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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 January 2018 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 Vermont, I chose Blupaisan's "Wild Flowers" theme. I based my illustration on several photographs I had saved on my hard drive. Devil's Paintbrush is my favorite local wild flower, but, much like Dandelions, it's considered a nuisance weed by most other people around here, so I'm doubtlessly in the minority. Satan's irresponsible and always leaving his used art utensils planted in people's yards like that, what can you do?

And, oh yeah, this was the first ATC I tried making, prior to the flower one above, for Blupaisan's "Classic Godzilla" theme, but, I didn't care for how it turned out, so I scrapped it. It's not horrible or anything, I just wasn't feeling the results.

Next, I did a self-portrait for Curiousfae, a fellow Michigander. Drawing myself isn't something I do very often, unless it's an exercise/assignment for an illustration class, but, since I hadn't done it in so long, I figured, why not? I shot several photos of myself with one of my digital cameras and then drew the one that I felt looked the most visually interesting. And, yes, as usual, I'm wearing a hoodie and I need to shave.

Of course, immediately after writing on the back of the card (in ink, which I couldn't erase) that I hadn't drawn myself in over a decade, I suddenly remembered that I did make a quick, cartoon-y drawing of myself in 2016, to illustrate a silly dream that I had:

So, in this dream, I won a SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) R-Type video game (which shouldn't have happened anyway, because there are only two R-Type games on that console and I already own both of them) from a seller on eBay. The padded envelope arrives in the mail, but, instead of sending me the game in question, she informs me that she couldn't find the cartridge and/or it's broken and the parcel is filled with a bunch of paper coupons for stuff that I have absolutely no interest in plus photos of herself and her fifteen(!) children. Well, I'm fuming about not getting my precious video game, or at least a refund, when there's suddenly a knock at my front door. Surprise! It's the woman, who traveled over 200 miles to see me, and she brought her 2-year-old daughter with her as well. The woman barges in, plops down a boombox, turns on some music, and the child starts wildly dancing in circles around me chanting, "Check out my rhythm!" Her mother looks on proudly while repeatedly poking me and asking, "Doesn't she have wonderful rhythm?" While she never states as much, I get the distinct impression that she's certain that her unexpected visit will somehow smooth over not sending me the game that I bought. The dream ended with me, bewildered, wondering how I was going to get the two of them out of the house without creating a scene.

When I first had the dream, I told this same story, and showed the picture above, to a friend on one of the online message boards that I belong to, and his interpretation was, "You must really want to have some kids bad."

My third card went to Blupaisan again, this time for her "Cats in odd places" theme. I based my card on a photograph I found online and made some alterations to it when I reproduced it by hand. The titles on the book spines are things that I took from Blupaisan's Craftster profile. Our cat likes to knock over my stacks of books, and sometimes nibble on their corners, but she doesn't have any interest in sleeping between them like this.

The final January ATC went to "Thanate", a woman who lives in Maryland, for her "Candles" theme. I'm not a big candle person, but red ones appeal to me more than any other hue for some reason. We have some candles around the house, but I generally only use them if I need a small flame to melt/dry something or if I want to use the wax itself for something (for example, I've tried making wax molds in the past). Again, I based my card design on a photograph that I found online and liked. Said picture contained many more candles than these, I just "zoomed in" on a cluster that I felt would look good within the boundaries of an ATC's standard dimensions and went from there. This one turned out to be my favorite out of the four that I made this month too, but I can't put my finger on why.

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

My first swapped ATC of the month, from "LimeRiot", a woman in Washington state, arrived on Saturday, January 20th. The yellow envelope had this awesome Jimi Hendrix stamp affixed to it:

LimeRiot chose my "The Goonies Characters" theme. That's one of my top ten favorite movies from the 1980s, and, if you've never seen it, you should definitely check it out! Sloth (played by John Matuszak) is the hulking, deformed son of the Fratelli criminal family that they abuse and keep chained up like a wild animal, but, despite his horrific appearance and terrible living conditions, he's actually a kindly and child-like fellow, much different from his cruel mother and two brothers. "Hey, you guys!" is a phrase that Sloth takes a liking to, after hearing his new friend Chunk say it, and Sloth repeats it several times throughout the film--it's almost like a battle cry for him or something.

