Archive for the ‘ATCs’ Category

How to Make a Quick Artist Trading Card

MAKE FAST. There are times when you have an entire afternoon and you can leisurely make Artist Trading Cards. That doesn’t happen to me very often. Usually I’m doing my artwork on the fly – 15 minutes here, a half hour there. By the time I get my supplies gathered and rummage around in my brain for a creative thought, my time is almost over. Therefore I made a list of easy and quick ATC ideas that can be mixed and matched, and completed in bits of time or in one short sitting. One of the techniques I frequently use with these cards is to think big. I use a part of a large image, enough so that it’s obvious what I’ve used, but not all of it crowding into one small space (2 ½”x3 ½”.)

BARE-BONES BACKGROUNDS I seldom do backgrounds on these cards, and if I do I make it quick – maybe a few pounces of chalk, a little acrylic paint dry tapped on the card with a sponge or a diluted watercolor wash swabbed for a color background. I don’t have to wait long for any of these to dry and be ready for the next step. I usually simply use the white background and this cuts a step from the process. If you do the backgrounds, especially the ones involving paint, do several at a time. Then you’ll be ready for the next time.

I often do these cards using black ink, either India ink and a nib if I have a little extra time, but more commonly with a .05 micro waterproof pen. Other commonly used media I use include Prismacolor or other quality brand of colored pencils, Copic pens (these mark on nearly anything because they are formulated with an alcohol base, but are on the expensive side,) a good quality set of markers. Add your own favorites.

Focal point, then embellish.

FOCAL POINTS ON ATCs Here are some ideas for a quick card to get you started:

1. Thinking big, draw a part of a common item, making the identity obvious. Consider a few things that are easily found in the home: a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste tube, cup, fork and spoon, or a part of a fruit or vegetable.
2. Examine a picture, photo or a real flower, pinecone, cactus, leaf or other natural item. Then draw a ‘macro” image from an insect’s perspective. Go off center or off the edge. Add an insect or bee if you want.
3. Use found paper as a focal point – a dry cleaner’s tag, a ticket torn in half or in pieces, (hopefully not a parking ticket), a torn strip of a map, graph paper, a handwritten letter, computer type in an unusual or typewriter font, yellow or white telephone page, a print from a newspaper or magazine page or part of a label from canned goods or packaging. Again play with the placement. Center? Off-center? Off the card?
4. Draw the unusual – a totem pole, (close up or all of it), a pair of crumply fishnet stockings, an electrical cord, a single die or pair of dice, a line of telephone poles, a spider web with a plastic spider.
5. Cut out a shoe from a department store sales catalog and position so the shoe is stepping into the picture.
6. Draw a coiled snake, head up and fangs exposed. If this is done on a white background with black marker or pen, add a bit of color with red fangs or bright green eyes. Depending on size, you could use tiny jewels for the eyes.
7. Use fingerprints to make a simple pattern or item. Add detailing with a pen or marker.

• Add a row of colorful snaps or eyelets, using an odd number, ie. 3, 5, 7. (A basic design principle)
• Colorful staples, either in a pattern (row, line, square) or randomly placed over all the card
• A 1” alphabet letter or numeral
• Cut out letters or words from printed material
• If you are accomplished with a sewing machine, stitch around edge of card once or twice
• Rubber band wrapped around the card. I cut a wide, flat rubber band and glue it, using either a single band or three, usually at odd angles
• Twine or string wrapped around the card like wrapping a present with the tie in the front or knotted on the back
• A frame of silver duct tape (hardware store) wrapped around edge of card and mitered at the corners like a picture frame.
• Photo corners, either purchased (some are in colors or embossed) or made out of cut paper
• A piece of aluminum foil, crumpled then flattened, and positioned across one corner

Mix and match any of these ideas or adapt as you want and you can easily make a few cards in a short amount of time.


Foil Backgrounds for Artist Trading Cards Plus

Adapt these techniques for large collages or for diminutive artist trading cards, or anything in between.

Begin with a surface that has some give. You can use a piece of packing styrofoam or foam core board, even a computer mouse pad if you’re very careful. Using aluminum foil (the heavy duty weight works much better), crinkle it into a very loose ball. Carefully unfold the ball and smooth it flat, but do not attempt to remove the wrinkles. Let them remain in medium to deep crevices. Place the foil with the shiny side facing up onto your surface, but do not attach it. Using a dull pointed tool – a dulled pencil will work – emboss patterns in the foil. Spirals, letters and/or numbers, geometric figures, lines – all work well when applied over the crinkles in the foil.

