I was asked today, where do I get the ideas from for my collaged ATC's. As an artist it is a very difficult thing to describe the process of creation let alone the process of inspiration. But there are a number of stages which I go through.
1. OK, I start with a background. This can be anything from a nice piece of paper, a part of an old watercolour painting or a wet-into-wet wash or even a photograph which I have taken. Other people may use old photo's which are no longer subject to copyright control.
If it is in digital form I print on to a matte photo paper of about 200g/m2 to the size which I shall use, in the case of an ATC 2.5 X 3.5 inch.
If the nice paper, then I shall matte to a card of a suitable weight before cutting to size.
2. The main image(s) normally I make a small collection of images from which I will select the main focal point of the card, often copyright-free downloads of which there are loads available or in fact anything which might lead to a good 'storyline'. Again personal photos are favourite of mine.
From this collection I will select one or two and place them on the background until something 'clicks'. At this point, an idea starts to emerge. Perhaps a joke or a witty statement. It may be a simple idea such as an emotion. Whatever grabs you!
3. Filling in the spaces. I then become focused in my search for elements which will help to convey that main idea or story.
This may be more photo's, or images. perhaps a contrasting paper to add a little to the background although I tend to keep my backgrounds very simple.
cut outs of flowers / stars / butterflies / etc, all add atmosphere without taking away the importance of the main element. Or smaller, different images to the main element may be used to aid the overall composition.
As an artist, I find the rules of composition are wonderful guides, but essentially if it feels right then it usually is.
Balance shapes and colours, add contrasts, overlap shapes to add depth to the image you are creating. Also try to keep most of the images joined together so that the card does not look like a collection of isolated images.
4. Prose (text if you like) this can add a nice finishing touch to an ATC. It is not absolutely necessary but I do find that it adds to the story / joke / theme. Here is a quick example of two cards I made recently:-
The first shows two girls (?) waiting for the third to get ready (I know, it's a sexist joke), empty smace is filled with a rubber stamping. The second uses a similar painted background, but this time the main image is complemented by a small vintage advert and a yellow ribbon held in place by yellow, star-shaped brads.