Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Worked on Poppet ATCs

I squeezed in some time to make and finish five ATCs for a swap yesterday. The swap is one in which we have to use an image of our face (at least) on the ATC. The ATC is to contain some information about us, so we can see who the others are.

I decided to make mine with Claudine Hellmuth’s poppet style, which I had wanted to try (but not necessarily with my own face).

Yesterday I was able to work on these while my children played with their friend who was visiting. I did some constructing of collage and had to let the acrylic gel medium (adhesive) dry while we ate dinner.

I squeezed in another 20 minutes or so before bedtime. I noticed the parts which were fabric would need to dry overnight.

This morning I trimmed the edges of the ATCs. Five are finished. I think I should keep one of them, so I will have to make at least one more with my own head on it. (That means I have to go back to the photo archives to find another old photo. I am using photos which are in my ‘duplicate photo’ box, back from the ‘old days’ when we’d print off our photos and have two sets made.)

After these ATCs are scanned and ready for uploading, I will share them with you.

I will say this: the beginning part when I had to prep the watercolor painted backgrounds was slow going. I like to work on things and do them all at once. I don’t like waiting for the paint to dry. I chose to make all of these with the same general background and the same clothing on my poppet. In the end the construction was like an assembly line which went fast and really was so much easier than making a brand new design for each ATC.

This is the book that I own which I used for directions on how to make poppets. It is called "Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond the Unexpected" by Claudine Hellmuth.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Learned Some Lessons about Paint and Adhesives; Made ATCs Yesterday

Yesterday while making ATCs I learned some lessons:

1. Don't use india ink on something then put acrylic paint or acrylic glaze on top, because it smears the (dry) ink and ruins the ATC.

2. Don't put acrylic glaze over the top of watercolor paint. The glaze activatated the watercolor paint, lifted it up and smeared and ruined the design. I was able to quickly rub off all of it and I will see if I can salvage this.

3. My water based adhesive (Dab N Stik), was sometimes a problem when I applied acrylic paint, acrylic paint wash (water mixed with acrylic paint), and acrylic glaze (tinted and not tinted) on the surface. The paper underneath lifted up from the base, and sometimes bubbled. Sometimes when it dried it ended up being alright, while other times, the bubbles remained. I am going to now try to use acrylic gel medium as the adhesive and see if the acrylic products on top or just the wet products on top don't affect the stuff underneath as much.

I was able to spend some time yesterday making ATCs. I finished three ATCs for a swap that mandates the use of a map in the background. I have to finish one more before I can mail out the swap to the hostess. I ran into some of the above challenges so this is taking longer than I anticipated.

I began making ATCs that include my photo on them. I ran into some problems so this is taking longer than anticipated.

For fun, while the other stuff was drying, I tried something new for a swap which I didn't officially sign up to participate in. If these ATCs turn out well then I will sign up and mail them right in. This is a process by which you take white glue and tint it with black ink or black acrylic paint. You then squeeze it out in a pattern or in a drawing onto watercolor paper. After it dries overnight you paint inside the lines. It ends up looking like a stained glass window (but not transparent). My younger son joined in with me on step one of the process last night. Today he and I did some painting on the insides of the black lines. My older son got interested today and he did step one this morning, and it is drying now.

One thing that is not fun is when I sign up for a swap then have problems with the ATCs and am rushing to meet a deadline. I find it more fun and freeing to make the ATCs first then if they work out and look good I sign up and mail them right in.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Making ATCs Again

After a full seven days of no-art making, I had about an hour to work on ATCs yesterday.

I keep being asked how I have time to do this. As I just said I had not had time in the last week to do any artwork.

Yesterday I had an hour while my husband was on an errand with my children. I chose to do more work on some ATCs which I started over a week ago. I did not feel they were finished looking enough. These ATCs are for a swap which mandates that a map be used as part of the background. I thought the ATCs looked too plain and bright and new looking. I painted the entire surfaces with tinted acrylic glaze paint. I also added some rubber stamp impressions to them (using acrylic paint not ink). I put some acrylic paint on the borders. They are not finished yet but needed to dry before further embellishment is able to be done. I also had to clean up in order to play a game with my son and then eat dinner.

I had expected to be able to make more art over the weekend but I chose to blog and do some other projects instead, as well as some house cleaning and I did all the laundry.

Before bed, I have been reading these two books, for inspiration and ideas.

The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery by Karen Michael

Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond the Unexpected by Claudine Hellmuth:

I am getting ready to make some ATCs for a swap which must feaure a photographic images of my face. I think I am leaning toward making poppet like people as Claudine Hellmuth does (which she illustrates in the above book).

You can view some images of Claudine Hellmuth's poppets here, on her website.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Make the Art You Like

I had some creative block on Sunday while making ATCs. I was snowed in due to the big blizzard that hit my area.

