Borderless Tarot Cards Give Life to Readings!

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Here are two cards from the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot (Formerly The Cultural Revolution Tarot )

Traditional Tarot decks are usually printed with a border, yet some people like to trim their bordered cards, creating a customised borderless deck where the edges of each image can be placed next to the edges of the following card, creating a scene from two images, or possibly three or four.

The first deck we ever created was King’s Journey Tarot, a borderless deck, and since then we’ve created all of our decks in the same way, even producing a borderless Simply Deep Tarot. (This was originally a bordered deck which we agreed to allow Schiffer Publishing to print and distribute).

foolleavessmallCreating one image out of two cards creates a scene which you can use to help with intuitive reading. Watch water flow from one card to the other, or see characters, which in one card are merely walking, leave various scenes and altercations when combined with other cards. A good example of this is the Fool card in a King’s Journey, where he is walking across a drawbridge. Combine this with the 3 of Pentacles, and suddenly he’s walking away from an accomplishment. Combine this with the 6 of cups and he’s walking away from a reunion.

chinese-themed-tarotWe’ve designed all of our cards to be able to be read in this way. The shapes and connections that can be made when connecting two cards together are completely random, as in, they were not planned. Planning a deck of cards where every card connects to every other card in the deck would be next to impossible, but there are a surprising number of random connections in our decks, and we’ve included some of them in this blog.

In the images above we see the King of Pentacles meets the 7 of Pentacles in the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot. In the King we see the crop of barley, and in the 7 we see the corn merge with one another.

Coming from an agricultural background I admit it interests me to see these “farming cards” come together. On the edge of the King we partly see a combine harvester and in the 7 we see workers in the background with a few tractors.

If I had to sum it up I’d say that the best deck for reading about work and job prospects is the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot because much of the focus is on manual labour jobs. Yes, this deck does have more of a revolutionary / communist leaning than any of our other work due to the nature of the real life artworks we based the imagery on, but the amount of cards depicting work make it a great deck for reading about jobs, income and so on.

In the set of three cards below from the Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot, we see a water theme flowing through three of the cards. (Blog continues after the image)

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Below we see the 6 of wands and the Temperance card, who just so happen to merge due to their brick walls.

The Art in the Chinese Propaganda Art mostly depicts a dreamy idealistic view of a communist China under Mao, and while many may disagree with the reality of the actual events of the Cultural Revolution during that time, this is a dreamy idyllic deck. It’s overly optimistic because it is based on overly optimistic Propaganda. Lot’s of smiley faces all round!

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chinese-tarot-communistThe Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot is not without its share of morbid cards, such is the nature of life and the time period the propaganda art is based on. On our left we see the 4 of Swords combine with the 4 of Pentacles.

In the 4 of Swords we see a barefoot doctor administer healing to a wounded soldier. I love this card because it combines a range of occupations; medic, soldier, and farmers (in the background). The card can combine with the 4 of Pentacles through the tree, where we see it branch into the pentacles card. In our card we see healing, even feeding through the bowl of water/soup/medicine, to starvation in the pentacles card connected to it.

To the right we see The Fool from King’s Journey attached to the 7 of Spirit card. king-journey-tarotThe card connects by the hill in the background, and again the Fool card is a great card as far as venturing off and doing one’s own thing. When seen through borderless cards, it’s easier to combine the cards together to see what exactly the Fool is thinking as he walks off from the scene.

We love hearing all the results that people get from our cards. This is also a great way of expanding your intuitive skills.

tarot-cards-borderlessSo far, it seems that Twisted Tarot Tales has the most connections out of all of our decks, but only by a few, and so we’ve saved the best for last. Like we mentioned earlier, The Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot is great for readings about employment. The propaganda tarot is to jobs what Twisted Tarot Tales is to working through darker issues in one’s life. Twisted Tarot Tales is a dark deck, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s created in a comic book style friendly way. Let’s face it, most people who seek out tarot readings do so because they have a concern of some kind.

Occasionally those concerns are deep. Some have deep emotional scars. Some have physical scars. We don’t claim to be counselors, but we supply the tools that help the counselors in the same way a brick maker may not know how to draw out the blue prints for a house, but without him or her, the house simply wouldn’t be.

