Monthly Archives: December 2011

Next up: Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part VIII – Grounded, the stages of completion…


A few days ago I posted on the Aeclectic Tarot forum in the Rosetta Tarot thread asking people to let me know if they had any questions they wanted me to address in the final round of these creation posts. But, no one has had any burning questions yet, so I am left to my own devices to try to remember what I wanted to post about when I first started this. I was hoping for a few diversions! If you have any questions, log in onto the thread at AT and post them there, and maybe it will break the ice so others do as well. Otherwise, here goes on what I can think of say about the rest of the cards, and next time, I will talk about printing and publishing pleasures, perusals, and potential pitfalls.


The only tarot suit I haven’t talked about in these creation process posts yet is the Suit of Disks, so guess we can start there. At first, I thought the suit was going to be extremely challenging in the sense of making it interesting while drawing compilations of round objects. I didn’t want to make them all “coins” or “pentacles” and I didn’t want to copy the Thoth deck. The funny thing is, in the end I think the Disk suit ended up being one of the most interesting, original, and diverse sets of imagery. Not sure if it was because I did them last, and I was “all warmed up” both artistically and creatively, or why, but I thought they would be the most boring, and it ended up that I found them anything but. I have both of my chart rulers (Jupiter and Uranus) and also Pluto in Virgo, so no lack of Earth there, maybe which helped! (For you astro-buffs, the Virgo is probably why I love little details and was able to work on teeny tiny paintings without going too crazy. But I’m not a Virgo, I’m a Sagittarius so I like working big too! Yes, the flavors of Virg and Sag do not agree so much. Which is why I feel disoriented around clutter and uncleanliness but can’t be bothered to clean as it is boring and life is too short. The solution is, have very little furniture, almost none, so no clutter can accumulate and it is easy to sweep occasionally, and lots of Aqua in your chart so you can detach from the dirt and not see it.)


The medium for the Disks suit was oil paint, and of course the acrylic that ties all the suits together. This mixing of media was actually a blessing, as I normally don’t work in oils often, lacking the patience to wait for them to dry. What I did for the Disks suit was to do an almost complete under painting in acrylic, then paint over that with thin glazes of oil paint. This gave the paintings that deep rich glow of oils, but the thin glazes dried much more quickly, so I could continue working at the speed I wanted.


I loved doing the Ace of Disks, with its pulsing emblem of growth weaving qabalistic trees of life, actual Celtic knot-like trees of life (that also resembled human female reproductive organs), with expanding tree rings, green eyes, and winged maple keys. The Ace of Disks is the card that can traditionally contain the artist’s signature, so all around the card are hidden my initials as part of the design. Since my initials are three “M”s it was easy to hide them as bolts or energetic waves around the card and embed them in the design. It is the only card I signed in any way. Funny I often have to be reminded to sign my other artworks. I don’t really like doing that for some reason. What does that mean? That I have an inhibited or underdeveloped sense of self? Or am I just detached and forgetful? Maybe I want to be someone else! Analyze away, I don’t mind!


I branched out quite a bit both on the Disks suit, and on the trumps in the second half of the deck, doing many cards in a way that was unique to the Rosetta Tarot, or at least I think so, never having seen those particular tarot images done that way anywhere else. The many-armed Adjustment goddess, the pre-Osirian fish priest Ea as Death, Scylla and Charybdis on the Moon card, the Devil and his psilocybins, are a few trumps that come to mind, and for the Disks some unique ones are the paper wasp cells for the Three of Disks, the bank vault tumblers on the Four, the steampunk machine gauges of the Five, the honeybees of the Six, the Minotaur and labyrinth of the Seven, the Owl and nests of the Eight, and the abacus beads of the Nine were all totally original ideas of my own that were out of the box but still fit the traditional meanings. Guess I was on a roll there at the end. Funny how it is like that sometimes, that ideas come fast and furious, and other times I’m just floundering around, flopping like a fish out of water, starving for air, no ideas at all!

Here are two not on the website – the Devil and the Four of Disks, two graspers for Capricorn season:



This new deck I’ve started (which I will show you the first card of in a minute) so far was like that. In one night, the night of the full moon eclipse actually (of course), original image ideas for four cards (The Fool, Magus, Empress, and Lovers) downloaded into my head while I was in bed sort of asleep but not really. I got the Fool done already and the Magus almost done, and they both do something different with the images while still remaining true to the traditional. Now I’m almost ready to start the Priestess, and where is she hiding? As one of my favorite cards, you would think she would have showed up but nope. Guess she is keeping the book of wisdom veiled for now.


So after the Disks, I wrapped up the last of the trumps, with The Universe being the last card done. In the Thoth deck, Lady Harris’ Universe card is one of my favorites, so I was rather intimidated trying to make one I liked as much. But in the end (pun intended) I ended up liking it quite a bit. The ouroboros and also eyes have always been some of my favorite artistic images, and on this card the ouroboros portal of the Fool has wound down into a skeletal form of itself, forming a giant eye with the circle squared as its iris.




So, unless anyone has any questions about the artwork or the cards, the next post will be about the mundane work of getting them turned from pieces of art into a deck of tarot cards. Making the cards, the box, the book, the paper, ink and printing challenges, and all that stuff that can make you crazy with worry and stress when you have never done it before, but actually isn’t all that bad looking at it in retrospect. Kind of like giving birth, you think a woman would be insane to ever go through THAT again, but somehow, people do. And the Rosetta Tarot only got officially published less than two months ago (Jan 2 will be its 2 month anniversary) and already, it has a sibling on the way! The new deck has no official name yet, but for now I’m referring to it as Tarot M. (It was going to be Tarot X for now, but since you can use any letter in algebra I figured why not M as the placeholder?)


