One Week of Artist Trading Cards

Okay. One week has gone by. And just as I promised, I did make artist trading cards. Deadlines and accountability work for me.

That doesn’t mean I produced anything great. This week I continually reminded myself that this was a case of quantity over quality, which felt really strange. Isn’t this the complete opposite of how I usually work? Isn’t “quantity over quality” morally questionable for a perfectionist? Maybe that’s why I don’t produce very much.

But I did it – I made 10 cards!

Conflicted over Collage

I started Tuesday night and decided to work with collage. I don’t really understand how I came to like collage. I think before I started using it (in 2014), I even had a subtle disdain for it. It just wasn’t what I’d choose as my creative outlet. But now I like collage. It’s strange – for whatever reason – to think of myself as someone who likes collage.

A Magazine Mishap

I had plenty of materials to use. For some reason, I’ve been getting copies of Allure magazine in the mail. I did not sign up for this magazine. I have no interest in subscribing to this magazine. I’ve never even visited their website, at least not to my knowledge. At first, I was worried that there’d been some mistake and I’d end up owing money. But the magazines keep coming. So I’m jaded now. Why not use them for art?

My first two artist cards are very obviously from a beauty magazine. They stick to a pink-pastel color theme. I’ve written “Just Makeup” in permanent marker on the first one. The text is nothing special. I think one is an article on Janet Mock.

magazine make artist trading cards

just makeup make artist trading cards

Cowed by Cows

Then the week sped by, and it was already Friday evening. So I did some later that night. I took to permanent marker and thought I’d try my hand at those cartoon cows again. I was disappointed, but here they are. Quantity over quality. Better to create something bad than nothing at all.

cow make artist trading cards

So I returned to collage. I wasn’t willing to put in the mental energy required to plan out a drawing or painting, maybe. This time my color theme was blue. I tend to use a lot of reds in my work. Even in the way I edit my Instagram photos. I only noticed after seeing another user’s account who used primarily cool, dark colors.

Getting into the Groove

Anyway, I did a collage with doves, which look more like city pigeons or seagulls. Obnoxious. The second just uses color and shape. They’re actually the reflections from a pair of expensive sunglasses. The colors looked pretty, the glasses did not.

doves make artist trading cards blues make artist trading cards

Something I was really excited about was sticking an eyeball – just a pupil – on a tiger butterfly. But then I didn’t know what to do with it. I glued the pupil-butterfly onto a white card but later peeled it off. It ended up on an amalgam of sky blue and green grass snippets.

pupil butterfly make artist trading cards


The last three I did are unfinished. I think they have potential, but they just need a little something.

There’s a yellow background I originally did for the butterfly. Then some weird beauty product close-ups that look like gemstones and globs of jelly. They’re interesting. That’s all.

unfinished make artist trading cards

This week I’ll see what else comes out. But no promises this time.

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.