This is a great deck to pull out and read with when a client’s issues can’t be sugar-coated, and can’t be ignored. Even the lovers card has an ironic twist with the lovers involved in a sort of “crash and burn” scenario. It’s not a deck for everybody, and it wasn’t supposed to be. Art is like food, or music; it’s a matter of taste. It also depends on what kind of clients you have and what way you conduct your readings.

A few people have called Twisted Tarot Tales an excellent tool for shadow work and working through personal issues.

Interested in seeing more card connections from our horror deck Twisted Tarot Tales? Click here

 

Photo Manipulation Versus Traditional Art

While all the early and popular Tarot decks (Thoth, Waite Smith, Tarot de Marseilles etc) are either hand painted or illustrated, with the advent of computers, in particular Photoshop, it has brought about a whole new generation of tarot decks based on photo montages/photo manipulated art. In other words it’s easier than ever for people to create tarot decks…or so I thought!

This is a touchy subject for some fellow creators and its very easy to alienate people if you have adverse views. I do not intend to create animosity by suggesting one creative technique is more superior to another. Instead I’ve decided to discuss my thoughts on it in regards to the pros and cons, both in traditional art and digital art and inform the reader as to the different options one may wish to take if they want to create their own work.

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For the most part I draw on real paper, I erase with a real eraser, I ink with real ink, i draw perspective with real rulers and compasses. Nowadays many artists draw straight onto a computer screen type tablet (a Wacom Cintiq is popular), but if I can avoid it I choose not to. I am not necessarily opposed to it, but there’s something nice about sitting at a drawing board with real pens, pencils and inks and doing it “old school” like so many of my childhood artistic heroes did in the world of comics like Todd McFarlane, Joe Quesada (or at least he used to lol), the Kubert brothers and Chris Bachalo among many others. It saves electric too! (Though you have to stock up on pencils/paper/pens etc so how much you save is hard to say!)

While there have been many beautifully created tarot decks using the aid of photo manipulation in Photoshop or other computer graphic packages, I’ve made a point to keep my work as organic as possible which is why I work in the same manner as, say, a comic artist from the “pen and pencil” era.

That is not to say that photo manipulated art is inferior to hand drawn traditional art, not at all, for beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. That’s just my own personal taste. I’ll take hand drawn illustrations over photo manipulated ones any day, but as a traditional artist that’s probably to be expected. It just looks more “human” to me I guess, its organic. The trend in big name comics nowadays is that the art is becoming more photo-realistic and i feel that the art suffers if it’s too real. The art is supposed to engage you, not make you feel you’re flipping through a photo album!

That being said, one advantage to photo manipulation (which as a traditional illustrator is off-limits to me) is that you never need worry if you can actually draw a bird or a horse or whatever is called for. When you use photo manipulation, you’re assured that the muscles are correct, the facial features are correct etc. There is no extensive knowledge of illustration needed. In other words it has its obvious positive points; photo realism. Photos tell the truth.

twisted-tarot-tales-spider_origOn the other hand the advantage that hand drawn illustrations have over photo manipulation is when you have a good well-rounded education on illustration and how the anatomy works (self-taught like myself, or otherwise) it means you don’t have to spend hours looking for that perfect pose on a stock photo website…you just draw it from memory. Generally speaking It also looks better in the long run when it’s hand drawn. It must be noted however that I am not at all opposed to reference and in fact reference photos are vital to any artist wanting to create half decent animals, facial expressions etc, or real world machinery.

Of course, when you have the basics down, you can then exaggerate them or simplify them to create cartoon style artwork. For example, there is a vast difference between the Twisted Tarot Tales illustration above (the 8 of swords) and the High Priestess illustration from the Kiddy Katz Tarot below. Both using the same art materials, both from the same artist (me)

kiddy-katz-tarot_2_orig

I’ll let you into my personal feeling in regards to reference photos. It’s a bit embarrassing thinking back on it now, but up until a few years I believed that using reference was “cheating”. I guess our art teacher way back in primary/secondary school had a real grudge against it. Little did I know at the time, but in reality every artist has pretty much used reference, unless you’re Mark Rothko, or Picasso trying to paint the fourth dimension or Pollack splattering paint on the page. Think about it though, with every still life you need reference. Monet’s water lilies, I presume, were painted while viewing the lillies, and Mucha took photo reference of his models. A hand painted replica of John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” hangs in my parent’s home, and presumably Constable painted what he saw in front of him.

