What Are Artist Trading Cards and How Do They Relate to Neopets?

I’ve always been drawn to trading cards. Those little pieces of art with characters or creatures you love. I can’t explain why for years of my childhood I’d beg my mom to get me a pack of Neopets cards. How for a short period of time I only wanted to go to McDonald’s because Happy Meals had limited edition promo cards.

Then I got tired of them and gave my cards to my sisters, who then gave them away to our neighbors. Who knows where they are now. The trash seems likely.

But even though I’m not into Neopets anymore, trading cards still have an appeal.


A Collaborative Cultural Performance

Fortunately, an artist named M. Vänçi Stirnemann must have had the same fascination with trading cards that I do. In 1997, he created the idea of artist trading cards. Except since he’s also a performance artist, he envisioned them as a sort of massive collaborative performance between artists around the world.

His project is still going strong today, and there are artist trading card (ATC) events held around the world. Most of the 2017 events will be held in Canada.

I first learned about ATCs from my high school art teacher. A small group of interested students created and traded a few cards, but I have no recollection of any of the cards I either made or received. I was into cows at that time though, you could just pretend that this was one of mine:

Fake Artist Trading Card Cows

Blocks for Sale

I once ran across a similar concept at a Denver First Friday art walk. There was an art vending machine – how cool does that sound? – that sold wooden blocks with art on them. A 3D version of trading cards. I still have mine, although that was at least 3 years ago. It sits on my desk, with some change and a Korean shot glass on top.

art block on desk

art vending machine block

Back at the Artist Trading Cards

The reason I have artist trading cards on my mind is because of a recent attempt to make some. My sisters hatched a plan to get back into doing art regularly with artist trading cards. I jumped on board and we agreed on a deadline.

I sat down, cut some paper into card-sized rectangles, and they did the same. Then on our self-imposed due date, we had completed a grand total of…

0 cards.



At least we were all on the same page.

But this time, I promise to make some cards. And you all can keep me accountable. See you this time  next week.


How You Can Start Making Artist Trading Cards Too

Fyi, the section below contains a couple affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through a link, I’ll receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

If you’re interested in artist trading cards, you can learn more at Stirnemann’s official site. You can also try exchanging cards through the International Card Deck Swap, although I’m sure there are many other opportunities to trade artist cards.

Some artists cut their own cards (me), some buy cheap playing cards and paint over them, and of course, you can purchase ready-made cards from Strathmore or Ampersand.

Strathmore in particular has a wide range of papers and textures available that I plan to try out…after I use up the cards I’ve already made.

So what do you think? Will you try making artist trading cards? Or will I have to do this alone?


Update: 10 artist trading cards, here for your viewing pleasure.

4 thoughts on “What Are Artist Trading Cards and How Do They Relate to Neopets?

    • Oh, the Amrein cards are nice! I think the snake-looking one at the bottom is my favorite. And I’m not sure if it’s official, but I think most are 2.5″ x 3.5″. No limits on media though! Materials that smudge like pastel can be tricky, but some people seal their cards to take care of that. We should definitely trade!

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