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Another month, another ATC swap! Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are small crafts that are freely exchanged between individuals, around the world, usually via snail mail, as an exercise to interact with other artists and experience/collect samples of their work. Basically, you "claim" the most recent participant before you, select one of their listed themes as the subject matter for the card that you'll subsequently make for them, and then post your own preferences for an ATC, so that the next person who comes along can do the same for you.

For Craftster's August 2017 ATC exchange I claimed three women (one of them twice). Detailed below are the cards that I made and the quartet that I received in return!

For my first card, which went to Ohio, I chose BigBangMomma's "Cute Monsters" theme (she also listed "Cute Animals" as another option on her list, and, as you can see below, for some reason, I got the two mixed up while I was filling out the back of the card). I decided to illustrate a Nacht Kobold (German for "Night Sprite/Spirit"), based on the adorable design found in the Shin Megami Tensei (Super Reincarnation of the Goddess): Devil Children (renamed DemiKids in North America, doubtlessly to avoid controversy) Gameboy Color/Advance video games. The Devil Children titles are intended for a younger audience, thus, the mythological monsters are significantly "cute-fied" compared to the more realistic/graphic artwork used in the "normal" Megami Tensei games.

In German folklore, Kobolds are entities that take up residence in houses, mines, and on ships. If their human "hosts" treat them well and with respect, the Kobolds will bring them good luck and even do chores or provide other helpful assistance, but, if you behave badly towards them, then the angry Kobolds will cause all sorts of misery and misfortune instead. Regardless of how you feel about the supernatural, the lesson in clear: Do onto others as you'd have them do onto you.

I selected "Figure Study or Nude", from Texan Rockingbearranch's list of themes, as my second ATC project. I had to do similar, albeit much larger, figure studies quite often when I took illustration classes in college, but my professor could never get any naked models to pose (and, at times, nobody at all, which resulted in my classmates and myself being the models instead--fully clothed mind you). You see, my alma mater was cheap and only paid minimum wage for both clad and unclad models. Short of being an exhibitionist, why would you take your clothes off when you got exactly the same amount of money for keeping them on? Obviously, none of the faculty in the art department minored in business. But, then again, I often skipped class anyway, so maybe I missed out on all the full frontal nudity. Speaking of which, a former friend of mine, whom also took the same illustration classes that I did, but during different semesters, claimed that he was present when our professor did manage to somehow find a male nude model, who became aroused on the job, and our saintly teacher felt compelled to hide the offending member with an (artfully) placed towel. My ex-friend was a habitual liar though, so, I put little faith in his story being true.

My third card went to BigBangMomma again, this time for her "owls" theme. I used several photos of those birds, that I have saved on my hard drive as reference images for modeling, as a basis for this piece. I really liked this one and had a hard time parting with it, but, I told myself: "You can always just print yourself out a copy and glue it onto cardstock if you really want to."

The final ATC went to Mandykaye, a fellow Michigander, for her "cute/sexy witches" theme. While that wasn't my intent, she ended up looking like a young Kathy Griffin to me, who just happens to also be a magical crazy cat lady. Speaking of felines, I was originally only going to put one kitten in the picture, the one that's sitting on her belly having its head rubbed, but, kitties have a way of multiplying and I soon had a quintet.

One last look at the four cards together before we move on to what I got in exchange:

My first swapped ATC of the month arrived on Friday, August 11th. Mandykaye, a fellow Michigander, chose my "2NE1" theme. 2NE1 ("To anyone") was a four-woman (CL, Minzy, Bom, and Sandara) South Korean pop band that debuted in 2009 and broke up in 2016. I had never heard of 2NE1 until earlier this year when, on a whim, I picked up a 2-disc set of Korean pop music (dance music on one disc, ballads on the other), which featured two of their songs, "Ugly" and "Hate You", and I was immediately captivated with the latter in particular.

I don't understand a word of Korean, but, thankfully, the titles of those two songs, but not the name of the group itself, were listed in English on the back of the CD jewel case, so, with a little bit of Googling, all was revealed to me. I've spent many hours over the last several months listening to, and watching, their various music videos on YouTube, doing my best to permanently burn 2NE1's music into my brain. Be thankful that you don't have the misfortune of living with me, because, when I really like a song, I'll literally play it on repeat, at full blast, for hours and hours at a time. Professional torturers got nothing on me.

