Looking for something? Search this blog:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fun with ATC Jams

What's an ATC ("Artist Trading Card") jam?

Well, first, what's an Artist Trading Card? An ATC is a baseball-card-sized piece of art meant to be shared or traded with other artists (never sold). It must conform to the standard 2.5" x 3.5" format, but otherwise can be any media and any theme.

So! An ATC jam is a collaborative effort between (usually) three artists. The first artist makes a background layer on each of three cards, then sends the cards to the second artist, who adds a focal point to each card and in turn sends the cards to the last artist, who finishes them up and returns one card to each of the first two artists.

Recently I participated in a really fun jam with Gillman and Bohochick on Swap-bot. I thought I'd share a bit with you about how I approached my role in the collaboration to give you a bit of insight into my creative process. I love that I'm working within the constraints "imposed" by the artists whose work came before mine while trying to honor and build upon their contributions to the finished product. It's a fascinating and satisfying thing to do.  :)

Gillman started the backgrounds, putting layers of paint over collaged paper, some of which had text printed on it. (I wish I had photos of how the cards appeared at this stage, but alas.)

Bohochick added some dimensional drizzles and splatters of thick acrylic paint that gave the card more personality, yet left it without a focal point...leaving ME with all the power! Mwah ha ha...

What would I do with these (hardly) blank canvases, with not much direction indicated? Hmmm...

When I got the cards from Bohochick, they were very free-form, and looked like this:

With so much color already on the cards, I tried to think of an interesting focal point for each that would harmonize with the background while still being strong enough to stand up to all that was already going on there.

I settled on three bizarre stamp images from Lost Coast Designs that I absolutely love. (Are they adorable? Creepy? Pathetic? Hilarious? I wish I knew more about them--the time period and the illustrator. One of the guys looks like a monk to me. But back to the story...)

I decided to ink the images in two colors on glossy photo paper (inspired by the gloss of Bohochick's bold white blops of paint). I felt black ink alone would be too stark and not tie in enough with the colors on the cards, so I chose a deep plum already found on the cards to combine with the black, and blended the inks right on the stamps. I love the richness and quality of color of these StazOn solvent inks.

My figures needed a bit of ground to appear against to give the composition interest and depth. So I inked up a clear acrylic checkerboard stamp and rolled it a little haphazardly on part of the cards.

I then fussy-cut out the bizarre little guys and decoupaged them to the cards with glossy Mod Podge (I was definitely into the gloss thing courtesy of Bohochick and that thick white paint!)

It struck me that the cards now looked, thanks to my bizarre figures, as though they might have come out of a very odd tarot deck, so I decided to assign them numbers. I have an ancient (I mean ANCIENT--like 25 years old!) set of stamps in the "Africa" typeface, which worked well here because the characters have a thin line of white inside the chunky number- and letterforms. Since I was leaving my figures white (plus the blended stamp colors), I liked how this white/color duality linked the numbers to the figures.

To finish the cards, I sealed them with more glossy Mod Podge and put a border of dimensional (and GLOSSY!--are you sensing a theme?) black and white enamel paint along the edges. The border started out as alternating dots of color, but the paint wasn't entirely dry when I put the cards in the scanner to take these pictures, so the dots flattened out.  :(  I decided this was serendipitous, since it sort of added to the checkerboard theme going on.

Here's how the finished cards turned out:

It struck me that only the card numbered 7 was really obviously right side up--the other two could be turned upside down and still make sense visually, with the 6 becoming a 9 (and the monk-lizard looking like he was standing on his head, while the bird-bug might have been like some weird bat hanging upside down, with the 8 still reading as an 8).

I decided to keep the 7 for myself and send the 8 and the 6/9 back to Gillman and Bohochick in case they liked the upside-down duality aspect of the cards.

Here's a closeup of my (glossy!) no. 7:

I leave you with a comparison photo of how the cards looked after Phase II (top row) and after they were finished (bottom). Any questions? Or comments? I'd love to hear what you think of this ATC jam. Have you ever done one? Would you like to?

Post a comment!


  1. Fascinating! what a creative idea. This must really get the creative juices flowing.

    1. Absolutely it does! Other artists do different things, of course, than you would do yourself, so it's sort of startling/refreshing to see what they've given you to work with...kind of jolts you into thinking differently than you otherwise would. :) Thanks for visiting, Deb!

  2. These are really fantastic and fun!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Taffy, and for stopping by!

  3. Replies
    1. Hee hee! So glad you think so, Becky. I can't wait to hear what my co-artists think of the final result. :)

    2. Hi Paula! the photos are excellent. I enjoyed reading about your process. I like all three.

  4. Gorgeous blog, Paula! I look forward to enjoying more of your marvelous creativity. - Estelle

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Estelle darling! :) I have some projects featuring stamps from The Stampsmith that I will blog about soon. I am loving your images! <3 <3 <3

  5. I love how you shared your process! These collaborations are so much fun & really do push you creatively. It's always a thrill to get the finished cards back and to see how each person added their own "stamp" of creativity. (Sorry...bad pun!)

    1. It is an honor and deeply satisfying to collaborate with you, Bohochick Lou. :) May we have many more opportunities!