Artist Trading Cards
Part 1: what is an Artist Trading Card?
Artist Trading Cards, generally referred to as “ATCs”, are a wonderful medium for expressing creativity without having to get too invested in a big project. “Sounds great” you say, “but what the heck are you talking about?”
An ATC is a trading card sized piece of art. ATCs are about 2.5 by 3.5 inches (like a baseball card) and done in any media (Seriously, fabric, glue, paint, chiseled stone) although most of them are painted, stamped or inked. They are always traded, never sold and are usually signed (and numbered if part of a set). They may be swapped randomly or in themes (like frogs, or dogs) and may be gifted or traded online or in person. The only limits on how to create one is if the *specific* swap you join has restrictions.
They were originated in Switzerland as part of the “mail art” and “art for the masses” movements, Which just means that they originated as part of a big movement to make art *personal* and part of daily life. Just remember, if you create an artist trading card you are the artist! You! Yes, YOU!. You are an artist and you are trading your art with other artists.
Because they are small, and there are no inherent limits on how to make one, they provide a great opportunity to try out new techniques, experiment with fancy papers, or otherwise take chances. An ATC was my first experiment with watercolor, and my first attempt at freeform embossing. They are also a great way to use up those small scraps of craft supplies you probably have that are too good to “throw out” but never seemed to be enough to make anything with!
A quick search online will find you trading groups, instructions, suggestions, cutting diagrams to get the most ATCs out of common paper sizes, and other useful information. Just type “Artist Trading Card” into a search engine and you will be INUNDATED with webpages. I will however warn you that like any other image intensive art some of those “free download clip art” files may come with Trojans or Viruses so if you don’t trust the source and have good anti-virus software do NOT download any images.
Part 2 will be a step by step discussion (hopefully with pictures) of creating an ATC for a trade….
and a great book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Artist-Trading-Card-Workshop-Collect/dp/1581808488