Thursday, August 25, 2005

Discovered Artist Trading Cards

Day One:
I got off my path onto a rabbit trail. Usually it is during our homeschooling journey that my children’s learning goes down rabbit trails, but this week I’m on the rabbit trail. Two contributing events came together on the same day, to lead me to create some artist trading cards.

I had been procrastinating about planning our homeschooling. I was finding small tasks to do that really did need doing, but I was feeling unproductive about the planning of the academics. I decided to do a quick decluttering job to give myself a boost of a feeling of accomplishment. One of my living room end tables has doors which conceal shelves. It is there that I store my unread magazines. The table was chock full and I was behind on my reading. I decided to sort through them and recycle or Freecycle some and select others to read on an upcoming long car drive. I ended up with a stack over two feet high, of magazines to read. There were about six inches of magazines that I didn’t care to take the time to read at all.

Then I went to check my email. On a discussion list I am on (that has nothing to do with art or artist trading cards); we recently had a discussion of blogs, what they are, why a person may want to have one and how easy it is to blog. The result was that two women began blogging. I noticed the sig line of a person on one of my chat-lists now had a blog URL so I visited it. I read of her creation of mail art and how it was artist trading cards which got her hooked. Huh? I was in the dark about what she was talking about. So off to Google I went.

I discovered this site which had a short history and easy to understand directions in an article by Matthew Murray.

Knowing that I had a whole stack of magazines that I could use for materials, to make collage artist trading cards, I was itching to get started. Before bed I took about 20 minutes to shuffle through a stack of magazines that I didn’t really want to read (they are freebies sent to us by the companies for some reason unknown to me). I began seeing possibilities for backgrounds, images small enough to include on the cards as well as interesting words or phrases that could be use. Snip, snip, I began cutting away.

Day Two:
I went to bed early, then woke up at 2:00 a.m. and was unable to sleep. After tossing and turning for 45 minutes I got up and spent 45 minutes doing more magazine scanning, snipping, and created my first artist trading card. I then went back to bed and was able to fall asleep. I woke up quite sick with a head cold and had very low energy and that foggy head feeling that makes thinking seem difficult. It was not a day to do homeschooling planning.

I decided to look on the internet for examples of other people’s artist trading cards (ATCs). In case you didn’t read the above link about what ATCs are, any person can create an ATC; you don’t have to be a professional artist. I found many examples by doing a Google search both on their “images” search engine as well as finding entire websites with many ATC images. Here is just one.

Okay, in case you didn’t read the link here is a very short summary of what an ATC is. A piece of card stock or cardboard (new or recycled from containers) is cut to 2.5 inch x 3.5 inch size. You may also recycle existing trading cards (i.e. baseball cards). On this card, a person makes art. One may use pen, pencil, chalk, paint and/or make a collage using vintage or new paper, parts of newspapers, magazines, letters, lists, envelopes, stamps, or anything you want! Some people use rubber stamps to decorate their cards, either store-bought or handmade from carved out erasers. Some people use images from the internet or words that they type in their word processor. The original ATCs were flat. Embellishments are used by some people, such as feathers, buttons, brads, shells, etc. Some people don’t like the embellishments as they want the cards flat enough to fit into the plastic trading card sleeve protectors. Another trend is to use the computer with a program such as Photoshop to make compositions to print off onto the card stock. Some people don’t like computer generated cards. Some people make all originals while others make copies of their original. Some prefer hand drawn or hand painted cards to collage.

I also discovered that children create ATCs and there are trade groups exclusively for children. Now I was really seeing some possibilities to make this a craft that I could do with my children! I would be interested in seeing the ATCs that my children would create.

The ATC is meant for trading only, not selling. Of course, as usual, there are some ATCs for sale on eBay. Trading was originally done in person at ATC trading card events. Many people are doing it via the internet, using chat lists such as those on Yahoo Groups! to find others to trade with. Trades are either done on a one-for-one basis or you may participate in a themed trade. Examples of themed trades are equine themed cards, send in 9 ATCs and get 9 ATCs back. If you participate in a themed trade, the host of the trade gets to set the rules, such as originals only, the number in the trade (some are as low as 3), etc.

