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Altered Image Artist Trading Cards

ATC Altered Magazine Pages 01
This is a slight variation on the magazine page ATC project in the Artist Trading Card Workbook by Bernie Berlin.  I have tweaked her instructions regarding the process and the media used to create a stronger card.  I recognized the basic process of using thinned gesso to build layers of  a collage or drawing such as this example and this older example, being a process I learned in a drawing class.  Following the process exactly given in the Bernie Berlin book lead to some bad adhesion of the magazine page to the substrate because both the gel medium and the gesso are very wet; my paper page pulled away from the substrate or bubbled badly.  This is a great project for good looking ATCs.  The final work will have a painted / illustrated look that is easy to achieve.


ATC Blue Rapunzel



MATERIALS-  You will need the following:

  • acrylic gel medium,
  • a good quality foam brush,
  • white gesso,
  • some playing cards or heavy weight watercolour paper for the core,
  • waterproof India ink used in combination with a mechanical pen, dip pen or “000” fine liner script brush
  • spray acrylic sealant to finish (or use Krylon Kamar varnish if you are using any oil based media like oil paints or oil pastels.)
  • For a colorant use any combination of graphite, acrylic paint, gouache, coloured inks, oil paints, oil pastels, coloured pencils or artist grade markers.

PROCESS-  I recommend playing cards over just using a paper, Bristol or chipboard core; the plastic coating prevents warping.  Heavy weight watercolour paper also works well, use 140# weight or higher.  Gel medium is very wet and there will be some warping to the card.  The secret to making it look its best is to apply the thinnest layer possible of gel medium and gesso.  You need enough for adhesion but not so much gel medium to create lumps.  Using a foam brush is essential, the stria of a paintbrush has too many inconsistencies.  I did side-by-side comparisons of the two and the foam brush did much better.

The steps are:

  1. Select an image to alter from a magazine.  The heavier the quality of the magazine paper, the easier it will be to work with.
  2. Paste the magazine page to the front of a playing card using the gel medium.  It helps a lot to get a smooth and strong bond if you firmly roll the top of the page with a rolling pin or brayer.  I use an acrylic rollin gpin for polymer clay because it is easy to wash off.  Let the card dry completely before continuing.  It may need to sit for hours or overnight.
  3. Brush one layer of gel medium in one direction over the top of the magazine image, let it dry.  Brush a second layer of gel medium in the opposite direction, let it dry.  You want there to be two coats on top.  I used a foam brush but you can experiment with a regular brush to get different patterns of brush strokes.  You want to seal the card so the next step using gesso does not pull the magazine page away from its core.  Smooth out any bubbles that appear.  Many times, minor bubbles will not stay once the ATC is fully dry.
  4. Brush on 1 – 2 layers of white gesso over the gel medium; let the gesso dry between coats.  How heavy it is applied depends on your personal taste.  You want the see the image on the page well enough to work with.  I like a pretty good level of transparency, such as in the example cards above, and I thinned my gesso with 50% water.  Use a foam brush to apply the gesso  It will go in the stria and groves of the gel medium nicely.
  5. Re-draw and trace the magazine image at will with the waterproof India ink and let that dry.  You can change the photograph as much as you like!
  6. Now color the image as you wish.  I used acrylic paints and coloured pencils in the above examples, especially liking metallic silver and gold paints.  Colour, paint and build up layers as much as you want.
  7. Use a spray sealant to varnish the final work.  Coloured pencil, markers and even ink may come off the surface, so I do not recommend using a brush on sealant.  If you do and it works as you wanted, more power to you.  Spray sealant give me the advantage of not rubbing at the surface I build up.
  8. Brush gel medium on the back of the core using the foam brush and apply a decorative paper backing.  If it is mostly dry, and the ATC is fairly warped or wobbly, put it in waxed paper or plastic film and lay it between the pages of a book, press it with heavy weights overnight to flatten it well.  I flatten ATCs using some old catalogs and set my heavy paint box on top.

ATC From Distant Sands

Categories: Artist Trading Cards
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