Archive for the ‘Backgrounds for Artists’ 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.

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.

Backgrounds – Artist Trading Cards

Backgrounds – Artist Trading Cards

• Date stamp. Use heavy=weight watercolor paper cut to size. Add backgrounds with watercolor wash, cheap acrylics thinned in half by water or light-colored blotted ink. Using date stamp (office store) cover background with date. Straight reading line text, angled text, rows, whatever.
• Dry brush acrylic paints onto background, hatch strokes. Soften edges by adding wisp of paint with very dry brush. Same color or complementary or neighbor.
• For a shimmery background, mix pigment embossing powder with clear powder. Using large rubber stamp with lots of detail, ink with Versamark Stamp Pad, then stamp and emboss. Shimmery, glossy effect.
• Unusual background. Use partially stretched cheesecloth on ATC, either covered, nearly to the edges or overlapped. Attach with staples – colored staples if you have them.
•   1)Antique embossing. Some time needed. Use watercolor paper #120. Choose a stamp design that fits nicely on ATC – try mosaic, floral, antique designs. Or you can use smaller design and repeat. 2) Stamp design with clear embossing ink, sprinkle with clear powder and melt with heat gun. 3) Apply acrylic paint over entire surface and let nearly dry and then gently scrub paint from embossed area using damp terry cloth. 4) Add metallic rub-on for added dimension.

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.

Fishy Set of ATCs – Another 6 Art Techniques

6. If you’re talented with rubber stamps and can make your own, try this. Make an angel fish, complete with stripes on body. Using cardstock and a Versamark stamp pad, ink the image and emboss using UTEE. Heat set. Tear blue or green paper into wavy strips and adhere to part of card for a ‘watery’ background. Do a light watercolor wash if desired.

7. Use your own idea for the background. Make an angel fish, cutting or tearing silvery and related colors of paper into mosaic pieces. Add bits for black stripes and seal with matte medium.

8. A silly idea. Good to be silly – who knows where your imagination will take you. Put the angel fish on stage. Draw a simple stage and add color. Add microphone. Arrange a dancing, singing fish balancing on its’ tail. (at an angle) Add a ballet or tap shoe or whatever. Maybe a cane and top hat. Use your imagination.

9. Crazy ideas are fun, too. Use crayon resist for angel fish and do it crazy! Is the fish on a picnic or sitting on a park bench? Smelling the garden or flying an airplane? Sillier the better. Have fun with this one.

10. Chalk background and set with spray if necessary. (Use spray outside or very well ventilated.) Apply two angel fish about 2/3rds down the card. Use coral (or another color) fibers to make ‘coral’ to hide the fish. Or make a bed of reeds for them to take cover in. (Reeds are their natural habitat – read the article listed under the angel fish picture.)

11. Use markers, black pen liner and glitter glue stick to make aquarium with angel fish and a school of neon tetras.

12. Using three colors of cardstock, cut 1 inch squares. Approximately 4 will cover card when leaving space between them. Cut to make them fit leaving 1/16th” in between. You can leave enough space on the bottom and one side for small script if you wish to add words. Use any kind of mark maker to draw tiny angel fish in 3 of the blocks. Make them all the same or different. Whatever. In one of the boxes draw tiny blue/red neon tetras. Apply squares in a grid using matte medium. Using a metallic pen, inscribe words if wanted. You can write ‘angel fish and tetras’ enough times to fill the space or write a true fact about the fish, find a quote or write your own colorful description.

Twelve ideas for an angel fish set of ATCs. You could do nine of the cards to make a nine card set to fill a plastic trading card holder (binder insert). Or store them in a metal band-aid box decorated aquarium style or with a modern design of silver and black lines. (Sand first so paint will adhere to surface.) Then you can take them out and enjoy handling or sharing them whenever you are so inspired.

Fishy Set of ATCs – 6 Art Techniques

I’ve had much time to think of ideas for ATCs since I’ve spent a fair amount of time sitting in hotel rooms. I haven’t done any of these yet, but I’ll throw some of these idea seeds out in the next few posts to percolate. Later to browse and consider. Maybe a fresh idea will turn into a favorite ATC and you’ll be inspired, too.

I recently visited the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. What a marvelous experience! I came away with many ideas for art-making and scribbled them down while stuck in Dan Ryan traffic. Although I saw many species of lizards, mammals and fish at the aquarium, I was inspired by the regal angel fish and also the tiny neon tetras. Reminded me of the aquarium we had when my children were little. Such nice memories, perhaps I’ll immortalize them in artwork.

I plan to work on a new series focusing on angel fish adding a few neon tetras on the side for a bit of brighter color. So here’s a scatterings of ideas to consider.

1. First, an aquarium. Using dark cardstock, spritz with Clorox bleach. (Use gloves, protective eyewear, protect surface with newspaper and properly dispose.) Alternatively, use a gel dish washer product (dish washer, not dish detergent) and use a toothpick wrapped with a tiny bit of cotton to dip in gel and spot the background. This will turn the black paper one of a variety of shades depending on who manufactures the cardstock. I’ve seen brown, lavender and blue so far. Add bits of green and blue (try paper, string, fancy fibers) for plants and fashion a piece of sandpaper or a flat sheet of cork to make the bottom layer. Place a rendition of an angel fish as focal point — Photoshop-enhanced photo, sketch, cut-out, etc. With a toothbrush used only for art (obviously) spatter bits of red/blue paint for tiny neons.

2. Another aquarium. Collage a blue/green background using long, narrow strips of torn thin paper (magazines, gift wrap, specialty paper, whatever is available) laid horizontally and layered for the ‘water’. Cut angel fish shape from a geometric- patterned magazine picture or from black/silver paper and apply with acrylic matte medium. To add a little color if desired, use a standard hole punch on orange or yellow paper and distribute as ‘fish bubbles’. Coat with matte medium on both sides.

3. Do background by lightly sponging with blue, green, lavender acrylic that has been diluted by half with water. Using colored pencils, sketch and color an angel fish. Complete by adding several layers of matte acrylic medium.

4. Transform an angel fish into an angel. Transfer a copy of an image of fish onto paper using clear packing tape method. Cover image with tape, wet thoroughly, rub off paper backing until image is clear. Add wings and halo using found objects. Cutting wings from a metallic gold leaf skeleton (found in craft stores) makes a unusual set of wings with an ethereal effect.

5. Paint background in bright acrylic paint – any color. Add pix of angel fish. Adhere a piece of stretched and pulled cheesecloth (do not be neat about this; large random holes should be apparent) over fish to imitate netting. Dye the cheesecloth before gluing if wanted, though I stayed with a natural color. Use a spray adhesive for adhesion. VENTILATE. Use outdoors source when spraying if possible.

6. If you’re talented with rubber stamps and can make your own, try this. Make an angel fish, complete with stripes on body. Using cardstock and a Versamark stamp pad, ink the image and emboss using UTEE. Heat set. Tear blue or green paper into wavy strips and adhere to part of card for a ‘watery’ background. Do a light watercolor wash if desired.

More ideas to follow.  Give me a couple of days.