As I made ATCs for a swap I was worrying that some may not like my choice, or think they were too plain, or not embellished enough. The worry of it hindered my ability to have fun. I gave up a couple of times and walked away to do other things.

It was a shame that I felt that way because I had all the time I wanted that day to make art but was unable to do it.

Last night before bed I began re-reading some articles in the most recent issue of Art and Life (a zine published by Teesha Moore and Tracy Moore). I was reading about making art that makes us happy rather than feeling constrained by worry of what others will think. I also chuckled at one part where it was mentioned that perhaps we should move away from trying to copy what others are doing, such as having our finished pieces all look like they came out of the pages of Somerset Studios magazine.

Recently I made a lot of ATCs from ads in the pages of Mechanix Illustrated magazine. I know they are different than what most people are making. However they are vintage, authentic vintage at that, which is very trendy at this point. I was surprised that I am having a hard time arranging private swaps for these. I thought more people would:
1. compliment me on them
2. want to own them

Oh well. I had fun making them and I like them so that is all that really matters. I am trying not to think about the fact that people must not like them!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Don't Use Construction Paper!

On an ATC chat list there was a discussion of poor quality ATCs. I saw a couple of people mention construction paper was being used for making ATCs. I have not received any construction paper ATCs in the swaps that I participated in. I was really surprised. I was surprised to think that maybe someone doesn't know how poor quality construction paper is?

I think that construction paper should be avoided at all costs. First off it fades unbelievably over time. If it is even near the sun it will fade. Some people use it in place of 'solar paper' for sun print making!

Construction paper has a high acid content. It also just falls apart over time even if it is not touched or handled roughly. I have witnessed this first hand.

There are a lot of cheap papers that can be bought in bulk at the craft store that are acid free. Now I am not saying that I always use acid free paper because I don't, because I often use old original papers from magazines or newspapers or books, and those do have acid, but when I buy new store bought paper (colored paper or card stock), I buy acid free. The craft stores also sell lovely handmade paper which is acid free and affordable. I have bought colored cardstock for as low as 2 cents per sheet which is pretty darn cheap, isn't it?

So I say to avoid construction paper for making ATCs or anything that you want to keep.

Construction paper may be alright for something like crafts for preschool aged children which a parent intends to throw it away after a shore while, but that is about it.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fun Painting Night

Today was a full day of homeschooling the kids and errands. I am caught up on laundry and the kitchen counters aren't cluttered. I have not had a serious art making session in quite a while. I announced to my husband that tonight was ATC making night. He did not protest which I very much appreciated.

The kids were busy playing after dinner. I pulled out some map-themed ATCs that I made. One could call these finished. They are very clean looking collages. I am not happy with them as they feel too new and too bright and they don't feel finished TO ME. I decided to paint them in some way to change the look of them.

I was very impressed by some of the map ATCs that Sharon made. Sharon is an artist from Australia who shares scans of her artwork with anyone who is interested, via her Yahoo Group! She is also a member of some of the chat lists that I am a member of. I took a look at her scans again for some inspiration and set to work.

I pulled out my acrylic paints. These are little 2 ounce bottles that cost under $1 from the craft store. I started by adding water to one color to make an acrylic wash. I was not happy with the effect so I wipded it off with a paper towel. Some of the color had already sunk into the paper. I then pulled a different color and washed over that. Then I wiped that off.

I played around with the ATC and finally made a portion of the map disappear by painting over it. I then used a rubber stamp to print acrylic paint onto a part of the ATC. I then did a little rough hand painting. I painted a border around it. I think it is done now.

I also should mention that it is not typical that I am left alone in a room to do this. Tonight I was alone so I switched the TV off of the news (very uninspiring to me) and scrolled down through the channels. I found a VH1 Classic channel which was playing all the music videos from the very early 1980s. Those were popular when I was a young teen. I heard songs I have not heard in 20 years and was surprised that I remembered all the words. These light hearted songs were very inspirational to me.

Rather than work with such detail on the other map ATCs I decided to paint backgrounds. Using purples, blues and greens I painted some backgrounds. When the paint ran out I cleaned up and then changed to a different color palette of orange, tangerine, pale yellow, and white. I painted over 30 ATC backgrounds, using pre-cut cardboard which are from recycled food and other consumer product containers. I suddenly felt the canvas was too small so ran to my paper storage shelf in the basement to get a piece of 8.5x11" canvasette. I painted that up then I went back to making more ATC backgrounds. I have 44 backgrounds finished!

I had a blast!

I plan to use some of these backgrounds to make ATCs for an affirmation swap.

As I write this a huge snowstorm is heading our way. If it hits as anticipated some of my plans for the weekend will be cancelled. I am planning to spend that time hibernating in the house, having fun with my kids and making more art!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Article about ATCs in The Minneapolis Observer

Here is a newspaper article about artist trading cards. This was published in The Minneapolis Observer on December 11, 2005 and was written by Carrie Mercer.

