Wednesday, June 3, 2009


In 1997, M. Vanci Stirnemann, a Swiss artist, opened an exhibit of 1200 miniature cards. On the last day, exhibit goers were invited to make their own cards and trade with the artist. Thus began the artist trading card (ATCs) movement. Swap and viewing events occur in many major cities, online, and in art classrooms around the globe (including Ms. Underwood’s of Gloucester High School). The only criteria is size, the cards must be 2.5” by 3.5”, but the rest is up to the artist.

I love the artist trading card assignments we had this year in art class because of the endless possibilities. It is easier to sketch and work with a small canvas than a giant sheet of paper. If you are working with a theme and have many ideas, the benefit with trading cards is that you can use a bunch and include every idea, rather than settle for one super idea and one composition.

For this series of cards, the theme was butterflies (are you surprised?). I used what I had discovered while blogging about the motif throughout literary works. I listed words associated with butterflies (cute, symmetric, metamorphosis, innocence, children, science, net, catch, hope, flight, fall, bliss, breezy, small, delicate…) until I felt like I had found a few visions and themes to work with. Next came sketching, and finally creating.

Unfortunately, my camera did not like to focus on the details. I will try again later.

Card one is of a young child lying in the grass, while an ominous cloud is approaching from the opposite side of the card. Butterflies break apart this diagonal composition as they move from top left to bottom right. By using the butterflies to separate the child from the cloud, it gives the impression that they are protecting the child from the cloud. The child is innocent and blissful, and the cloud contains words which represent emotions that are dark and corrupt, including Truth and Sin. I’m not very happy with the card, the colors came out too neon, and the idea behind it is kind of a cop out. But throughout blogging, I constantly saw how butterflies were used alongside children to express the innocence of childhood, so I felt that I needed to have a card that showed this.

Card two illustrates the metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood that the life of a butterfly parallels. A Victorian girl in red recedes behind her adult self, who is naked. The contrast between the young girl with her doll and the naked woman, quite unashamed of her nudity, intimates a loss of innocence. The red flower and three red butterflies are used to emphasize the woman in the middle of the composition, since two red objects frame her, creating an intensity for the eye. The shape of the girl and woman, standing back to back with head leaned slightly forward, imitates the shape of a butterfly with spread wings. The word ‘metamorphosis’ makes the idea the card shows a little too ’in your face’. But the use of butterflies to express transformation is super prevalent, and I felt like I was justified in using the idea as the word itself.

Card three, the final one, includes a lyric from a Voxtrot song “Long Haul”. The singer repeats “I wanna catch a love and make it stay” and “I wanna catch a love and make it last” throughout the song. He longs to ’catch’ what he feels is unattainable. For this card, I wanted to show the nostalgia people feel for the carefree days of their youth, as was seen in the speaker of the Wordsworth poem. In the poem, a speaker uses a butterfly as a catalyst in remembering his youth. Butterflies represent innocence and joy. The shadow of a man (a good contrast against the whites of the background) is chasing a butterfly of remarkable size and the ideas that follow it. The words innocence, bliss, and hope surround it. The size of the butterfly compared to the man, or even the net, hints that the man will be unsuccessful in his attempt to capture both the butterfly and innocence.

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