I began what I thought would be a short experiment in card design in 2013. I had always wanted to create my own Tarot Deck and dipped my toes in that fall while I was fumbling around looking for something to do. I also was looking to relearn how to work in color. The previous decade I had spent working mostly with black ink in various ways and wanted to flex atrophied muscles.
Honestly, this was all driven by me overpaying for illustration markers and illustration paper and not knowing what to do with it. I started without a true plan for what cards I was going to make and simply decided upon The Fool. He was quickly followed by The Dark Master, The Shepherd,The Traitor, The Innocent, and The Puppet, which were all done on the “right” side of the paper. You can tell by looking at these pieces by how the colors aren’t as blended that the paper was toothier.
The Fool seemed like a natural place to start. He is a classical trope from Tarot decks.
The Dark MasterDoom
The Dark Master I thought would be more interesting as a soldier and not the classic wizard trope.
I like to imagine The Traitor whispering, “I’m sorry” in a very sad, resigned voice.
The Shepherd was an attempt to break down the idea that age = wisdom.
The Innocent was straight up an excuse to draw my oldest child when she was three. She is twelve now!
With The Puppet I tried to avoid the unknowable puppet master trope.
After hammering out the first six cards, something kind of magical happened. I accidentally used the “wrong” side of the paper (The Charlatan), which is all glossy and doesn’t absorb the ink as readily. Suddenly a somewhat unsatisfying experience became magical. You could see the “brush” strokes and blend colors. That colorless blender became useful.
I then started to experiment with layering colors with markers, which I hadn’t done before. It was super powerful to play with and I learned a lot, which impacted how I experimented in later suits in the deck.
Black suddenly got harder but everything else got easier when I worked on The Charlatan.
What is amazing to me is this is still one of the stronger pieces.
Seriously, The Ghost is kind of amazing because it totally works.
Then things go weird. I knew I wanted to do a Ghost and I knew that I wanted it to be transparent. What I didn’t know what how the hell I was going to pull that off. I’m not sure what made me think to grab some vellum and draw it on there in blue marker, cut it out and glue in on the illustration, but I am glad I did. It wouldn’t be the last time I use this technique and it harkens back to my copious use of collage in college.
The Wild HuntDoom
I wanted to avoid the huntsman and his hounds. I thought a ghost stag headed woman would be more terrifying.
The Wild HuntDoom
I think I was rereading the New Sun books when I worked on this. It is the only explanation I can offer for even including this card in the deck. Feels maybe a little too superhero-y.
When I first worked up this piece I was trying to add some optimism to the deck. So missed it. These monk guys are freaky and you know this place is sour.
The idea behind The Raven was always to be this terrifying, unexplainable force. I think I got that here, but may have skewed too modern in the design.
I love and hate this piece because I think it is compositionally strong, but don’t think I captured the idea I was trying to convey.
The Jutun are the ancient big bad in my head and I wanted to capture that horrifying moment in which a man finds out they are real and awful.
If you don’t like the headless horseman you need to go away. Seriously, there is so much weird and cool about the idea of that figure.
The Hooded ManDoom
I wanted to capture the archetype of the seducer/rapist found in all folklore and I think I made this plenty creepy to do so.
The Hanged GodDoom
I have no idea how this manifested. I knew I wanted to do a version of the Hanged Man, but to harken back to the Wodan/Odin myth.
If anything terrifies me in this world, it is the idea that the fates of mythology could be real and waiting to cut my string.
There is something satisfying about not drawing the monster or only drawing parts of it to hint at the dread.
Again, I was looking to not show the subject but imply the archetype through mood. Clearly channeling Mignola.