Thursday, February 19, 2009

78 cards later

Here's life after the tarot --

Well, backtrack a bit.

June 2004 I started on a project to create a tarot deck. 78 pieces of art. Not for any client, just for my own pleasure; though I soon found embarking on a long project like that, regardless of whether there's someone holding purse strings on it, sets its own terms.

It had to be cohesive: in style, in tone, in color. Concerns about the first item on that checklist did give me pause. I knew that without someone actually paying for the project to happen, it would necessarily take several years to complete. Over the course of which my style and skill was bound to change. At least...I should hope skill level would change (One could wish for the better, right???). And the second two items, well, those are the parameters for the pieces really. The boundaries I'd have to work within.

When I got down to #71 and the end was in sight, I started to wonder what it'd be like when I was done. For so long now (over 4 years) my "free time" has been dictated by "the next card." I have the paying jobs I do on commission. And when I'm not working on those, it was the tarot.

72, 73, 74 slipped by in between conventions. Then paying project deadlines and holidays took over briefly. Signing with Llewellyn to publish the deck. Hurry up finish the rest now that there's an actual deadline for THIS too.

75, 76 between mouthfuls of Thanksgiving turkey. I can see the end.

77 with my brother's dog running neurotic Australian shepherd circles around the table and around the Christmas tree. Reluctance a bit...what will I do when this is done? Don't think about that too much. Write the book.

78. Send it all in.


Now what?

Do I have to learn what this thing is called "artist's block"?

I think artistically it has pushed me to be a better artist in numerous ways (forcing me to paint male and female figures in equal number, facilitating gradual experimentation of perspective, size, and color). I can see the differences from the first cards to the last, and could bore anyone with the details of the progression.

Even though the project was my own from start to finish, dictated by parameters I set myself, it was still a boundary. A safe zone for me to fall into easily. While it may have stretched the technical and craftsman's muscles in my brain, there hasn't been need to really push and brainstorm wild concepts and subject matter. Or even color schemes for that matter; since for the sake of cohesion I focused on matching color sets for each suit.

So now I sit here for the first time in years and with a bit of "free time" again... and there's no "next card" to work on. No fixed color scheme to match. Any subject, any colors. It's a bit daunting. My paper seems too big, too white. My palette seems too varied and overwhelming. Green. No, purple. No with purple shadows!

It's a lovely feeling to do a piece of art again "just because I feel like it". Not that I felt the lack before, because I loved every minute of that 78 card journey, and am very proud of it. But it's a feeling of freedom you don't really notice until it it's there with you again.

Ink drawings of the nearby ravine have been sprouting under my hands; with a profusion like the greenery that they depict (rain rain rain this past month). And some dragons; with any colors I feel like painting!


  1. I saw the pieces on deviant - they are stunning ! ! ! I'm a huge fan and I'm glad to see you've taken up blogging on google.

  2. Thanks! We'll see how long I can keep this up :)

  3. I long for the day when this Tarot set becomes available for sale. It is truly stunning. I love the unique symbolism.

  4. I echo the previous writer - am waiting for the announcement that they will be available for sale!

  5. Congrats on finishing the tarot! I can't wait to see the set all together.

  6. Spring 2010. I'm waiting with the rest of you, now that the materials are out of my hands and in the publisher's!

  7. I've looked through all of your artwork - you are INCREDIBLE. So inspiring! I want to go draw right now! (I'm not exactly an artist but take it very seriously since both my parents are)

    I love both your watercolour and ink drawings! And your compositions are divine! :-D