This is a nice introduction to artist trading cards.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My ATC: Import Pays Big

Title: Import Pays Big

This is another ATC made from ads from ads in a 1956 Mechanix Illustrated magazine.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My ATC: Let It Be As It May, Rose Kissed Me Today

Title: Let It Be As It May, Rose Kissed Me Today

I made this ATC from images and text cut out of a book that I bought at the dollar store. I used three colors of tinted acrylic glaze paint to alter the appearance of the original papers.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My ATC: You Can't Lose

Title: You Can't Lose

Another ATC I made from ads from ads from a 1956 Mechanix Illustrated magazine.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My ATC: Will You Play Ball With Me?

ATC Title: Will You Play Ball With Me?

I made this ATC in December 2005 as part of a "Found Photos" swap. I have no idea who this little girl is but I thought she was so cute!

I could not think of a way to keep the ball in the photo and not have the ball addressed. I thought it was clear from the expression on her face that she wanted someone to play ball with her. Actually she was probably already in the process of playing ball with someone and it appears to me that the adult who took the photo called her name and she turned to look and that is when the picture was snapped.

I used a gift wrap paper from either the 1940s or 1950s which I found new and unused in a stash of papers that my grandmother was hoarding.

I decided to further embellish the ATC with a button which I thought looked like a ball. I cut the back off of the button to make it lie more flat and use Golden Acrylic Gel Medium to adhere it to the ATC.

I decided to hand write "Will You Play Ball With Me?" as I wanted that text to appear rather than have it inferred.

I rounded the corners using a die cutter. I love that little tool!

I thought it needed something else so I added color to the edges by dragging the ATC edge over a rubber stamp ink pad.

This ATC was swapped out and I hope the recipient enjoys it.

Example of Making a Craft vs. Making Art

On an online chat list about ATCs, a discussion about quality of ATCs and the idea of a craft vs. ‘making art’ was discussed. There were some very defensive people contributing and the topic got heated. I felt that the people who used scrapbooking materials and pre-made things were being defensive and said that indeed they were making art.

I am reading Claudine Hellmuth’s “Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond the Unexpected” right now.

A major part of this book is about her unique art ‘thing’ she created which she calls Poppits (and she has registered this word as a trademark), which are collages with a unique style. In the book we are taught how to make these on our own. IMO this is art. If you want to see what a Poppit is, go here.

Even if we copy this method with our uniquely selected raw materials and use her directions and our own photos it is still art, in my opinion.

Recently I was on Claudine Hellmuth's website and see she is now creating unique pieces of Poppit art for people using their own face photos. Good for her for finding a way to make money by selling inexpensive and unique pieces of Poppit art.

Today I learned that she has now created a pre-made Poppit artwork bases to be sold for use in scrapbooks. IMO anyone who uses that is making a craft. The products from what I read online on her blog, are predesigned people/bodies that scrapbookers then paste a photo of their family or friend’s head onto. There are also premade backgrounds. Actually these remind me of colorforms---the child’s toy where there is a background and then you put pre-made forms onto it to create a new composition of your own design.

Anyway I thought that was a perfect example of making a craft vs. making an individually, custom designed piece of art and just had to share that. In the past some people had a hard time articulating what a craft was vs. making art.

Just want to also make it clear I am not putting down Claudine Hellmuth in any way, or even anyone who uses the Poppit products. I just think it is a great example of the difference between a craft and making art.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sneaking in Time to Make ATCs

Two days ago while my son was doing some of his homeschooling in a workbook I took a set of colored chalk out of the closet to experiment with. I bought this four or five years ago to make art with my children.

I played around making some pictures and some background colors. I think I will use some of these backgrounds for the "Affirmations Swap" which the ATC World Yahoo Group! has.

I also tested what would happen if I used colored Sharpie markers on top of the chalks. It works perfectly. I will use Sharpies to write the affirmation statement onto the chalk-backgrounds.

I also have spray fixative here which I bought for about $5 at Dick Blick Art Shop a few years ago. The fixative must be used or else the chalk smears.

That little experiment and play time was done in about 15 minutes.

(Side note yesterday my kids begged to make art with the chalk. They spent an hour making different pictures in their journals. I need to put the fixative on these. They really enjoyed using the chalk. It must have been two years since they used this chalk, what a shame. I need to make more time in our day to do art with the kids. Lately their noses are to the grindstone doing academic work.)

Last night after my kids went to bed I sat in bed and began working on ATCs for a swap which features maps. I looked through a book from the 70s which is a wine atlas. I spent about 90 minutes making six ATCs. I put a lot of thought into which map would be sized nicely for the ATC size and also which part of the map would look interesting on the card. I then cut out tiny wine labels of that region and added them to the ATC.