I like almost all of their music, but, here are five of my favorite tracks, if you're interested in seeing/listening to some of their work (and there's plenty more on YouTube if you do a search for 2NE1):

"Can't Nobody"
"Hate You"
"Lollipop" (w/Big Bang, a boy band from their record label)
"Come Back Home"
"Don't Stop the Music"

Like the last time I received an ATC from her, Mandykaye made a unique envelope from scratch to send the card in, using what I believe is a page from a magazine. I subscribe to a lot of periodicals, but, unlike the previous letter, which sported Emma Watson from a Beauty and the Beast Entertainment Weekly cover, I can't say that I recognize this particular image. The photograph of a house and yard is a pleasing one though, and I like that my address is located above the "welcome" sign, right about where a mail box would be attached to the fence. The flan postage stamp is cool too, as I've never seen that foodstuff used to decorate much of anything before. Addresses have been pixellated for privacy purposes.

Inside of the envelope was this cute card of a fuzzy little bear hunting butterflies.

And, even better, it's a pop-up card with a pretty, two-tiered floral arrangement!

As for the ATC itself, in the claims thread, I indicated that the lead singer/rapper CL (Chae-rin Lee) is my favorite, so, that's what Mandykaye did. In particular, her illustration is based on the second opening scene of the "Can't Nobody" music video I posted above, where CL is driving a car. The members of 2NE1 have sported a wide variety of hair colors/styles over the years, but CL does seem to prefer being a blonde over anything else.

For comparison purposes:

Mandykaye also included some paper extras. I'm guessing that this is a property card from a board game, but I don't recognize it; The Game of Life or Payday maybe? I dunno, Monopoly is the only one I'm familiar with in that genre. "Fish & Chips" pun aside, it's interesting that the card depicts a bird, rather than a cat, with designs on that poor goldfish.

She also sent me some more paper play money (five bills totalling $1,230) which are probably also from board games. I must have been very bad, since that represents about a 94% decrease in my allowance (Mandykaye sent me a $20,000 bill last time!)

Of course, I didn't have that money for very long anyway before a certain pony disappeared with it:

Thank you very much for your ATC portrait of one of my favorite ladies in the music industry, Mandykaye, and the extra TLC you put into the envelope and its contents!

My second swapped ATC of the month arrived on Saturday, August 19th. Curiousfae, yet another Michigander, chose my "Janice from the Muppets" theme. The Janice character debuted in 1975 and is still in use today (she's even older than I am!) Janice is generally portrayed in a very laid-back "Valley Girl" manner, and, while she's played many roles in various Muppet sketches/films, Janice's primary job is being the lead guitarist in the Muppets' signature rock & roll band, The Electric Mayhem (with Dr. Teeth on keyboards, Zoot on saxophone, Floyd on bass guitar, and, of course, the manic Animal on drums). Interestingly, the original character design sketch, for what would eventually became Janice, was male, had blue skin, and was based on Mick Jagger--it didn't even have any eyes, just a big mouth and lips! Janice's moniker is probably a spin on Janis Joplin's first name as well.

The ATC came nestled inside of this patterned card. Because I'm birdbrained, I perceive the shapes as geometric peacock feathers, but I think they're supposed to be stacked cubes that exhibit the optical trickery of being able to be viewed as facing either up or down. They could be flowers too (if you think of the dark blue diamonds as the center of the blossoms and the lines as stems and leaves) or perhaps you'll see something completely different than any of the things that I just described.

Back to the ATC itself, Curiousfae crafted me this very cool cross-stitched portrait of Janice. The colors are vibrant and she did an excellent job of capturing Janice's signature head shape, especially her large mouth, in profile. My nonexistant psychic powers actually worked this time too, because, when I felt up the envelope, prior to opening it, I correctly guessed that's what type of card was inside (and, no, it wasn't because I could feel the stitches through the envelope . . . however, the thickness was a very strong clue). This is also the first cross-stiched ATC I've ever received, and, more accurately, probably the only cross-stitched anything I've ever been given. Beyond its own merits, cross-stitching is also aesthetically pleasing to me because the tiny square shapes have the same visual effect as video game pixel art, which I also love.

And here's the reverse side. The fabric was wrapped around and secured to the cardstock backing with hot glue.

For comparison purposes, here's a shot of Janice from the Muppet Show. And I don't care how steamed the porcine princess gets when she reads this--I've always liked Janice more than Miss Piggy!

I don't currently own any Janice toys (they went out of business years ago, but Palisades made a really great action figure of her, back in 2003, if you can find one), however, where there's a will, and piles of dolls and accessories in easy reach, there's a way:

Curiousfae, thank you very much for stitching up this lovely portrait of my favorite female Muppet character, and I also appreciate getting an ATC done in a style/medium that I've never received before!

The mailman dropped off my third ATC Wednesday, August 23rd. Once again, it was made by Curiousfae. She originally chose my "Bella Sara Horses" theme, but, she explained that she had a difficult time trying to draw those animals, so, she decided to switch to my "Katy Perry's This is How We Do" theme instead.

