Monday, May 13, 2013


"Owls With Hats" Pen and ink and watercolor. Ready to be cut into 2.5" x 3.5" Artist Trading Card.
"Owls With Hats" Pen and ink and watercolor. Ready to be cut into 2.5" x 3.5" Artist Trading Card.
 I get a lot of people who don't know what an Artist Trading Cards is.  I wanted to write a little article about these awesome treasures. Here is the Wiki definition of an ATC:

Artist trading cards (or ATCs) are miniature works of art about the same size as modern baseball trading cards or 212 by 312 inches. Small enough to fit inside standard card-collector pockets, sleeves or sheets.

The ATC movement developed out of the mail art movement and has its origins in Switzerland. Cards are produced in various media, including dry media (pencils, pens, markers, etc.), wet media (watercolor, acrylic paints, etc.), paper media (in the form of collage, paper cuts, found objects, etc.) or even metals or fiber. The cards are usually traded or exchanged. When sold, they are usually referred to as art card editions and originals (ACEOs).

 Pretty easy definition for the fun little works of art.  For me an ATC is so much more that an easy Wiki definition!  In 2003 I discovered the world of mail art and ATC's and fell in love. I've always been into arts and crafts but mail art opened up a world of online communities of people who wanted to make and trade their art!  WOW how cool is that?  I dove in head first and joined various swapping sites. Over the years I've made life long friends and connected with people all over the world.

Producing the 2.5" x 3.5" trading cards has helped me learn to develop my artistic style in various ways. For one, the size is small enough so a new artist doesn't feel overwhelmed with trying to come up with a big piece or a lot of content.  It's easy to play around and experiment without feeling like you've wasted to many materials.  Next, having a purpose for producing the art is a huge bonus.  I have a hard time making art for just the joy of making art.  I love to be artistic but purpose drives me! Knowing that my art is going to another person to enjoy is a wonderful feeling for me.  The deadline for producing the art forces you to get it done!  I think the most important reason ATC's helped me learn and grow are the various swap themes. Each swap usually has a theme such as "Owls With Hats" show above. These themes would spark my imagination. Sometimes the swap themes would help me think outside the box and I was able to create work I didn't think I was capable of.  I was able to find out what I don't like to work with as well.

 Today there aren't as many ATC swap sites but I have a feeling it will catch on again.  There are so many people who are still discovering this amazing little world of awesome art!  My favorite mail art site is Swap-Bot they have various mail art swaps happening all the time.  My favorite is the ATC or Artist Trading Card swaps. These swaps are an excellent way to deciding if art is going to be a hobby for you or if you just need to get it out of your system.  In my case this journey has led me to my passion and career!


JaneA said...

This is really interesting. I hadn't heard of ATC before this. It's really cool, but I'm not sure I'd be able to part with my original paintings. I'm always love them too much. I'm also drawing owls at the moment (but struggling a bit), you've really captured the energy of their eyes perfectly.

Tammie Lee said...

Your owls are adorable.

i enjoy ATC's, my cabin is small, so i don't have room for a lot of art. So i get to swap out my atc art collection and enjoy them that way.

thanks for sharing this.

Amber @ Fauna Finds Flora said...

Your owls are really cute. Also, thanks for the info on ATC's! I had a general idea of what they were but this helped fill in the details. This article makes me want to try it out!