet of card stock glued to chipboard (from cereal boxes) or watercolor paper and cut them into size.
It is better to start small than to make a large collage and cut it up, in my opinion because the finished piece will reflect that proportion.
So, there you have a tiny, blank canvas and you have no clue what to do!
I like to think of a theme or a color to play off of.
There really is no right or wrong, the point is to get started and make one. Once you finish that first one, you may be hooked and not be able to stop! They can become addictive!

 Let's say that I choose Mermaid for a theme and using a piece of watercolor paper, cut to 2 ½ X 3 ½ I paint a wash of blues and greens. After drying I could add some torn dictionary listing for words like ocean, sea, fisherman, mermaid or Neptune. I distress dictionary pages with ink or tea and let dry before adding. Then I could stamp a mermaid image or use a transfer method (with acrylic gel medium and ink jet print). If you had a fabric with a mermaid on it you could stitch it down- I sew through paper and cardboard all the time.
I like to add a little 3-d effect using paper punches (Martha Stewart has some great ones for Michael's and Walmart) and add flowers or sea horses, shells and leaves. I bend them to add a bit of highlights with a marker or stamp pad. I often put a drop of glue in the center of the tiny paper flowers and add a sprinkle of glitter or a bead. Remember your porportions and keep it small. Think like a mermaid- what tells her story?

 One of my favorite quotes is by Degas: "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see"
What are making your viewer see?

Some of the most interesting ATC's that I have seen had a message or a figure or a story being told. You can do tiny random collages but they don't always translate well and for heaven's sake, you don't want it to look like something swept up from your craft room or that the cat dragged in!

When in doubt, turn to your favorite search engine and put in Artist Trading Cards and spend some time looking at what's been done. I purchased a book about them from Amazon and use it as a reference to get the creative juices flowing.
Here are some possible themes or ideas to begin with:

Portals, Windows, Selvedges, Inner Child, Hobbies, Insects like butterflies or bees, Food, Magic, Space, Circus, Theater, Movies, Movie Stars, Feelings like sadness, joy, happiness, lonliness, disappointment.
Use color like: eggplant, lemon, aqua, pink, sunset, rainbow, twilight- sky blue, raspberry.

I love the word melancoly because I always see a sad dog or fungi- a fun guy. Corny? Maybe but still a fun play on words to make you think about how to transform that into a visual image.

Each month at our meetings we swap ATC's and this coming new year I would like to propose that we use a theme for each month. I will start a discussion over at "Talk Amongst Yourselves" for ideas and themes we could use.
I hope this has helped you get a better understanding of what ATC's are and encourage you to "get small" and make some yourself. Here is a great template for an envelope to store ATC's.

happy creating!
kim sherrod

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