I love Katy Perry's music in general, but 2013's This is How We Do (from her fourth studio album, Prism) is my absolute favorite song that she's ever done. You can watch/listen to the official music video here if you like (which I've done way more times than I can count):

This is How We Do

The ATC arrived inside of this neat, food-themed envelope, which actually matches the art direction of Katy's music video pretty well in my opinion. "Fries Before Guys" indeed!

Within said envelope was this coordinating fun donut pun card:

On to the ATC itself, Curiousfae made me a "It's no big deal" pizza-themed card, which is a phrase that gets repeated several times throughout the song.

In the video, said text gets spelled out in pizza as well, there's a cartoon pizza slice character, and you may have noticed that, in some of the scenes, Katy is also rocking a one-piece pepperoni pizza print bathing suit with coordinating pizza slice earrings (spicy!) I daresay Katy must REALLY love that Italian food, although I think that she should have had a slice in her hand, instead of watermelon, to tie it all together.

I'm one of the small number of people on the planet that doesn't like the taste of pizza and never touches the stuff, but, while I won't eat it, except at gunpoint (and maybe not even then), I'm okay with artwork depicting it. Curiousfae did a really nice job of arranging all the letters out of nothing but rectangle and circle/wedge shapes; I think the way that the "S" was done is particularly clever and I also like the pepperoni apostrophe. The textured orange background also suggests the cheesy surface of a pizza pie as well.

Why I never have any money:

Curiousfae, thank you very much for your pizza-riffic Katy Perry song quote card, and I also like that you went to the extra trouble to have everything that you sent adhere to the food motif!

The mailman handed me my fourth, and final, ATC for August on Saturday, September 2nd (I would have posted this sooner, but, due to the Labor Day weekend, I wasn't able to be online again until today). Bunny1kenobi, from Arizona, selected my "functional ATC board game" theme. Aside from liking board and card games in general, ATC-sized ones are particularly appealing to me because I can also use them as accessories for my sixth-scale (12") dolls. When you spend your plastic (un)life sitting on a shelf or in a cardboard box, any little diversion like that, to help break the tedium, is welcome.

I also experienced a bit of deja vu, as the food-themed envelope that this ATC arrived in was nearly identical to the previous one I got from Curiousfae [aside from the obvious things (addresses, stamps, and tape), the only real difference between the two was that Bunny1kenobi's envelope had a black front border and interior, while Curiousfae's sported blue coloration in those areas instead]. This duplication can't be just a coincidence and doubtlessly some sort of conspiracy is afoot--I'm still in the process of investigating the case, but Mothman and Elvis Presley are definitely involved!

Within said envelope was this coordinating pizza slice pun card, which would have also gone perfectly with the ATC I got from Curiousfae:

The board game ATC itself, and a bag of tokens, were securely taped to the inside of the card like so:

Taking a closer look, Bunny1kenobi made me an "Icebreaker" board game. I don't know if that's a real product or not, or something that she invented, but the idea is that, by playing this with someone, you'll both learn a lot about each other, and, because it's a game, you can avoid some of the awkwardness such an exchange might normally entail. Forty-eight squares, filled with text, is a LOT of information to squeeze onto an ATC; imagine that you got forty-six of them filled out and then misspelled a word on the forty-seventh--the horror! Bunny1kenobi didn't include any instructions (which is unfortunate, because that means a certain pony can make up whatever rules she wants when she plays and nobody can legally challenge them, no matter how ridiculous they are) but this type of game is pretty self-explanatory: begin at "start", roll the die, follow the arrows and instructions written on whatever square you land upon, and the first player to reach "finish" wins. The card's front and back are glued to pretty thick cardstock too, giving the ATC some good durability and rigidity.

The back of the card sports this cool, colored stamp of a unicycle. I've never attempted to ride one of those and my unbroken bones thank me for it.

Inside of the "tokens" envelope was this small Ziploc bag containing a translucent green die (a bead) and four playing pieces (buttons) in yellow, red, blue, and green. They're super teensy, but, thus far, I haven't lost any of them. Bunny1kenobi was very brave to send these too, as I've read that postal sorting machines just LOVE to get snagged on, and chew up, envelopes containing 3-dimensional stuff like them.

Anna and Elsa aren't going to take any of Rainbow Dash's crap today!

Bunny1kenobi, thank you very much for your miniature board game creation; because of your efforts, Barbie can finally trick Ken into engaging in meaningful communication!

And, lastly, here's a final look at all four of the cards that I received in August scanned together. Thank you again, ladies!

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