Archive for the ‘Found Objects’ 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.


Hardware Store Fun-damentals Part 1

Stroll down the local hardware store aisles and discover a variety of finds for art that cost double in the craft stores. There are hundreds of products that are easily adaptable to altered art and altered books, plus other products. I find the more interesting objects in independent stores, especially hardware stores that have been established for many years.

A few suggestions to get you started:

Look in the mirror department to find settings to fasten mirrors to walls. You can find rosettes, squares, stars – ornate and plain.

Pick up a selection of metal objects in all shapes and forms: keys, washers, rivets – to attach heavy materials together, wire – look for different metals or coated in plastic colors, keyholes, brads, latches, frame hangers.

Use clear, plastic finger pulls as backgrounds for a label or as a focal spot for a few words.

Laminate samples are easy to use. Emboss or stamp using a Staz-On or other solvent dye ink pad.

Sandpaper for use as background material.

Metal or duct tape, easily altered using alcohol inks.

Mesh drywall tape, used plain or painted with acrylic paints.

Paint chips for instant color.

Lots of circles – felt or cork pads, self-adhesive paper dots to add texture and variety or the background paper with holes in it for a stencil.

Hitch pins or a variety of unusual safety pins.

Small screen patches, just a few inches square or rectangular, that can be used plain or painted, or can be used as a painting tool by dabbing paint through the screen.

Twine, hemp, string, jute, fishing line.

Mosaic tiling.Cheesecloth (stretch for interesting effect). Don’t pick up tack cloth by mistake.

Not to be overlooked are the huge assortments of adhesives. Also tool boxes and containers for product organization.

Wooden House Assemblage

Use either a new or found wooden house shape with partitions. The one I have was purchased at a dollar store for $5.00. It is made of pine, has a dormer and 15 partitions each about 2″x3″. It was pre-sanded and well-constructed.

Coat the wood, inside and out, with acrylic paint. I used four colors staggered in the openings. Then painted outside of house with a complementary color. Let dry completely. Then paint a layer of gesso over the acrylic using a foam brush. Streaking or mottling is fine. Use black or white gesso, depending on the mood and intention of the project. I mostly prefer white. Or you can use white acrylic matte tinted with acrylic paint. If you use black gesso, adapt the instructions as needed. While still damp, wipe off gesso to allow paint to be visible – as little or as much as you like. Brush on light contrasting or coordinating acrylic paint on the outside, using a foam brush, letting some of the strokes show. Let partially dry and wipe off some of the light colored paint, allowing some of the darker base to show through.

Once dry, begin layering with a variety of paper in the partitions and on the exterior. I like to use yellow and white pages of telephone books, old sewing pattern pieces, mulberry paper, colored tissue paper or bits of patterned scrap paper. Use a matte medium to adhere the layers of paper, overlapping as wanted. Cut strips of heavy paper with decorative scissors and apply to eaves for a gingerbread or lacy look.

Place found objects, antique game pieces, any little object of interest in the partitions. It is preferable to leave some openings empty. Use a checkerboard stamp (or other rubber stamp) with Staz-On ink to finish exterior.

Optional: you can attach ribbon, fiber, etc. to the front wood edges that form the openings.

Embossed ATCs

Cut out 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ card from mat board or other sturdy background or use a playing card covered with several layers of white gesso or paper. Let dry if you have used gesso. Dab thinned acrylic paint (half paint, half water) onto card using wadded plastic wrap. Use 2 or 3 colors and cover much of card. Then emboss the card, using a contrasting embossing powder. Use a large-patterned stamp or a large stamp covered with words. If using words, stamp in lines as if the marks are being read, upside down, right side up, or a combination of both. Using a medium sized rubber stamp with a simple image, stamp once over the embossing. Add vintage or found object for final layer.

Children’s Games Cigar Box

Begin by decorating a cigar box, or other such something. Decide on colors of interior — a base color, dried. The a bit of a darker color or a complementary paint. Swish it on rather streaky, wait ’til it’s half dry, and then wipe of about a quarter of the paint, smearing it a bit with a wet baby wipe. Paint darker colors on outside of box — try a layer of red with a couple layers of blue (medium dark and darker.) Then using fine sandpaper, remove paint until bits of red start to show through. For fun, find something to add legs to the box –wooden childrens’s blocks, well sanded and distressed; stacks of dominoes, maybe try 3 or 4, possibly painted in a rainbow of colors or just left alone; upside down Sorry markers; stacked Legos or Lincoln Logs.
Could carry the theme of children’s games both inside and outside of the box. If you can find a set of Lincoln Logs (try thrift store, antique store, flea market or if desperate check on E-Bay). If Lincoln Logs are available, line the outside with logs, leaving room for windows. Put scenes of home interiors in the windows. Did you add children playing? Or another possibility is to line the outside with dominoes — they’re a little easier to find and can use either old or new ones. Decide what pattern to use — all in a row, all numbers together, random. Look in scrap booking stores for heavy paper designed with popular vintage children’s games. (I don’t know about you, but I really dislike my things regarded as ‘vintage.’) Add matching pieces from scrapbook store. If you use these items, scuff with sandpaper, antique and edge all pieces with brown or metallic gold ink. A cat’s eye pad of ink works best for brown and a Krylon metallic marker does well for the gold. Use some sort of alphabet to line a quotation around the bottom, possibly one about the fun of games. I’ll go look in the quote sites and be back.
Use decorated box to hold ‘books’ that are hand done and sized to fit. Tie books (or pamphlets) together with satin of recorated ribbon.
ps I looked through a dozen quotation sites and the best I could do is this: “Fun is the name of the game.”

