Wednesday, April 12, 2006

more about Artist Trading Cards

Fabric Butterfly ATC
full sized image and more ATC at

The very basics of ATC or Artist Trading Cards:

  • As their name indicates, ATC are collectables, a brilliant idea born of the older sports-themed trading cards.
  • The one rule that makes an ATC derives from their origins: the dimensions of the ATC must be 2.5"x3.5", or 64x89mm.
  • On the back of each ATC the artist writes part or all of the following information: name, contact information, title of the ATC and number (1/8, 2/8...) if it's part of an edition.
  • By definition ATCs are made in limited numbers, often no more than one of a kind.
  • Unique ATCs are called originals; sets of identical ATCs are called editions and are numbered; sets of ATCs that are based on one theme but that are different are called series.
  • Don't be intimidated by the concept of small editions or originals. What most collectors really want are cards that were made with care. Based on that, numbers are meaningless.
  • They can be any medium: pencil, watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, scratch board, mixed media - anything the creative mind of the artist can think up.

dreamlikestateATC.jpg (38783 bytes)
original context & more ATC

That's it - all you need to know to start making your own ATCs. Of course, common sense dictates sensible measures: cards should be sturdy enough to survive mailing; be made from reasonably thick stock; sent in transparent card sleeves, especially if they might smudge easily or stick together in mailing.

Traditionally and among artists themselves, an ATC is exchanged, not sold. The original purpose was about artists meeting (by correspondence or online if need be) and exchanging their works, thus meeting many artists and getting exposed to many personal styles. But baseball cards (their inspiration) are both traded and sold. ATCs are now selling strong on eBay, that perhaps ultimate barometer of what will sell.

Mini-artworks of local artists could even become a hallmark of the arts in Mountainair - something that would stick in visitors minds and make event memorable (returnable to). Come to the tour (or sunflower or whatever event) and complete your collection... It would also build social capital among artists as well as being immediate & portable promo.

Good ideas, images & how-to's for ATCs on these pages:

Some ATC Links

From what I've been reading, cards are not complicated to make They would be a great way for the MMAC to develop a catalog of artworks. The tour could come out ahead - make more from them than the $25 fee. Who wouldn't just love to trade cards with other artists? Too cool to have a mini artwork collection of every local artist. Gary Fey could make mini batiks - or regular size ones, cut into pieces, and adhered to cards. Judy Mowris' work would make great ATCs too. (Would we call them "pcoket hangings" then instead of wall hangings?) Merris Atman and Megan Lemcke already do miniatures - more than halfway there.

We could even mount a an exhibit right here on the blog.

The oppostion would indubitably be:

  • can't because it is different (can't imagine a lamer excuse for not doing an art something)
  • no one's ever done it here before (actually a reason FOR doing it - see above)
  • "we don't do (never have done) things that way"
  • not standard practice in the art world (which WE know and YOU don't)
We all know the litany but also that famous definition of insanity, which is "doing the same thing over and over with the same results yet expecting different results."

Even without official blessing, anyone could assemble a bunch of ATCs, rig up a push cart or a facsimile thereof, and hit the streets with the ATC ... without paying anyone any kind of fee. Like the local burrito vendors. If telling doesn't do it - SHOW them. Anyone with ATC to sell could wear a vest with pockets - with a selection of visible ATC clipped to them on the outside. Sign on hat - like a hot dog vendor at a baseball game - "Get your fresh (original) ATC here." OK, so this may be getting a bit bizarre, but you get the idea.

PS Judy Mowris has come up with great fund raising ideas too. I've started writing them up to blog fundraising - another entry & with images.


  1. Wonderful ideas, Vanessa!

    As most of you know, I like to paint big not small, so this is a leap for me. It has been so fun learning about it, seeing all the fabulous little artworks other artists are doing, and if ATC's could be a big hit here in Mountainair, it would really be special.

    Art is all about the new and different. And, here is a new genre we can all be a part of.

    I would love to have a mini artwork of every artist in the tour (I'm moving soon) so please think about it.


  2. And, some are even smaller: postage stamp size!

  3. Can I really work small? What a terrific idea! I am ready to start now. Wondering....can several of us go together and orderuy a quantity of protective sleeves for our wonderful renditions?

  4. Hey - if Geree can work small, ANYONE can.

  5. Digital Art is another medium that would lend itself well to ATC - and its very nature lending to simple solutions to miniaturization challenges.

  6. Looking for challenges?

    Sculpture: there's one. However, a sculpture, reproduced digitally, and altered (to meet reqs of both ATC & Digital Art), could easily be reduced to ATC size (& flatness).

  7. There is some discussion on other ATC blogs about using polymer clay-why not?

    RE: sleeves. I purchased 100 plastic sleeves on ebay for $3.51 including shipping. I heard that you can get them at Walmart in the craft section. Don't know the price at Walmart but they're not expensive.

  8. Interested in ATC4/12/2006 3:40 PM

    Thanks for the ATC explanation. I printed it out.

    Maybe we could do a BOOTH & get MMAC people to create ATCs and sell them.

    It's worth bringing it up at the next tour meeting. Hey - give it a shot.

  9. FYI:
    Blank playing cards are perfect little canvases for ATC's.
    You can buy blank playing cards...(just the backs have designs...fronts are plain for your own artwork) from United Art & Education 2006 Art Material 429...They are $2.69 for the standard 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" size.

  10. From Dale Harris -

    Read with enjoyment, Vanessa. Lovely idea, artist trading cards. Not sure I can attempt any at this time, but who knows what eventual retirement might bring? Thanks for taking the lead on all this and keeping it going.

    I am recuperating from our very successful Le Ballon Rouge show over the weekend at the Harwood, and having gratitude attacks that I get to do all this great stuff.

    Oops, I should have blogged this communication! Oh well, hugs and thanks again.

    (taking "should have blogged it" as an invitation)

  11. I have been trying to see some of Celeste Simon work without any luck, anyone knows a site to visit?

  12. Dear Anonymous,

    You must have missed the discussion and guidelines here about not posting anonymously!

    What does your question have to do with ATC? Why are are you posting a question to such an old blog post?

    As for you specific request, have you noticed the links to the left of the page? Check the links under "Mountainair Arts & Artists."



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