This morning when I looked at them they seemed plain. I am now not sure if these are 'done' or if I can figure out what else to do to them to enhance them.

There have been discussions of the quality of ATCs on one of the chat lists that I am on and the concensus is that no one likes ATCs which appear to be 'thrown together'. Simple collages seem to be the culprit of most of the complaints. I wonder if someone may look at mine and think they are 'thrown together'. They don't have lot of embellishments on them such as fibers hanging off (as I see no reason to do that that makes logical sense), but I did put a lot of thought into these. I will put them away for a few days and ponder what else I could do to them to jazz them up. However there is also the idea that the minimalist approach of appreciating a beautiful, detailed colored map which features a specific wine region and shows a wine label from that region is fine just as it is.

My ATC: Yours Free

Title: Yours Free

Another ATC I made from ads from a Mechanix Illustrated magazine from October 1956.

Today this is being traded out! I am glad it found a home with someone who will appreciate it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What to Do With Unwanted ATCs?

If you participate in ATC swaps initiated via the Internet at some point you may receive an ATC that you don’t care for.

You may also participate in “blind swaps” with one person and again, you may end up with ATCs that you don’t like or love.

Perhaps after collecting ATCs for some time you will want to downsize your collection and keep a smaller number.

There are a few options to pursue.

There is a relatively new Yahoo Group! Called “2ndGenATC” in which member’s trade ATCs with each other. There are online photo albums that we can use to display the ATCs that we would like to trade. We simply scan the ATCs that we don’t want and upload them. Most people also upload some images of our own ATCs in case a person wants to trade for those, to widen our selection. Members contact each other to make arrangements.

The newest fun thing that “2ndGenATC” is doing are “Art Boxes”. These are boxes which have at least 25 ATCs in them that are mailed to different members. When we receive the box we have the pleasure of looking at all the ATCs 'in person' and we decide if we want to own any of them. We then swap into the box, ATCs that other people created or our own ATCs. I received one of these Art Boxes two weeks ago and picked eight ATCs to keep.

Some people are lucky to live in areas where people are making ATCs and doing in person “meets”. People gather at a spot and show the ATCs that they want to trade and make face to face trades. From what I read of the history of ATCs this is the way the movement started. I am not lucky enough to live in a place where people are doing this. The nearest meet-up to me was 4 hours away! I really like seeing the actual ATC before I make the trade. Scanning is not always an accurate representation of the ATC. I have seen examples of the scan not doing the actual ATC justice and other times when the scan looked great but the actual ATC looked inferior.

Some people are afraid to join a ‘second generation’ trade group as they say they fear seeing any of their own ATCs as ‘unwanted’. I agree that if a person is going to be upset at the idea that someone doesn’t like their ATC enough to keep it that they should not join the list. Those of us on the list are of a different mindset. We feel that not all people like all forms of art and that it is possible that we think we did a good job on something and we like it but that someone else may not like it. We would rather have our art in the hands of someone who appreciates it rather than thrown in the garbage or kept and perhaps even loathed by someone. I also know that if I ever see any of my own ATCs up for re-trade, I will trade for them myself, because I like all of the ATCs that I swap out and I even regret giving some away! To think that an ATC which I love is not appreciated by the owner is bothersome to me so I’d rather own it myself or have someone else own it who appreciates it.

Discussions about this topic have gone on with regular ATC trading groups as well as on the "2ndGenATC" Group.

Once I asked if people thought that other people's ATCs should be sent to other people as "random acts of kindness" (RAK). I received not one positive response to this question. The overall attitude was to deem the ATC as junk and to send someone junk was not nice or "kind" at all. I felt that just because I didn't like the ATC myself didn't mean it was "junk". I also felt that a RAK isn't offically defined as sending my own art to someone else. Sometimes the RAK that is received are base materials or even cut-out's from magazines to be used in collage work (someone may think THAT is junk), who knows.

I recently did a 2/2 trade with a newbie to ATCs who lives overseas. I decided to add to the envelope, two ATCs that other people made to help her build her collection. I don't think there is anything wrong with that!

Yesterday I browsed the photo albums of the second generation group and saw six ATCs that one person is getting rid of that I wanted. I am waiting for that trade to be confirmed. I hope it comes through!

I also can’t wait to receive my next Art Box. I enjoyed the Art Box more than themed swaps that I have entered recently because I get to preview the ATCs before choosing which I want to own. I have been making more ATCs in anticipation of receiving the next Art Box.

My ATC: Success

Title: Success

Another ATC made from ads from a December 1962 Mechanix Illustrated magazine.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My ATC: Terrific Clearance Sale

Title: Terrific Clearance Sale

This is another ATC made from ads from the October 1956 Mechanix Illustrated magazine. These ads focus on buying items at a discount. I love the drawing of the woman.