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    « Kick-Start Your Art Journal (Part 2) | Main | The Project Approach: Documenting Art »

    How to Make ATCs from Abstract Art

    Once the object has been constructed, I have a tendency to discover in it, transformed and displaced, images, impressions, facts which have deeply moved me."
    ~ Alberto Giacometti

    Make unique, textured ATCs from anything on paper: an abstract painting, a journal page you didn't adore, art material testing scraps, painted journal backgrounds...

    Project Ingredients

    • White heavy cardstock or watercolor paper at least 8 1/2 x 11"
    • Fluid acrylic paint or thick-bodied acrylic paint: I use Golden Fluid Acrylics or Speedball thick-bodied acrylics. Paint stains brayers if it sits too long but won't damage them
    • Rubber Brayer: I used several 2" Speedball Soft Rubber Brayers
    • Toothbrush or old rough brush
    • White gesso

    The play-by-play

    1. Start with a large piece of heavy cardstock or watercolor paper. The paper needs a bit of texture.

    2. Dip the toothbrush in white gesso and "paint" lines across the page in one direction. If you are doing this with kids, this might be their favorite part! When you run out of gesso, dip again. Not too goopy. Lines do not have to be parallel or straight! I left about 1/2" between the lines. Wait about 15 minutes for the gesso to dry.

    3. Put about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of acrylic paint on something flat and plastic. We use the lids from plastic containers. Roll a brayer in the paint so that the paint covers the brayer. If you don't have a brayer, take a plastic gift card and drag the paint across the paper with it.

    4. Paint lines on your paper in several different colors in a plaid pattern. Plaid Backgrounds with Acrylics gives you a feel for what to do (although acrylic block printing ink was used for that project). Precision is NOT necessary and is in fact frowned upon. Use colors you love. Or experiment with an odd combination. The plaid pattern here is much messier than in the Plaid Background project because it's OK to be random as this will be cut up!

    5. Gradually you will see the texture of the gesso under the fluid acrylics.

    6. Let the painting dry for an hour or so, and use a scrapbooking paper cutter (my Fiskars cutter is fabulous) or exacto knife to cut the paper down to as many ATCs as you can.

    ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) measure 2.5" x 3.5" and are traditionally traded, swapped or collected but never sold. I cut 9 artist trading cards from a sheet of 9 x 11" watercolor paper.

    • Use abstract art as elegant ATCs or add collage, journaling, a quote, stitching.
    • Turn abstract paintings into gift tags, book marks, birthday cards, collage materials, paper weavings, almost anything!
    • Use them as tags for gifts or art supply baskets.
    • Kids can create paintings and trade them, decorate them, or cut them into cards for a memory game. As gift cards or book marks they would make lovely kid-made teacher gifts.
    • Find ideas for creating abstract art at Psychedelic Batik Backgrounds, Plaid Backgrounds, Bubbled Brayer Backgrounds and Acrylic Backgrounds

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    Reader Comments (8)

    Thanks for this tutorial, it's a great idea and also for putting the unabbreviated version of ATC, for ages that has bugged me, now I finally know what it stands for!!!!! I might even make some myself!

    02.8.2009 | Unregistered CommenterKt

    Very cool! I need a new tooth brush and I can't believe I don't own a brayer yet!!!! :-)

    02.8.2009 | Unregistered CommenteriHanna

    KT: ATCs are surprisingly fun to make.... I'm looking forward to seeing what you create!

    Hanna: Can't wait to see what you do with a brayer; you will be happily addicted in no time at all!

    ~ Tammy

    02.8.2009 | Registered Commentergypsy

    Oh those are so pretty! I'm loving all the gorgeous art projects that you post here, very inspiring! I'll be linking.

    02.8.2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

    All: ATCs are Artist Trading Cards:) ~ Tammy

    02.8.2009 | Registered Commentergypsy

    i love these pictures. each one and all together.
    i also like to apply paint with a brayer or a palette knife.
    the results surprise me. especially i love the details...the colors, which to run into each other...or just the traces of the colors.

    yes...i know, what i will do in the afternoon.

    thank you... doro.

    02.9.2009 | Unregistered Commenterdoro

    Oh, this is nice. I do ATCs with my Art Club and they will like this one.

    02.9.2009 | Unregistered CommenterSnippetyGibbet

    Thanks for posting this! I need to make a lot of ATCs for trades for Art & Soul and my art needs a jump start.

    03.31.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandra L.

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