R.I.P ART BELL

art-bellIt was a really sad revelation to hear that Art Bell had passed into the great beyond. I don’t usually get too upset about celebrities passing on; after all, I don’t actually know them. Yet, when I heard about Bell passing on, I had that same sad feeling I had when Tom Petty slipped away. In the case of Petty, it was announced online that he’d died, then we found out that that news wasn’t entirely accurate and that he wasn’t dead “yet” but was close to death, and it was at that point I had really hoped he’d pull through.

With the internet as it is, and the amount of hoaxes and fake death stories (Sylvester Stallone comes to mind, and I remember Frank Stallone tweeting about how these stories upset their mother) hearing that Art Bell had passed had me hoping it was just another fake story. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Art-Bell-TarotWhen we began creating a lot more of our Tarot decks, in particular the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot and Twisted Tarot Tales, we used to listen to Coast to Coast reruns at night along with Midnight In The Desert.  Art Bell was such a big influence to us, that we even immortalized him into one of our UFO themed cards in the Twisted Tarot Tales. In the 8 of Wands card, Art steps out of a small trailer for a smoke in Pahrump, Nevada.

Thanks for reading!

horror-comic-tarot-zombies

Advertisements

Drawing the Mother Figure Over the Years

King-Journey-Tarot-EmpressThis was originally written a few days before Mother’s Day but due to time constraints, was not sent out. For all of our American and Canadian readers (and possibly others) who are thinking “Mother’s Day, that’s over a month away!?”, I am referring of course to Mother’s Day in the UK/Ireland, which fell on the 26th of March.

Just like we did with the Lovers cards in our Valentine’s edition of the newsletter, this time around I think it would be nice to showcase all of our Empress cards throughout all of our Tarot decks.

Our first Empress card was in the King’s Journey Tarot. It’s a great card depicting an expectant mother being pampered by a group of gnomes. Bringing the salt from the earth, the gnomes cleanse her feet.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I drew the images for King’s Journey, yet if memory serves me it was little over 7 years ago.

Simply-Deep-EmpressThe next card is from Simply Deep Tarot. This card was designed to portray the Empress figure in a kind of peaceful setting. She has air of grace about her as she looks at the butterflies.

Next up is an alternative version of the Empress card for Twisted Tarot Tales (i’ve left the Chinese Propaganda Empress until last, even though it was drawn before TTT, as it’s a card that is a bit more a personal and therefore a more lengthy story attached)

Our alternative Empress is part of the exclusive “movie edition” which was available through our Indiegogo campaign in 2016. It features the Alien xenomorph queen from the Alien franchise. Believe it or not this was the very first card thought up for the Twisted Tarot Tales deck, though not the first one actually illustrated. Christine felt it would be a perfect representation of a mother in a horror format and I totally agree.

Twisted-Tarot-Tales-EmpressIn the movie “Aliens” she viciously fights her human counterpart Lt Ripley. She’s protecting her brood of course, who take the form of what appears to be leathery type eggs, like that of the kind of reptilian eggs one might find buried on a beach left behind by turtles but more otherwordly. Of course these hold the now famous “face huggers”, conceptualized by the great Swiss artist Giger.

I must admit that I was very fond of drawing already existing characters, not because I wanted to rip a pre-existing character off, but rather as a form of showing people another side to my artwork; drawing recognisable characters. This was one my favourite things about comic book art when I was a teenager. You could find a dozen artists all drawing the same character, but their artwork would be very different, so much so that no matter what character some artists would illustrate, you could recognise their work. I’m told all the time that my artwork is recognisable but I am not completely convinced. I think in the world of Tarot art it is; mainly because the comic style is not as common as other styles.

Since then we’ve put together Freddy Kruger, Jason from Friday the 13th and a few others but we’ve never shared them online. Perhaps near the end of the year we may release a small amount of them as cards.

empressOur “official” Empress in Twisted Tarot Tales was inspired by a movie called Cats Eye, written by Stephen King where it features a little girl being tormented by an evil creature in her bedroom. In our card she is playing with her toy doll, with the creatures in the background.

Finally we get to one of my favourite Empress cards;  the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot’s Empress. it’s a card  that I can relate to on a personal level. The Empress in this deck is depicted as a farmer, which is exactly what my mum was when I was growing up (and still is with my dad). My mum was more a housewife, but was accustomed to helping my dad off and on throughout the years.

All the animals featured on this card have all been on our farm at one point or another; pigs, sheep and chickens and of course the rooster doing the familiar crowing every morning.

Chinese-tarot-empressThe chickens were kept for eggs, the pigs were mainly for pets, and although we’ve had sheep, generally speaking we would have kept an eye on the sheep of a fellow farmer who was renting some of my dad’s fields

I never knew it but my parents were quite poor for many years, especially when we were much younger, despite the fact that they worked long hours on our potato farm. I look back on it now and chalk my not knowing their financial struggles up to the fact that my mum and dad never argued in front of us kids about money issues (in fact I can’t remember a single time they ever properly argued about anything), and they bought us enough things for us to never know that they might not have very much money.

My mum was and is also a big believer in only paying for what you can afford. I’m sure they may have taken out loans etc when it came to their farm business, but my mum didn’t believe in credit cards. It’s the same thing today. That doesn’t mean us kids got everything our hearts desired, but in many ways I am glad. It taught me that life isn’t a shopping cart where everything is handed to you.

My parents worked at building their farm from the ground up and from an early age I enjoyed all the joys that living in the country afforded.

