I thought that I’d write out the story of the entire saga of the creation of the project, in the idea that maybe others will enjoy reading it and learning from my mistakes! It will be a several part story, as it has been a long journey! I probably won’t get it exactly linear.
But first a quick status update on the decks:
The decks and books are supposed to ship out to me soon. Printers said the end of the week, and TGIF! But I still haven’t heard from them, so maybe it will be Monday if not by the end of the day. Once they are here I’ll still need to assemble the boxes and the signature cards and the extras, and put up the store front. I’m shooting for the first week of November. Subscribers: I will be sending you an email with the exact date and time as soon as I have the decks in hand! (To sign up to get notified, there is a link at www.rosettatarot.com on the Major and Minor Arcana pages)
Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part I, Genesis
First it started with the idea. A little over two years ago, I got the idea that I wanted to paint a tarot deck. I’m pretty sure I was inspired by reading a pre-release article about Jung’s Red Book, and seeing some of his artwork. I’d found a blank book made of homemade grass paper, and thought I’d fill the pages with small paintings of tarot cards, and try to complete the whole deck, thus filling all the pages of the book. There was something about the idea of laboring over something for a long time, and that something continuing on after you were gone to inspire others. I wanted something deep; something that could be considered a legacy of sorts. I didn’t have a concept or theme for the deck, but I knew I wanted it to combine what I loved best from the decks I have used most during this lifetime – the Rider Waite Smith and the Thoth. I wanted to start by reading the traditional written descriptions the Golden Dawn had in Book T, and develop my own images based on the description as a starting point. At first, I decided on the size of the Thoth deck (though ultimately it became the size of RWS), and so I traced the size of a card from my Thoth deck into the book. I began with The Fool of course, drawing a pencil sketch until I was happy with the composition. The paper in the book was rather porous, so after applying gesso to a card-size area of the page, I transferred the sketch and began to paint the image in acrylics. That first card image took me probably a month to finish. Not sure how many hours I spent, but it was at least ten and probably 20, working on it here and there nights and weekends. The Fool was stepping through the portal, not knowing where it leads.
Over the next few months, I finished three more cards, working on the Majors in order, and each one probably taking roughly a month to complete. I realized that it was going to take a long time. I’m a detailed meticulous painter, and painting detailed paintings that small using my smallest brush took enormous concentration. I often had to hold my breath to keep my hand from shaking while doing the small important stuff, like details on faces.
After I finished the Emperor, and was moving on the Hierophant, I got stuck. I’m not sure what happened. It may have been the melancholic depression that overtakes me at times, that hopeless feeling. It may have been overwork, overindulgences and escapism, exhaustion or just being tired of life’s relentlessly unsatisfactory nature. It certainly was a nihilistic feeling. Nihilism sure was an appropriate word for where I was at, poised in a bad way between the Emperor and the Hierophant. Check out the dictionary’s definition:
a An extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence.
b A doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.
2. Rejection of all distinctions in moral or religious value and a willingness to repudiate all previous theories of morality or religious belief.
3. The belief that destruction of existing political or social institutions is necessary for future improvement.
The problem was also probably was due to struggles with the symbolism of the Hierophant and wanting to get it right. It is one of my personal cards, one of those cards you get when you add up your birthday or something. I really wanted it to be a card I personally resonated with, but I just didn’t like most of the Hierophant cards out there, and couldn’t relate to a traditional papal figure. I was caught between a rock and a hard place (the Emperor and the Hierophant, or vice-versa) and just put the tarot project away and forgot about it.
next up: Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part II, Overcoming blocks
Will our heroine conquer the Hierophant? Will artist block be forever vanquished? Will the Emperor lose his puzzled expression? Stay tuned for the next episode!
A preview of Part II:
The deck then languished in hiding for the better part of a year. But something happened…
(read Part II here)