Presently the cards I am creating are collages with either a paper base or a hand-painted base. My cards have themes and they are a combination of images with words, phrases, or short passages. So far the ATCs I have made are themed around the source material magazines I had on hand. As I scanned the magazines I had thoughts on various topics and the specific content of the magazines provided appropriate words and images on those topics. For example, a friend recently gave me a stack of Mothering magazines (my favorite parenting magazine). Some were duplicates for me, so I cut them up. I found lots of source material for issues about babies, mothering, fathering, breastfeeding and childbirth. When I went through Forbes, I found some colorful background or border colors, great financial images and quotes and lots of photos of men’s faces and elderly people’s faces. (Women were almost absent from the pages and ads in Forbes, which is something for me to ponder at another time.) I plan to select a couple of homeschooling magazines to cut up and make homeschooling ATCs.

I completed five ATCs on day two. I joined a Yahoo Group for ATC trading, looked up the current swaps, and signed up for three whose themes were interesting to me. Once I have two completed swaps under my belt, the Group will allow me to host a swap, and I get to choose the theme. I can’t wait to do one on learning/education of children, and another on parenting topics.

I also have some much damaged books here that I had planned to use for making crafts, (I sometimes make handmade birthday party invitations or thank you notes with them). I also want to try lapbooking again this year and was going to use some books for that. I also have access to a lot of free books at library sales, or books for 10-50 cents. I know some of you are cringing, but to me, cutting up and using a book which is damaged or whose content is out of date is better than throwing it in the trash intact (as so many people do). There is debate about whether making photocopies of books for one’s own use is a true copyright infringement. Some state that making copies for one’s own use is legal. I am unclear about this, but I am at the point where I’d rather use the original book’s illustrations from a damaged book in a craft than spending the money to make color copies. Often I can buy an entire book for what it costs to make two or three color copies on my home printer. Which is a better use of resources, both monetary resources and paper and production resources? It is more “green” to reuse an old book by cutting it up than throwing it in the trash (we don’t have a book recycling program in our area).

I needed to return an audio book to my town library and while there, borrowed two books on the art of collage. One book which featured technique was lost. I browsed one large book before bed, and read of the history of collage. The only disappointment was that all of the illustrations were in black and white. Perhaps when I am at a larger library I will find more books on technique.

I have had fun making these ATCs and am itching to make more. I am not quite sure when I will find the time to do it, but I want to make the time! As long as the subject matter is interesting to me, I am sure I will have fun with it.

Today is Day Three and I have a busy day which includes helping someone declutter their house, of papers that go back to the 1940s. Perhaps I will find some ephemera that I can use in my ATCs!

If I can figure out how to work our scanner I will scan my ATCs and will put them on my blog, or may start a separate blog with just my ATC images, in case some of you could care less about them!

Here is a closing statement from Matthew Murray’s article:
As a word in closing, one may wonder why a professional artist or designer would bother with Artist Trading Cards, such small things that disappear so quickly into someone else's album, never to emerge again? I'd say they have every reason to bother. Because they are art for the sake of art, ATCs are a precious reminder to amateurs and professional alike of what creativity is about – the pleasure of working with beauty and the excitement of being surprised by experimental techniques, as opposed as doing the work for pay or fame. They require such a small investment in equipment and time that there is no practicality headache associated, and the results can be surprisingly inspiring and useful for future professional projects. I personally think working on ATCs between larger projects has something of the freshness and simple joy we had when drawing as children. Let's not forget also the pleasure of the exchange, face to face with like-minded people!


Wanda said...

I can't wait to see some of your atcs! Oh, and this entry is the second time I have seen the word 'lapbooking' lately, so I did a search. WOW! I wish I would have known about that when my kids were being homeschooled. I hope you'll upload some of your kids' lapbooks when they get them done.
Fantastic blog.

Matthew said...

I kinda doubt anyone will ever need to use those links, but as they're dead here's an alternate source for the article:

I'm glad something I wrote (forever ago) inspired people : )