Friday, June 5, 2009

Learning My ATC's

(Note: Click on an image for a larger view)

Sometimes it's the littlest things that make me happy. I recently purchased some watercolor sprays and some clear acrylic stamps with Asian motifs. With my new toys in hand I proceeded to play and decided to make a few ATC's. In case you're unfamiliar with the term, ATC means Artist Trading Card. They are miniature works of art measuring 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches, the same as baseball trading cards. As the name suggests, they are traded among artists and others as a quick way to disseminate a sample of their art and to network. I love them because they are small, requiring me to work simply and allowing me to work relatively quickly. They also allow me to experiment with new techniques without investing a lot of time and material. If my experiment works, then I have learned something new and have a little work of art in the bargain. If my experiment fails, I may not end up with art but I have nevertheless learned something in the process.

The cards featured here are good examples of this. The background for each was created by spraying various blue and green shades of liquid watercolors onto watercolor paper. I should mention here that watercolor paper is specifically designed for liquid applications. Other types of paper can ripple and curl when wet. I spritzed with a little water then oversprayed with Tulip Sparkle Spray fabric glitter. The glitter is ultra-fine and very subtle. I learned a few things in this process: 1) if you don't dry out the paper between the various liquid sprays you run the risk of having the colors run together and get muddled. (If this is the effect you want, it's not a problem); 2) What appears to be a splotchy mess when wet can turn out to be a beautifully interesting background when dry; 3) I should have sprayed a large sheet of watercolor paper and then cut it down into ATC's. It would have saved time and materials.

In the first card I experimented with two techniques: bleaching and color lifting. After the background dried (with a little help from my heat tool) I stamped the lovely geisha in black pigment ink and embossed with black EP. The leaves and the kanji symbol were stamped in dark green dye ink. I used an Aqua-Flo waterbrush filled with bleach and painted inside the geisha image. All the color disappeared, leaving a nice clean canvas for my coloring which I accomplished with Prismacolor watercolor pencils. I laid down the colors, lightest color first, then blended them together with another Aqua-Flo brush filled with water to create the ombre effect of the kimono. After she was completely colored and dry, I went over the image with a Versamark pen and embossed with clear EP. For the kanji symbol, I lifted the color out by brushing within the image with water then immediately blotting the color while still wet. Each time you do this the color becomes a little lighter, allowing you to control the amount of color you wish to lift out. After I lightened it to my satisfaction I added some green and yellow shading with watercolor pencils. I also added dark blue shading to the diagonal corners of the ATC. I slowly dragged a dark blue Prismacolor marker around the edges, allowing the nib to contact the paper long enough for the color to bleed slightly creating a subtle border.

The second ATC was a learning experience of another kind. After stamping the bamboo stalks in dark blue dye ink, I stamped the fan in gold pigment ink and embossed with gold EP. I intended to bleach out the color from the bird cutouts in the body of the fan. Turns out the ink I used to stamp the bamboo would not bleach out. Of course it wouldn' was dye, not watercolor. I didn't think about that. Now I had to find some way to cover up the distracting bamboo stalks that were peeking through the fan. I used gel pens in various shades of blues, greens and aquas and colored in the cutouts, not really expecting a satisfactory result and resigned to chalking this up as a failed experiment. I was happily surprised to find the next day that the gel ink dried opaque so the bamboo no longer showed through the fan. This is one of the those pieces that had to grow on me before I took a shine to it. What I learned from this exercise was patience and faith: the patience to allow the art to mature in its own good time, and faith in my own abilities as an artist to work through an apparent obstacle.

Art offers more than just beauty. It offers life lessons too.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

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