What will be different about the new deck? For one thing, I am working bigger. Instead of doing the images the size of cards to begin with, I’m working on 11×7 sheets. Ahhhh, so nice to have space! Also, I’m not planning on using different media for each suit. For this deck I’m working with permanent marker and India ink on frosted acetate. It is a nice medium in some ways – the ink colors are gorgeous and mixable, and the smoothness of the acetate lets them flow on top rather than sinking in. That and the semi-translucent nature of them and the acetate, means they really glow. Like acrylics, they can be layered, but unlike acrylics, they are not opaque, so you can’t fix mistakes. They are like permanent watercolors. I love them for the most part, but the hard part is that this is a very unforgiving medium to work with. The permanent marker and the India inks are both, well, permanent. The paper isn’t paper, it is more like plastic. While you can erase pencil on it with ease, once the ink goes on, it isn’t coming off, and you can’t paint over it like with acrylics to fix it. So there is no room for error, or changing your mind about a color scheme, and no making corrections. Why do I do this to myself? I should have just done this deck in acrylic or colored pencil, now those are two lovely, forgiving, easy to get along with mediums. Why did I have to fall in love with ink all of a sudden? Will I still love it after 78 cards? Assuming I finish, that is. Anyway, here is The Fool from the NEW mystery deck, Tarot M! (copyright 2011)



Copyright 2011, 2012 M.M. Meleen


No borders or titles added yet, this is just the artwork.

Next up, part IX – mind your P’s (wish it was Pints, as yes Pippin, it does come in pints, but it is actually referring to Printing and Publishing issues)

Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part VII – Waterlogged!



catch up on the prior installment here

Creating the cups suit of this tarot deck was difficult for me. It may be because I don’t have a lot of water in my astrology chart – only Neptune, the MC, and Chiron, if you really want to know. But more likely it is that I don’t have a lot of experience with watercolors. Plus these paintings were tiny! They were painted pretty much the actual size of the cards. I’m a painter who likes control. Watercolor was just not a medium where I could have the control I wanted to paint tiny details. When I started the Cups suit, at first there was a lot of swearing happening until I learned to go with the flow. By the balls of Zeus and the chin hairs of Aphrodite! I got really good and creative with my swearing.


I also had to find a way to get the details painted that small. I ended up settling on a combination of watercolor and colored inks, as the inks had a little more control than the watercolors. At first, I thought I had found the Holy Grail (Ace of Cups pun intended) when I discovered Derwent’s Inktense pencils. They are basically like watercolor pencils but instead of watercolor they are (supposed to be) permanent ink pencils. Brilliant, beautiful colors, but while they were more permanent than watercolors, they were not as advertised. I had read that once they dried the color was permanent, and one could layer over them without lifting the color underneath, like acrylic. This proved to be not at all true. Even after drying overnight, if they got wet again the color would run. Bummer, as if they could have pulled that off they could have become probably my favorite media ever. Or at least for a while! (Can you tell my tastes in art supplies are fickle?)


Still, I am glad I coughed up the dollars for the large set of them at that time, because they really are wonderful colors. Using traditional watercolors, the Inktense, and occasionally a super fine micron marker I was able to get the teeny tiny details in where needed. I used a tiny brush dipped in water and then ran it over the tip of the pencil until it was good and saturated with ink. Oh, almost forgot, using masking fluid to block certain areas off was really helpful too at times. I was super critical of myself during the process, as painting with the techniques that watercolor requires is not really my MO. Some people really ended up liking the results though I guess, as a few people told me the cups were their favorite suit. I for one will never attempt to do watercolors that small again if I can help it! One thing that was surprisingly enjoyable though was actually painting WATER with watercolors. (Duh!?) It was fun to do a wash over an area then add color and see it morph and swirl. THAT I liked! It was good then that the cups suit has a lot of depictions of water!


If anyone reading this knows of a brand of colored inks that ARE permanent and don’t run when water gets on them after they are dry, please email me! I actually just ordered some Dr. Ph Martin’s Bombay India ink for my next project. It should get here in a couple of days, fingers crossed that it has those properties!


In case you are wondering, my next art project is indeed another tarot deck! I have the pen & ink part of The Fool drawn and ready to color. Maybe I’ll share it with you soon! Would you like to see it?? It is pretty trippy *grin*. I’m working much larger this time too – I learned my lesson! For now, I’ll keep it under wraps, at least for a little while.


I guess now that I’ve taken the plunge and started another tarot deck, I’d better finish these write-ups, while I can still remember all of the details I wanted to share with you about the publishing part of the project. The next installment will share a little about the process for the Disks suit and the rest of the trumps, and then I will give the mental download of the printing and publishing info for all you creators out there. I hope I can remember everything. I have a notoriously bad memory in some ways. I can remember all sorts of esoteric details and qabalistic and astrological correspondences, but can’t remember stuff that happened yesterday. I only got the Rosetta tarot deck published in November, but already it is all one big blur! It’s like there is only so much tape to record on allocated to that type of memory, and I just keep rewriting over it, thus losing what isn’t recent. Maybe I need a RAM upgrade. Or a time machine.  I’ll do my best to put down some useful info before it is gone from the memory banks. Hey, it may even help me with my next deck, as I’ll probably have forgotten it completely by the time I finish that!


Next up: Journey through the Creation of a Tarot Deck – Part VIII – Grounded, the stages of completion…