When you are satisfied with your results, affix it to a piece of light- or medium-weight cardboard. I have used spray adhesive or acrylic matte medium or a thick glue such as Yes! However, you cannot rub on the foil to adhere it to the backing so I generally tap it gently with my fingers, and then use a pound bag of dry rice for a weight, usually leaving it overnight. Do not disturb it until completely dry. I usually cut the foil larger than the backing so I can wrap the foil around the edges. If I am making ATCs, I attach a second piece of paper to the back to hide the uneven foil and also provides a writing space for the particulars of the card (name of artist, title, number if part of a set,etc.)

Use two or three acrylic paints thinned half and half with water. Deep, jewel-toned colors work best against the silvery metal. Using a 1/2″ to 1″ wide brush (hardware store type) gently paint parts of the foil, using an almost dry brush technique. Let some of the foil show through. Work within the patterns you have embossed, or ignore the patterns and free style if you prefer. If you want the paint shinier, mix with acrylic gloss medium instead of water, though you may still need to thin it further.

There is really no need to do anything further if you are making ATCs. If you are using this for a larger background, add your collage, mixed-media material or complete as desired, being mindful of the fragility of the background.

Fall Garden ATCs

A few garden ATCs for the beginning of the fall season.

Butterfly garden. Choose two colors of acrylic paints. Dry brush one color horizontally, leaving mostly white background; dry brush the second color vertically in the same manner. Don’t be neat here, just streak the background with some color. I used a sage green and a Wedgewood blue. Heat emboss 3 layers of UTEE over dried painted surface. (Stamp with VersaMark stamping pad, cover heavily with embossing powder – UTEE – and melt with heat gun.) I used a clear UTEE with blue sparkles. Ready a rubber stamp of a flower or garden-y item before applying the last layer. Immediately after melting the last embossing layer, ink and stamp pattern into still wet UTEE. Imprint will remain. Don’t stamp in the center; position off center. I used a medium blue Staz-On ink. I had a page of butterfly pictures, mostly done in light browns with highlights of blue, and collaged a rather large one onto the card at an angle, covering part of the (sun)flower.  I trimmed the butterfly parts that extended over the edge to fit the page and finished the surface with several coats of matte acrylic medium. (Use whatever picture you have – magazine cut-out, clip-art, digitalized image.)

Fall prairie . In September the tall grass prairies brown, and yellow goldenrod and purple aster flourish. I prepared the background of a 2 1/2″x3 1/2 ” white tagboard with a prairie blue sky – quite a vivid blue. I’ve been stockpiling fibers for years, and chose 5-7 kinds that reminded me of golden brown prairie grasses – variegated browns, golds, yellows; silky, fringed, twisted; and of medium and smaller diameters. I added some pale yellow baby yarn. I randomly applied these fibers to represent the prairie grasses: some erect, some blowing slightly; some stretching from top to bottom, others cut into smaller pieces, layering heavier towards the bottom. The look is rather a haphazard, natural one. I attached the heavy fibers using a spray adhesive and I finished the card by dabbing yellow and purple dabs of acrylic paint ‘flowers’ along the bottom inch using a cotton tipped applicator. Obviously this card cannot be protected by sealing, so I have mine in a clear protective card holder.

Simple Sunflower   Draw large black (or brown) ink sunflower near the center of card, stretching the petals off the two sides. I used a garden flower picture for a model and added as much life-like detail as I could, using mostly a dotting technique, rather like inked pointilism.  I did nothing else, except protect with two layers of matte medium and add an orangeish-rust faux wax seal to an upper corner.  A very simple, but appealing card.

In Studio Faux Wax Seals for ATC or Altered Art

Faux wax seals without using expensive wax sticks at 2 dollars a pop can be made with inexpensive glue for a glue gun. This solves the problem of having to purchase or fool with a melting pot, which  I always see as a favor in my direction. I don’t mind messy, but I do mind wax messy.

For this project I use a low-temp mini glue gun and glue sticks, usually clear ones. You can use any size glue gun you want, just make sure it’s low-temp. I find the smaller one easier to control. If you prefer your stamp to not be clear (who doesn’t?) I can usually find red, green, silver and gold glue sticks near the holiday season at Michael’s. The colored glue sticks make it super easy if that’s what you want – one of those specific colors, or there are suggestions for color coming up.

You’ll also need a Versamark stamp pad, embossing powder, UTEE, something to use as a stamp – brass, metal or rubber stamp – and a base to work on. I use a porcelain dinner plate I found at a thrift store for a buck-fifty. Maybe you have available a ceramic tile that you don’t need any more or pastry paper works okay.

Obviously, you’ll stick the glue in the glue gun and warm her up. Next squeeze a glob of glue onto your surface. You can ice your stamp if you want , because a colder stamp is easier to use, just be sure to wipe ALL the moisture off. Ink your stamp with Versamark so it doesn’t stick to the glue. Set stamp into glue, don’t push it down or you’ll go straight through the glue and have a mess. When glue is set, gently pry stamp from the glue. Voila!