In the note that she sent with the card, LimeRiot indicated to me that her Sloth design was based on a stuffed animal that she saw and liked--I think this look suits him very well! The card appears to be done with ink/marker and watercolor paint to my eyes. LimeRiot also cleverly decided to put happy Sloth on a brad so that he can perform the "Truffle Shuffle" (a humiliating dance from the film that Corey Feldman's character, Mouth, forced his overweight friend Chunk to do before he'd allow him entry into Mikey's house at the beginning of the movie).

Rather than just telling you about how Sloth boogies, thanks to the magic of animated GIFs, I can show you! I would speculate that if Mouth actually tried the same stunt on Sloth that he did with Chunk, the not-so-gentle giant probably wouldn't be too amused, and Mouth (not to mention the fence around Mikey's house) would likely regret it.

Speaking of somepony who's about to have some regrets . . .

Finally, here's one last look at the card with a page from my vintage 1985 The Goonies Storybook, which in turn was what ultimately led me to list the film's characters when I was brainstorming ATC themes for this month's swap (the volume came in handy as reference material for drawing Rainbow Dash's Mama Fratelli mask too!) Sadly, all of the photographs in said book are black and white, rather than color--those rotten Fratellis must have made off with most of the publisher's money before they went to print!

Thank you very much for your great Goonies card, LimeRiot. I love your cutesy take on Sloth and the fact that he's also movable is like getting a BabyRuth candy bar on top of your Rocky Road ice cream!

My second swapped ATC of the month arrived on Friday, January 26th. Blupaisan, the same woman that I made the "Wild Flowers" and "Cats in Odd Places" cards for above, chose my "a Gary Larson Far Side style comic" theme. Gary Larson's single-panel Far Side comics ran in newspapers around the country for about fifteen years (1980-1995). His work was often surreal/bizarre and refreshingly different from other strips like Garfield or Peanuts--I absolutely loved it as a child and still do today. Whenever I run across one of his many collections at used book sales or thrift stores I always snap it up, provided that it's in good condition and not one that I already own (in fact, I just bought another volume, The Far Side Gallery 3, on January, 17th!)

Inside of the envelope that Blupaisan sent was this floral card from the MD Anderson Center Children's Art Project (the proceeds from which fund patient programs for children with cancer). The work is titled "Three Blooms" and was made by 18-year-old Joye from Nebraska. The flowers seem like a combination of paint and collage to me.

The ATC itself was nestled inside of this smaller envelope, sealed shut with a cute tabby kitten sticker. I was super careful not to tear it when I opened up the flap.

Blupaisan made me a fold-out joke card! It looks like all of the artwork was done in black ink and the ATC is made from heavier cardstock, possibly re-purposed packaging from food or some other product.

Poor Al thought that 3-year-old King Whiska was a nice lap cat, but, old Al wasn't paying enough attention, because, when we flip open the card's flap, we see that what Al really got was . . .

A rap(ping) cat! Flavor Flav would be so proud. And for Al's sake, since he doesn't want to use a litter box, I dearly hope that King Whiska either (A) plans on doing his business outside or (B) knows how to use a human toilet!

For comparison purposes, here's the ATC scanned with a Gary Larson cat comic from one of my Far Side books. However, given the sheer volume of canine funnies that he's done, I'd guess that Larson is probably more of a dog-lover.

Blupaisan, thank you for your phat fold-out cat!

