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 Dark Master I thought would be more interesting as a soldier and not the classic wizard trope.
The Fool seemed like a natural place to start. He is a classical trope from Tarot decks.
The Innocent was straight up an excuse to draw my oldest child when she was three. She is ten now!
With The Puppet I tried to avoid the unknowable puppet master trope.
The Shepherd was an attempt to break down the idea that age = wisdom.
I like to imagine The Traitor whispering, “I’m sorry”.
After hammering out these six something kind of magical happened. I accidentally used the “wrong” side of the paper, 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.
Black suddenly got harder but everything else got easier when I worked on The Charlatan.
With The Warden you can see me clearly exploring layering in color.
What is amazing to me is this is still one of the stronger pieces.
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.
Seriously, The Ghost is kind of amazing because it totally works.
At some point I realized that this was moving from an experiment and decided on making a thing. Really it ended up being multiple things, but either way I needed to design the back of the cards. As you may have guessed ravens have a strong visual influence on what I make, so I started with the idea of that being central to the card.
From the Ravens I moved to the idea of the Fates, mixed in some Norse influence through the wolves and trees, and wrapped it in the art deco via medieval illumination style I had been cultivating for the design of all of this. In the end, I came up with something I was happy with, but not something that was easy to print out effectively, I later learned.
I may not be an original, but I sure as hell can remix multiple influences into a cohesive idea.
From that point onward, The Dooms (High Arcana for Tarot folks) of the Tapestry Deck just sort of flowed from one idea into another. I wanted to capture primal archetypes and decided to ignore a lot of what makes Tarot decks hum. This was my own thing, built on my own weird mix of mythology that had come out of my other art, game design, and fiction.
Again, I was looking to not show the subject but imply the archetype through mood. Clearly channeling Mignola.
There is something satisfying about not drawing the monster or only drawing parts of it to hint at the dread.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
I wanted to avoid the huntsman and his hounds. I thought a ghost stag headed woman would be more terrifying.