Artist Trading Cards-a group exercise

Over the weekend, I was part of a retreat for a group that I belong to. The group leader asked me to conduct an art exercise designed to help the group members know themselves and each other better. I decided on artist trading cards as the ideal project. Their compact size (about the size of a baseball card) lends itself easily to a quick and satisfying art making experience.

Group members were given three cards. On one they were to depict a joy or success they had while working as part of this group. On another they were asked to depict a sorrow or disappointment. On the third card, the name of a member of the group was written on the back. These cards were distributed randomly and everyone was asked to think about something the named person might need to hear and then depict that on the card.

We worked for about 30 minutes using collage words and pictures, oil pastels, colored pencils and markers. Upon completion, the finished cards were laid out together on another table for group members to look at and reflect upon over the course of the day.

As a closing for the retreat, everyone retrieved their cards. Rather than having everyone speak in turn about the images on their cards, the cards were wordlessly passed from one to the next in a round robin until your own card had returned to you. We did this for the joy/success card first and then the sorrow/disappointment card. There was a profound silence, a reverence even, as the cards were passed from hand to hand. I don’t know who made which card, but I distinctly remember the powerful images on them.

Borrowing from the tradition of sharing the Oplatki wafer that I learned this past holiday season, we began to share the third cards with the person for whom we had made them. The cards were exchanged and the pair embraced, offering kindness and acceptance to each other.

Working from the open studio model, I rarely use directives. But in this case a structured task was called for and specific issues needed to be addressed. The artist trading cards were the perfect medium for this exercise. Not only that, everyone had a transitional object to remind them of the wonderful day we spent together. Artist trading cards are a great tool for community building and are designed to be traded with other artists. There are many ongoing exchanges you can take part in, so start building your collection today!


More domino pictures

Give yourself a little credit

It’s official.  I have gotten a little nutty about the domino pins. And yet, I continue to feel that I am not making art. I work for an hour or two every day on these pins, gathering materials and assembling them into creative  compositions.  But there is still that annoying little voice telling me that I have  not made any art today. With some reality testing I can assure myself that in fact it has been quite a productive day. But what is that voice about?

I am doing everything I am “supposed” to be doing:  working in the studio, making Big and Little Art, thinking about my next project. I don’t know why I have to work so hard to convince myself that what I am doing “counts.” I  think that the voice of “you are not doing anything/enough” is so deeply ingrained that it is my default position. Some reprogramming is in order because the truth is that  I am getting a great deal of work done and making  some significant inroads on several projects.

I am going to make a concerted effort to change the internal voice because it is truly self-defeating. I want the first voice to be “good job, you got a lot done today.” Because that is the truth.

Pictures of domino pins

Art for Sale

I have been down this road before.

The domino bug has bitten me hard and I have made about 35 pins so far. What to do with them all? They are neatly laid out in my jewelry display boxes along with beaded earrings and bracelets that I made during another crafting binge a few years ago. Selling them would be the logical thing.  But here is where it gets tricky for me.

When I start making items to sell, I start to lose my enthusiasm for making them. Something about the self-created pressure to produce takes all the fun out of it. This is largely why I did not pursue the route of being a full-time artist. I did not want to market myself or my work, it’s not why I make art. If people enjoy my work, that is a bonus. But selling my work is not a driving force for me. I’ve sold a few pieces over the years and I sell the jewelry but I don’t want to take it around to stores or start taking orders. It turns a fun activity into work, and I already have plenty of that thank you!

I am thinking about opening an Etsy shop because that would be an easy way to sell a few things at my own pace. But all of this has led me to think about why I make art and how and where I want it to live in the world. Living off your art is a tough row to hoe. However, making it brings the intrinsic benefits of creative release, self-expression, and the satisfaction of a job well-done.

I don’t think I will ever resolve this internal conflict about making and selling my work. I just have to continue dancing along the edge of it and paying close attention to how I am feeling about it. It’s okay to stop if it is not fun anymore.

Do you sell your artwork? Do you make it with the intention of selling it? How does it feel to part with your artwork? What do you do to market yourself?


I am really enjoying working in series right now. I am making 8-10 dominoes at a time and working on an altered book series made from a set of encyclopedias. There is something about moving back and forth from one canvas to the next that is really energizing. Instead of getting bogged down in one image, I just keep moving from one to the next. As soon as I get stuck on a page, I move to another one.  ADD or neat art trick?

Being the introspective sort, I can’t help but wonder what it means that it is so much easier to work on several things at a time. I always have multiple irons in the fire and that seems to energize rather than deplete me. I admit that I get bored easily.  I must have a project, or as is more often the case, multiple  projects in order to keep my creative mind engaged. Yes, I have laid awake at night wondering what color to paint the breakfast nook.  Somehow there is a synergy that happens when I have many projects or many images to complete. Each one feeds the next with rich results.

Do you work better with one task to focus on?  Some people get their best results when there is a clear task, with a designated start and finish.  Others are comfortable with having multiple starts and stops.  Neither way is better than the other, it’s just a function of how our brain and attention work.  Perhaps I will try to focus on just one thing and see how that feels.  I know which way is easier for me, but maybe another way will produce a different result. How do you get your best work done? How did you arrive at this? What would happen if you tried another way?

Dominoes anyone?

I have caught the domino bug. I picked it up from Cathy Malchiodi and Gretchen Miller and just have to share it with you because it is so much fun. What the heck am I talking about? Why, domino pins of course! It is a simple and fun project for all ages. I will be introducing these in my vocational arts program as I think the clients will enjoy making them and I know they will sell.

Check out the new link to the Fusion e-zine where Cathy gives some instruction on making these cool pins using alcohol inks. I am going to give you some of my ideas and tips that have evolved from my own making of these pins.

To get started, you will need some nice big dominoes. I am using white plastic dominoes that are 2″ x 1″. Glues adhere well to them, although I will warn you that you cannot drill holes in them as I learned from painful personal experience. Pull out that stash of paper you have been collecting. I am using scraps cut from old books, tissue paper, origami paper and wrapping paper. Trace around the domino onto the paper of your choice. You will need to trim it a little inside the traced line so that it will fit the face of the domino. I made a template for this so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel with each domino. Adhere the paper to the domino with Mod Podge. If you want to add some glitter, I suggest using the sparkle Mod Podge.  I used glitter on one of my pins and it shed all over my clothes.

Now you can add some text or images. I sort through my big box of collage words cut out from magazines to find quirky sentences and pictures that will fit on the tiny canvas of the domino. Beads, jewels, and other small doo-dads can be adhered with a drop of Gem-Tac jewelry glue. Don’t forget the edge of the domino! Color can be applied with a Sharpie marker or you can glue on ribbon, paper, more beads, etc. A final coat of Mod Podge will seal everything in place. Once the front is dry, a small metal pin back is easily glued to the back of the pin with the Gem-Tac.  Place the pin back as close as you can to the top of the domino so that when you wear it the pin doesn’t tip forward.

I am having fun working on these in a series. I am gluing paper onto about 10 dominoes at a time and I just keep moving from one to the next rather than work on one start to finish.  New ideas keep emerging and since the dominoes are so small it doesn’t get overwhelming.  I am going to try embossing onto the paper, but I am not sure if it adhere-time to experiment!

What creative activities are keeping you on your toes today?  I am trying hard to stick with my art making intention by making some Little Art today with the dominoes.  I encourage you to make some Big or Little Art too!

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