The mailman dropped off my third ATC on Saturday, January 27th. This time it was from Floridian "Rosie1981", who selected my "Lalaloopsy characters" theme. Lalaloopsy dolls (slogan: "Sew magical-Sew cute!") are a toy line that was created in 2010 by MGA [the same company that does Bratz, Moxie Girlz, Lil Outrageous Littles (L.O.L.), etc.] The dolls were also briefly branded as Bitty Buttons when they were first released. All of the Lalaloopsy characters are supposed to be ragdolls that have come to life, but, despite that theme, MGA decided to make most of the toys out of rigid plastic instead of fabric. So, while they're certainly adorable-looking, they're not terribly good for cuddling due to their hard bodies (and a child could probably put a serious hurt on someone if they whacked them with one of the heavy, full-sized dolls!)

Inside of the white envelope I received, the ATC was protected within this smaller packet which sports a very nice pattern that has an Asian feel to me:

And the notebook page that Rosie1981 sent along with the card also had this good quote printed on the bottom. I have to admit that I'm oftentimes a drain rather than a fountain--my plumbing needs some work, so it does.

Rosie1981 went with a collage design for her Lalaloopsy Crumbs Sugar Cookie card. The background hues nicely compliment the colors of Crumbs' hair/attire and the overall composition is pleasing to the eye with a very warm and "sunny" feeling to it. I'm not going to lie, my first reaction to seeing this card was that someone had dismembered poor Crumbs! Of course, ragdoll heads/bodies/limbs are often sewn separately and then later assembled into a whole (as are the molded plastic parts of the real Lalaloopsy dolls), so, that's a far more likely explanation as to why Crumbs is in this fragmented state. Her pet mouse is also present, which doesn't have a name--I don't believe that any of the Lalaloopsy pets do, even though nearly every doll owns a critter of some sort. That's always kind of bothered me--who doesn't name their pet(s)?

Instead of telling you all about Crumbs Sugar Cookie myself, I'll let my 2011 Scholastic Meet the Lalaloopsy Girls children's book explain. My home "library" is such a disorganized mess that not only did it take me about an hour of shifting through piles of books to find said volume, but I uncovered four other completely different Lalaloopsy books before I unearthed the one that I actually wanted to scan. According to my spreadsheet records, I also theoretically possess an Ultimate Lalaloopsy Collector's Guide too, which would doubtlessly have been an even better reference source, but I'll be damned if I can remember where I put it--I'm such a hopeless hoarder!

I currently have the mini Series 8 "So Sleepy" Crumbs Sugar Cookie doll, but she's molded wearing yellow pajamas instead of her usual gingham dress. And I also have the pet mouse from the "Silly Hair" incarnation of the full-sized Crumbs Sugar Cookie doll (that version has Medusa-esque bendy hair tendrils, just like the pictured rodent's tail.)

Rosie1981, thank you very much for your Crumbs Sugar Cookie collage card! I like that you went with an interesting visual approach that I really wasn't expecting.

The mailman handed me my fourth, and final, swapped ATC for January on Thursday, February 1st. Thanate, a woman from Maryland, picked my "paper doll" theme. I indicated that I prefer either girls/women or animals as paper dolls, and an animal is what I got!

The stamp on the envelope I got from her is a red candle, and considering the subject matter of the ATC that I made for her, that's an appropriate cyclical thing.

Thanate created a movable owl ATC for me! This bold predatory bird looks great and all of those bright hues are sure to attract a mate (and the flourescent colors are even more vibrant in person than they are scanned/photographed). The otherworldly appearance of Thanate's card also makes me think of Mothman (a large bird, usually a sand crane or an owl, is one of the more plausible explanations some people have come up with to explain the sightings of that particular cryptid/alien entity).

Since this is a movable ATC, you know what that means . . . animated GIF! That's some beautiful plumage, eh? There are actually two sets of wings attached to the white button-eye brads; the upper yellow/green and lower purple/pink ones are separate components, so, there are four rotating pieces all together, which makes for a very convincing and dense array of feathers. I can almost feel the air being stirred by those beating wings!

Thanate also sent me some bonus paper doll wig templates in various styles/lengths:

Thanate, thank you very much for my new, colorful, fluttering, feathered friend!

And here's one last look at all four of the swapped cards that I received in January scanned together. Thank you again, ladies!

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