Artist Trading Cards


I’ve been wanting to start Artist Trading Cards for awhile now.  I’ve seen them all over the web and knew my students would love them.  Due to a field trip thrown into lesson plans, I had to come up with a new lesson quickly (24 hrs).  I often get really excited about my lesson plans.  I know, this is good.  It’s good to be passionate about what you do.  But it also prevents me from being flexible and throwing in things like Artist Trading Cards every once in awhile. This was the perfect opportunity!

Artist trading cards were started by Vanci Stirnemann in 1996 when he cut out a piece of cardboard that was the exact measurement of a sports trading card.  He used the card as a mini canvas to create mini artwork and named them Artist Trading Cards or ATC.  They are originals, small editions and, most importantly, self-produced. anybody can produce them.

My goal is for Artist Trading Cards to inspire our students (and teachers!) to get creative outside of the classroom and share their artwork.  Also, by signing (and dating) each card, the kids can find the original artist of a card they really like and seek them out to compliment them.  This should be a great community building experience as well!

I haven’t started at Randall yet but Gompers had their ATC kick off today!

1  Measure everything! With the art form of ATCs, size matters. They can be oriented horizontally, vertically or diagonally or even fold out to extra dimensions, but they must measure  2×3 inches. Or grab a deck of cards or some old sports trading cards and alter them. Card stock is more resilient, thus allowing for more embellishment.  I have some 2×3 watercolor paper cards available out there for now.

2.  Gather your supplies. Typical ATCs consist of no more than the most basic art techniques that can be accomplished with pencil, crayon, pastel, chalk, charcoal, rubber stamps, collage, photography, calligraphy, colored pencil, ink, paint or markers. But some creators of ATCs go all-out, delving into origami, pop-ups, printmaking, embossing powder embellishments, sewing, weaving, acetone transfers, screen printing, stencils, pinprick images, embroidery, foil, beading, fabric, clay, assemblage, wire, metal, Shrinky Dinks, photo negatives, digital distortions, die-cuts, digital imagery, embossed paper and flip books.

3. Create your artist trading card. If you’re using baseball cards or a deck of cards, you may need to apply a layer of gesso first, due to the laminated surface. Be sure to let the cards dry thoroughly before handling them. If the edges curl in the drying process, you can place them between sheets of waxed paper and stack books on them to flatten them. Typically, if you coat both sides, the bending evens itself out after the card is thoroughly dry.

4. Sign and date the artist trading cards. If they are part of an edition, you can also number them. Some artists design their own symbol as part of their signature, either hand-drawing it or rubber-stamping it on the back of the card. Other artists create miniature business cards or labels with websites or other information printed therein, so that recipients of the ATCs can contact them.

5. Swap your cards. The cards are pinned on our ATC clothesline in front of the art room (at Gompers.  Coming soon to Randall).

Gompers students LOVED creating these cards.  They didn’t want to stop!  Out of all the classes we’ve had this year, kids didn’t want this class period to end.

Here is where we are going to be exchanging ATCs.  Aren’t they beautiful?  I’m so excited for us to be able to create outside of art class and share our art with each other.  Teachers were invited to participate too!

I have a box for blank cards cut to size (2×3 inches).  If there aren’t any left, any cardstock or thicker paper will do!

Now go make art!

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