Collage practice (using ATCs)

When I first started doing mixed media one of the first tasks I set myself was to make mini collages on a whole set of playing cards or ATCs. (ATC stands for Artist Trading Card. It is a little piece of art (2x3.5 inches) that is not generally sold, but traded between artists.) After 52 individual collages I had done a whole lot of practice! By practicing, a little each day, my eye was being trained to see both good & bad composition and color choices.

I think this exercise is good
1) if you are new to collage
2) when you have made new background papers (as outlined in Week 1 of the workshop in my book) and you want a little warm up before you get into collaging bigger things like journals or wall hangings.
3) if you are feeling a little blocked and just want to make something

Step 1
Lay a playing card onto a white sheet of paper. Draw around the card. Using a kraft knife cut along the line and discard the inner piece. You are left with an ATC size viewfinder. Set this aside for a minute.

***** Suggestion - you can do this for larger cards too, just make your window bigger! *****

Step 2

Spread out your background papers and then tear and cut them up into smaller pieces.

Step 3

Lay your viewfinder on the spread and move it around, sliding different papers under the view finder and looking at the various compositions that appear in the window.

Step 4

When you ‘find’ a paper combo that is nice, tear off the pieces that you like. Arrange them on an actual playing card. (unless you take a photo of what you saw in the viewfinder and are very careful the actual ATC pieces will not be an exact match, it is more of a guide)

***** tip: when arranging the pieces look for heavier pieces to be at the bottom of the piece, avoid too many different colors and strong images, mix elements that are different sizes, but in the same or complimentary color family. *****

Step 5

Glue these in place.

Step 6

Turn the card face down and trim the excess papers.

***** tip: save all the cut off bits and add them to your ‘art stash’ (see p55 in my book for more on 'art stash') *****

Step 7

Add oil pastels to the edges and pick some words or sentiment.


You can use ATC’s as the focal image in cards or wall hangings. Here I paired it with a photo of my daughter, layered the ATC over some more painted papers, and that over scrapbooking panel mounted on a piece of cardboard:
(this beautiful background paper on the wall hanging and the background to my photo are from the Mon Ami Collection by Christine Adolph for Stampington & Co.)

or you can make them into mini journal covers, like this one that has a stitched binding:

or this one made with the Bind It All machine:

I hope you enjoy my collage tutorials!


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