Thinking back now, I think some of my teachers just hated kids not using their imagination, because for children, there is an inclination to trace an image without adding any of “themselves” into the work. The King’s Journey Tarot and the Simply Deep Tarot were virtually reference free and you can tell.

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The Hanged Man, Knight of Cups, Princess of Wands and the 9 of Cups from King’s Journey Tarot, available in store


It is more cartoony than that of Twisted Tarot Tales for example, because I “thought it up” using the descriptions given to me as reference. The artwork is great, but it is different. I am not going to speak negatively of the deck as I think all of my illustrations are good (hey, whaddaya want? lol) but I openly admit that I embraced the use of reference photos for Twisted Tarot Tales.

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The Lovers, 2 of Coins, Alternative Death, and the Wheel of Fortune from the Twisted Tarot Tales, available here

That being said, a big part of the visuals for the horror deck has come “from my mind” without any reference photos, but there are obvious reference photos brought out for the likes of the 10 of Wands’ Grizzly Bear as it weighs down on the hunter in his cabin, or to get the look of Elvira just right in the High Priestess card which required a combination of photo references, yet the important thing, especially if you’re doing traditional illustration, is to use it as a guide only. Don’t trace your reference photos verbatim because they WILL end up looking like a poor attempt at photograph. You still want to have your artistic style intact and the only way you can do that is seek out good reference photos, especially for likes of drawing animals,  machinery  etc, but I wouldn’t go crazy with it.

5 Things You SHOULD Do To Sell Your Art Online.

Like my earlier article, entitled “5 things you shouldn’t do to sell your art online“, I speak from the perspective of being an artist in the Tarot community, but I think you may be able to take something away from it regardless of which art community you find yourself in.

1, Check Your Mental Attitude

Most artists I’ve encountered feel downtrodden because their art is not selling, not even enough to pay the rent or the groceries. Above all things though one must remain positive and be prepared to learn how to sell your work. Without learning how to sell your work, you’re like a potato farmer in a world of potato growers. You’ve produced great potatoes but who cares when i have literally tonnes of them to pick from? Sell me them! Tell me why your potato is better than your competitor? When the world is falling down around you, learn to push through it and continue on creating great work. Only those who keep going will finally make it but you must learn the art of selling your wares…

Book_Images2, Read lots of Sales Books

Being an artist is only half the battle. Sadly creating great artwork is probably the least important aspect when it comes to selling the work although of course that helps too.

How many times have you heard an amazing band playing amazing music and are stunned to find that not only do they not have a record deal, but hardly anyone has heard of them? Probably a lot. I know i have. In fact sometimes it annoys me. To be honest it annoys me more when you hear a local band who has been trying to get their music out there for years yet have no online presence in the “Internet age”. No business card, no website, no songs on Youtube. They appear to want to be found yet they’re hiding so how does that work?

Then you then go on to be equally stunned when you hear the latest offense upon the ears that passes for popular music and you see that not only are they signed by a big label, but they are highly sought after by the populace. “Surely the populace can’t be that beaten down that they think this is amazing music can they?” you ask yourself. Of course not.

Often what you’re experiencing is the power of hype and most of the time creating hype is rather costly. Big companies can afford to create the hype but more than likely you’re an artist like me who is concerned with paying the rent and don’t have the money for huge commercials. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that every deck you see out there which appears to be highly sought after is a result of it being a brilliant deck because often that is not the case. Rather, hype is very often manufactured and a lot of money changes hands (I am a newcomer to this sad state of affairs and was shocked to hear a lot of what went on behind the scenes)

In other words your art doesn’t necessarily have to be amazing to sell it, because we’ve seen many mediocre decks being produced that do not have anything special about them, but they are highly sought after and fetch big money and big publicity because of them being powered by hype. Selling a product is only a mystery until you learn the secrets of how sales work. That being said, not everyone knows how to fully utilize these sales strategies. Some may apply to you and some may not.

