Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part II, Overcoming blocks



Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part II, Overcoming blocks


(Part I can be found here)

The deck then languished in hiding for the better part of a year. But something happened, something internal, and I decided that I did not want to give up. I was going to say that I decided not to give up on the deck, but it was more that I did not want to give up on living my dreams, my creativity, and my passion. For you astrologers, there was a new moon in my 9th house, and Saturn was going to be transiting there. It was time to start working on my vision. I wanted to create something lasting; something that meant something to me and possibly to others, and I told myself that for once I was not going to let life and circumstance be my excuses. My lifelong M.O. was crying about how much life force I was using up at a career I found less-than-stimulating, bemoaning that I can’t be an artist because I have to do the daily grind and stifle my energies to do something boring that supports me for a living and then I was too tired. This time I was going to step up and finish something big for a change.


 I was going to use the knowledge I had about the tarot, which I had assimilated over decades, literally beginning the work before I went to grade school. As a child I was already pondering the images and reading the occult books on the bookshelf at home. I’m told I read everything and anything, but I remember being drawn to those like a moth to a flame. (I was an atypical five year old reading the I-Ching, and books about astrology and tarot and herb lore when most kids are just learning how to read.) For this project I was also going to be able to use my artistic style to work for me, rather than against me, as my normal style has always been described as very symbolic and archetypal, not so much fine art, or so I’ve thought.


So I made some rules for myself, pretty strict ones. The first was: do art every day, at least two hours a day, at least four out of five weekdays. No reading, computer time, no compulsive consumption of food or drink before starting – in other words, no habitual escape hatches. No excuses. On the weekends, work on art for at least six unbroken hours. From now on, I decided, art comes first in my life, the daily job and household chore stuff second. I resolved that for just once in my life the better part of my energy should go towards MY work and my vision, instead of expending every bit of life force I had between my day job and doing errands and cleaning and all that daily grind stuff. I’d take time off whenever possible, using my allowed vacation days to work on art.  Complete one card a week. The goal I set was to have a completed deck within two years.


So it was back to the drawing board, and the Hierophant. I didn’t want him to be the Pope, but more like a High Priest type. The description of the Golden Dawn’s original design reads: “Between the pillars sits an ancient. He is crowned, sceptered, and blessing all in a threefold manner. Four living creatures adore him, the whole suggesting a pentagram by its shape.” I came up with a design with the Hierophant as an Osiris figure carrying the hook and flail like crossed keys of traditional portrayals, in a tall red crown like a Pope, but with the bull horns of Taurus, the sign associated with the cards. And indeed he ispoised between the pillars and the four creatures of the fixed signs adore him, and the pentagram is in evidence in more than one configuration. So I was happy and ready to continue.


But it was at this point that I realized that painting these in this grass leaf book was a mistake. The paper was porous, probably not very archival even though I was using a layer of gesso on it, and what is worse, the images would be in a bound book. If this was really going to be a deck someday, the images should be flat so I could scan them. So I cut the completed pages out of the book and resolved to do the rest on archival paper. At least I wouldn’t have to gesso it first.


up next: Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part III, The Work Starts for Real

A unique take on the Lovers takes form, yet the old monster Doubt rears its ugly head.

Now I was hooked, for sure…

read Part III here

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