If you are using clear glue and you want a color, mix embossing powder into the glue glob before stamping using a toothpick, but work quickly before the glue sets up. **You can also use alcohol inks for color. (**Thanks to Melissa’s comment for this suggestion.)

Remove the seal from your work surface by gently prying a bit of the seal with the tip of an X-acto knife or other sharp instrument.

Marbled Background

Marbled Background

Consider using a large piece of paper and cutting into cards when background is complete. Chalk with Versamark chalks if available, not dry chalks. Choose several colors that set off your center. Generously rub a cotton ball in each color and lay aside. Hold Versamark pad upside down and rub over surface of card. With one color, dab chalk sparsely on surface. Repeat with other colors until area is quite covered. For a more blended look, rub a clean cotton ball over the entire square, rubbing in circles with light pressure.

Still More ATC Inspirations

When my fishy-cards came out I got a lot of responses from everyone. Now I am going to throw out some different topics and you can see what your Muse has to say about experimenting. (I bet she’s all for it.).

1) For you science enthusiasts out there. (We DO have some science lovers, don’t we?) Obtain an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy, or any other book that details the insides and the outsides of a human body. I’d look for something in the used book store. When I went to check availability, I found four different sources. As a suggestion, do a pen and ink rendition of a tiny part of the body, using as much detail as you can. Consider hatchings for shading and contrast. Or you can use your favorite medium. So what will you try? Heart? Brains? Skeleton? Big toe? It’s up to you and your Muse. You can always do these as a set or individually for trading.

2) Use photography to capture your favorite hobby or subject. Take a series of shots. (Me? I’m always looking for gates, some unusual, some just regular.) I have friends who do their series’ in lighthouses, windows, and unusual signs. Anything that interests you is a perfect subject. Don’t fret about the subject, just go take some pictures.

Modify with PhotoShop or other graphics program if you want. Although I never use a software program BECAUSE I don’t own one.  It could be interesting to do all the photos in one tint, do them in sepia, or use one of the artist medium tools.

Reduce image size to 2 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ or smaller if you will use them for artist trading cards. You can either cover the entire card, or use only a part and add a different technique for the uncovered part.

5) Do some ATCs in a puzzle piece style. Use heavy weight paper or medium weight board for the background and to support the puzzle pictures. Use a magazine or a graphics designer catalogs. Designer catalogs, about two inches thick and full of varieties of photos and drawings, are great fun to use. Go to the used book store for these, too. They may seem a little pricey but examine the book and think of all the possibilities. Anyway, you figure out how to make the puzzle pieces. Are they going to make a picture, maybe a small part of a well-known logo? Maybe you’ll do a play on colors from magazine pix? Or only scatter a few pieces on the card, or let a puzzle piece be absent?

So go play. Let me know how you are doing.

ATC Ideas

More ideas to document while inspiration is fresh so I can come back and see which ideas I am interested in doing.

1. I took a picture recently of a nearby lake on a calm day; the reflection in the water was a perfect duplicate. Try doing a minimalist watercolor spread over 3 cards. (Use a larger piece of watercolor paper and trim into 3 cards after paint has dried for a panoramic spread and a set of 3.) Maybe use a charm with a lake theme in the lower corner of each card. Charm could be an anchor, sailboat, fish, nautical wheel, compass… Or attach a sparkly threesome of jewels.

2. The planets have been especially bright on these clear summer nights. I was relaxing in my backyard atop a small rise, when I was treated to a lovely sight – two falling stars, about 10 minutes apart. Inspiration for an artist trading card, very simply done. Dark background (for night sky), yellow acrylic paint for the two falling stars. Add glitter to the stars using a gold glitter pen. Using small cut-out letters from newspaper, junk mail or magazine, add a two word description either going along vertical side or positioned around a corner. Some thoughts – twin shooters, falling twins, night show, night glory.

3. Another idea for a shooting star card. Ink drawing, either simple or detailed, of the stars. Perhaps add a ringed Saturn or a red Mars with its lakes in the background. Use ink on white or a wash of paint on watercolor paper or other heavyweight paper like cardstock to keep it simple. Try embellishing by sewing yellow seed beads onto background.

4. Continuing on the night sky theme, wtaercolor a background with dark color. While still wet, sprinkle sea or kosher salt (larger grains than table salt) onto the paint. Let dry and brush off salt crystals. Embellish with ‘night lights’.

5. Using black, gray and white pictures from magazines, cut paper into 1 inch squares. Mix squares and glue sets of four on several ATCs. Draw a black ‘frame’ around each ‘inchie’ or leave as is for the minimalists. Make a simple mark (a zig-zag, Greek or Chinese letter, hieroglyph, etc.) in a contrasting color on each card, a slightly different mark on each card. Good technique for making sets of 9 – the ultimate set.