TAROT D: The Process of Creating a Visual Metaphor (part 2 of 2)

Creating your own Tarot deck is very much like being an alchemist.  You are using all the esoteric knowledge you have at your disposal to refine things down to their most basal forms.  The amount of consideration a project like this requires (and the deep investigation it more often than not inspires) creates a sense of isolation.  When you are trying to translate a universally unspoken language by contriving one of your own, things get heavy.  You feel like it has become your responsibility instead of just a project.  It is drawn from passion as well as curiosity.  It swells into an obsession and expands into something more than a trick-taking card game or a tool for divination.  It becomes a philosophy, a religion and a way of life.

When I first set forth on this path, I saw myself as ‘The Fool’.  I was relatively naive, a day dreamer, empty and waiting to be filled with divine inspiration.  As my study of the Tarot has progressed I have recognized that ‘The Fool’ represents all of us.  We are all (in the words of Jedi Master Yoda) “luminous beings”, drawn forth from the source of all life.  Each of us has an unlimited potential, and no matter how far we have come and no matter how much we’ve experienced we are still, beneath all the fancy titles and adornments, beginners.

At the beginning of this project, I was focused specifically on the drawing aspect (as documented in my previous blog entry).  It was not until I started grad school that I began taking those drawings (at the time I had only rendered the trump suit) and finishing them.  I knew that a mixed media approach would be best and I’d already been experimenting with some techniques.

In the photo above you can see four stages of one of the first cards I completed.  After I sealed in the pencil drawing with a thin wash of yellow acrylic, I used the compliment (in this case violet) to paint in the value.  I used acrylic gesso for the highlights. Once the entire image was toned, (giving it a much deeper, more substantial look) I applied another light wash of the base color to equalize the contrast.  In the case of this card I also used light washes of the primary triad (yellow, red and blue) to create temperature shifts.  Finally I inked and colored the image with waterproof pens and colored pencils.  After this card was completed I decided that I could skip the step of adding the ‘temperature shifts’ as the colored pencil provided more than enough local color.

After I finished the first few images, I started to pay more attention to the way I painted in the value.  I created a gradient of five or six different shades and tints, rather than simply relying on the base coat to act as my mid-tone and only adding the darkest shadows and brightest highlights.  This helped the image to feel more finished after the painting stage.  Going into the inking process with a really well-defined underpainting makes things go faster (or so it seems).

There’s something about a solid value painting on a perfect piece of cold press illustration board that just SCREAMS for me to put some ink on it.  I love inking!  Line work, as I have said many times before, is a hallmark of my personal style and so I try to take full advantage of the skill I have acquired after years and years of cartooning.  Ink has pretty much always been a mainstay with me.  I rarely think that any image I create feels finished until I have reinforced the lines and used some mark making to create modeling and contrast.

Although my intention as I continued creating this new body of work was to refine and boil down my process to the fewest steps possible while still retaining the same quality, things don’t always quite work out the way we plan.  I realized that I could enhance the coloring stage by not only reinforcing the line work and shadows, but also by reinforcing the highlights. The purpose of reinforcement is to make the image as sharp as possible.  The addition of white gel pens makes the saturation of the colors I layer on top of the highlights much more vivid and striking.  So now, I essentially end up rendering each image four times before it is complete.

After all is said and done, the quality of the resulting work is indicative of the time spent on each one.  Attention to detail and a willingness to rework something if it truly cries out to be changed is what shows how much something matters to you and also what establishes one as a professional. I think what makes me the most proud of what I have done with this project is that it is personal and honest.  Of course the Tarot is something that belongs to everyone, but we each have our own way of perceiving the world and through that perception emerges a profoundly true manifestation of what the Tarot means.

I hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek at my TAROT D.  By the end of this year I am hoping it will be fully available to be viewed online.  For now, I have one more leg of the journey to go…..


2 Responses to “TAROT D: The Process of Creating a Visual Metaphor (part 2 of 2)”

  1. Looks awesome hon!! I really enjoyed seeing the montage of process you posted here and the description of the thought process as well. It looks really cool to see it this way after watching the bits and pieces be created along the way in person. Keep up the amazing work!

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