Probably the best years of my life were during the time spent when we were without computer games, internet and all of that kind of thing (all of which seemed to be introduced into my life with my mid to late teens) and I tend to think that had these things been more widely available in Ireland and my parents had given them to us very early on, I may never have taken the time to learn how to draw pictures. (I spent an incredible amount of time learning to draw)

We did, of course, have the TV and I enjoyed shows, mainly American shows like the Fall Guy, the A-Team and The Equalizer. I don’t remember much about The Equalizer other than that my dad enjoyed it and I wanted to be like the main character Robert McCall (played by Edward Woodward).

Life on the farm was great, but as I got older I started to get a little tired of some of the work.

I used to milk cows on my Uncle’s Farm as a teen, and on my parents farm, used to help harvest potatoes.

Probably the worst job when it comes to potatoes was actually gathering them from the field. Sometimes this would take place in winter, and so you’d be out in the freezing cold while gathering them from the ground, and other times from a harvester.

The nicer part about working with potatoes was separating the bad potatoes from the good on the potato machine (I guess their real name is a potato sorting or grading machine) indoors in my dad’s shed.

Sometimes i’d be at the back throwing out the really bad ones before they get to the next person, and of course the more people you have sorting them, the less chance there is that any bad ones will get through. The best job in working with potatoes was taking the full bags of potatoes off, stacking them up and putting a new bag back on.

As time passed however, it was hard to make a living from selling potatoes as we weren’t selling to shops directly but instead working through a middle man. That and there was a continuing growing surplus throughout the country and the demand wasn’t there. Add to that the increase of potatoes from Cyprus, among other countries, along with the rising cost of fertiliser and sprays to protect the potatoes from blight, and it was getting to where we were only breaking even. Not good! Farming potatoes is the kind of thing that takes tremendous time and resources and when you’re working and paying out more than you can make, you have to make a big decision. In my parents case they found a much better prospect

They moved into working with beef cattle. However there was one thing that I felt continually drawn to and that was drawing pictures. When I’d find myself doing everything from hauling hay bales to cleaning ditches I was also thinking up ideas for what I would draw when I get back to the house. It was my only real passion. Sometimes it is difficult to truly know how best to spend one’s time. I suppose I felt very sure in myself that art was what I was “supposed to do” even though I know that certainties can change over time as we change too. So in the recent years I resigned myself to “making it work”. Any money I make pretty much solely comes from doing art. Financially it’s sometimes enough, and other times it falls short. That’s where faith and determination come into play I suppose. It’s long hours but it’s something that fulfills me.

So I look back and I am grateful for the childhood I had. Watching and learning how to plant things, watching how a business is run, (and the obstacles one can face) and looking after and being around animals. It was a good childhood and I owe at least half of it to my mother.

INSPIRATIONAL FIGURES – CHARLES SCHULZ

schulz1_1_origCharles Schulz is more popularly known through his characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy, through the comic strip Peanuts, the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” Halloween cartoon along with the “A Charlie Brown Christmas” cartoon film. What appeals to me about Schulz’s Charlie Brown character is that Schulz was able to use the character to speak to the nation (and beyond). That being said, his other characters were not merely props for Charlie Brown, but acted as other aspects of Schulz’s personality.

In interviews Schulz stated that Linus represented his spiritual side and this was clearly seen in A Charlie Brown Christmas when, at the end, Linus tells the viewers “the true meaning of Christmas”.

When I was younger, I can’t say the Peanuts strip or the Charlie Brown TV show really appealed to me very much. Rather, like most cases, it was the artist behind the cartoon. Why do people like Schulz dedicate their lives to drawing pictures? What type of person would do that and do they feel the same way I do about drawing pictures? These thoughts occur to you from time to time. In my teens and early twenties I began looking into the history of some of these iconic creators because the process was probably what appealed to me the most. I would like to read interviews and the opinions of those artists that were behind the creation of such iconic figures.

schulz-charlie-brown-900As an artist who enjoys getting my own ideas across from time to time, it’s inspiring to think that a simple cartoon could become a world wide recognisable icon. For a cartoonist I don’t think there could be anything more gratifying in life than being allowed the good fortune to be able to draw a personal cartoon daily; one that not only affords one a reasonable income but is enjoyed by thousands of people.

I think Schulz was the kind of man that “was” his art; he poured his soul into, not only the art, but the adventures his Peanuts gang got up to. From what I’ve read of Schulz, he was a man that often lived inside his head, which is not surprising since he had drawn Charlie Brown and co every day for 50 years. According to the Schulz Museum…

“Schulz drew a new Peanuts strip for each day of the year for almost 50 years, essentially creating over 18,000 original pieces each published and syndicated in newspapers throughout the world.”

Creating something from the ground up, as any business owner who has done so can attest, requires tremendous patience and dedication, and seeing something simple, or small, grow into something of a big deal is really inspiring for those of us on that journey. Perhaps what is most impressive though is Schulz’s ability to preserve the spirit of his characters after such huge success. All too often when someone makes it big, they lose the spirit and originality that made them, or their creation, popular in the first place. Often we see this with music, where a band might have a few good records at the beginning and fade out when either they’ve said all they “needed to say” or reached the level of fame they had originally sought. I am not certain if it is officially known if Schulz based Charlie Brown on himself or not but I expect so, and I think he grew along with his characters which was why he was able to preserve the spirit of the Peanuts gang.

Have a great Christmas or holiday season!

James