Nine Houses and One Bird

I don’t have all the details worked out, but here is what I have so far:

Cut mat board into 4″ squares. Decorate each background differently — collage or flat mixed media, different colors, paints and textures. Use a technique or two already detailed in this blog. (See under category Backgrounds.) Layer paints, spread gesso and then paint again. If you are using images keep them small, possibly in a pattern covering the square. When backgrounds are completely dry, proceed.

Draw a pattern for a birdhouse for each square. Only rule is the house must fit in the square. Make it a small house, a tall house, a squat house, a two story house, a many windowed house. Maybe add a chimney if you wish. Use each pattern to ‘build’ a house. Decorate the houses however you wish, but make them different from the backgrounds and from each other. Then draw a hole in each house so its’ bird dweller can ‘fly’ in.

Design one rather fancy, unusual bird. Maybe one with a multi-feathered tail, a sharp dinner jacket, a cowboy hat, a summer scarf, multi-colored feathers, a metallic bird. Be as creative as you want, as long as the bird itself is obviously a bird and it shows up well on the background.

Cover a piece of canvas board with a piece of fabric or paint. Glue the 4x4s to the canvas, leaving an inch or so between them. You can use Yes!, a strong white glue, to affix them.

Pick a birdhouse for each square, mixing and matching until the composition is pleasant. Attach the birdhouse to the background.  On the house for THE bird, make a painted perch out of a a small twig or whatever else you have around. Use an awl or Exacto knife to fashion a tiny hole under the entry hole and glue on perch. It doesn’t have to be too long, maybe 1/2″ long. Fasten the pretty bird to its perch.  Affix ribbon or fiber on the strips between the panels or leave them plain.

On the bottom, stamp words. Some suggestions: A House is a Home, Bird Home, One Out of Nine, Dwelling, The Shelter, Feathery Shelter, Flock House, or come up with a different name.

Emily, My Newest Muse

I bought a wonderful book yesterday, a solid tome of “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.” These poems are in chronological order, which I consider a real plus. My plan is to read a poem a day (or maybe two, depending on length and depth). Then I’ll use an idea birthed from Emily’s wordsmithing to create an a-ha! inspiration for a new piece of art, preferably either collage or mixed media. I’ll try to do a piece once a week and post it here and on a Soul Food Cafe site. Also I’ll post my thoughts while brainstorming a new Emily Project on this site. Here is my first attempt.

The first poem was written Valentine week, 1850. The first three lines are the ones that speak to me.

The bee doth court the flower, the flower his suit receives,
And they make merry wedding, whose guests are hundred leaves.
The wind doth woo the branches, the branches they are won,
(And the father fond demandeth the maiden for his son.)
Emily Dickinson

Emily Project #1

The scene: bee on a flower, surrounded by 100 leaves. Use wooden shadowbox, preferably antique in nature (try antique stores, flea markets or auctions), but may be new (try Michael’s or a dollar store). If new, carefully antique with heavy acrylic paint, (coat one brown, coat two blue, blue dried partially then wiped off with rag, also ink and luminescent paint. Background ideas are: try gluing torn strips of a phone book (I still get blue pages in my phone book so I’ll use those) and covering with a light layer of gesso, fabric pillow ticking, watercolor paper wet well with water and spritzed with half light blue acrylic paint and half water. Or spritz watercolor with water until nice and wet, use light blue liquid watercolors to lightly paint much of the watercolor paper, then sprinkle with Kosher Salt and let dry. Could also consider taking dried, treated watercolor sheet and cutting it into 1 inch squares, then make a mosaic background. Before attaching the background to the box, map out placement of the tree placed according to rule of thirds. Perhaps the tree trunk and major branches can be made of found bark from the ground. Rule #1: Never pick anything off a live plant, unless you are picking flowers from your own garden. Plan on using paper leaves from the MM Company to dress the tree with exactly 100 leaves, making them appear wind-blown. Use a silk bee found in the silk flower section of Michael’s if nothing older can be found. Dress the ‘bee bride’ with scraps of white — silk, satin, ribbon, lace, fibers. Fashion a tiny veil if the right materials can be found, and fasten it to the bee’s head with a gold crown. Assemble. Apply background, then tree branches (paint more if needed.) Spread Yes! glue onto bottom and cover with coffee grounds mixed with greenery. Add some small twigs and rocks to the bottom. Place paper flowers cut and made 3D from my printed scrapbook paper stash (decorated on edges with complementary colors of dye ink and sprinkled with gold.) Attach bee to a focal flower. Add the first two lines of the poem to the background or around the inner edge. Find public domain (or other uncopyrighted picture to print) of a bumblebee. Copy five bees, glue one to each manila tag and tint in pastel colors. Attach tags to the bottom of the box on 6 to 10 inch pieces of fiber or ribbon.