That being said you also want to put your very best work out there because people deserve your best and if you are an honest person like me, you would not feel fulfilled by putting out mediocre rubbish.

I really feel that I can say we have achieved a lot of attention for our Twisted Tarot Tales through a grass-roots approach. We aren’t paying anyone to write any good reports, or paying for publicity. We’ve worked at it the old-fashioned way and you can too. It doesn’t guarantee success instantly but I like to think our success, even if it takes a little longer, has more of an enduring appeal.

boasting-800x4003, Boast like you’ve never boasted before

This has been a very hard one for me. I was taught not to be boastful as a child, and all through school I was taught the same thing. Don’t be boastful as no one likes a boastful person. This mixed with religious teachings about how wrong it is for man to boast about his own creations, along with a society (at least it would seem in Northern Ireland anyway) that doesn’t like overly boastful people has made me very wary about taking credit for anything that has worked for me, anything that has done well.

Unfortunately sales are all about boasting about an object’s qualities, and in art the objects are either the artist himself/herself or the artworks. To boast of these qualities, you need to find unique differences over the competition (and let’s be serious, your fellow creators are the competition even if they like to pretend they are not). If you’ve ever been backstabbed, shunned or have seen fellow creators attempt to sabotage or undermine your work, please don’t fool yourself into thinking they are anything other than competitors. Some will suggest that there’s “room enough for us all” in such a very niche industry, all the while trying to turn your successful “campaign” into a train wreck. Keep your wits about you, boast of your qualities and never show weakness. If you show weakness, expect to be taken advantage of.

land-defence_foreground4, Defend Your Work To The Death

Your artwork is YOU. It represents you as a person; it represents your achievements, your skills, and your knowledge and so on. If someone takes issue with your work, it is your responsibility to stand up for it. Answer questions respectfully but be aware of when these are not questions but underhanded attacks. It’s your job to make sure the next person who wants to derail you will think twice about it unless there is a really good reason to find issue with you.

More than likely, if you create a kick ass outstanding work of art (or several) and you gain a following, you WILL find opposition, but don’t let them get away with lying about you or trying to ban your work.  People will suggest you take the high road when this happens but the high road is congested by well-meaning people. That and some of these people need challenged simply because they are not expecting to be challenged. Over the past year I’ve become known for creating controversial art yet I feel it’s not that the art itself is necessarily controversial; rather all it takes is one big shot to feel offended by a cartoon and if you are not on it and handling it, it can potentially grow out of control. It’s your job to make sure that these people are called out if they are being hypocrites or are being troublemakers for the sake of causing trouble.

5, Create Your Best Work

Not that it has to be mentioned, but the most important thing in the end is to create great work because let’s face it, if you are like us, you would not want fame or fortune if you yourself felt that you were producing mediocre art. You’d still feel like a fraud. Rather, your own worst critic should be yourself. If your work is good enough for you, in the end that’s all that really matters, though let’s hope you are financially rewarded too 😉

5 THINGS NOT TO DO WHEN SELLING YOUR ART ONLINE

Selling any kind of artwork is hard. Unless you’ve got a Picasso or two at your disposal, you’re probably not going to become a millionaire any time soon. That being said there is no reason one can’t make a living using the gifts of his or her hands. However, there are a few things I suggest you don’t do. I speak as an illustrator in what for many will be a bit of a niche community; the Tarot community. While much of the Tarot community boasts a great selection of writers,readers and speakers, there is also a healthy dose of artistic efforts on offer in the way of creating the imagery for the decks of cards. That being said, I think that my advice might be helpful to those of other art communities.

1, Don’t sell yourself short.

tsA lot of creative types have the self-doubt, the low self-esteem and the mood swings that go with their creativity, and it’s very easy to blurt your feelings out onto Facebook or other social media. This is all very well if it is between family or close friends but you don’t want potential customers hearing how you’re hardly selling any art these days. In other words it’s great to be in touch with your feelings of disappointment and disillusionment but remember that when you voice this, not only does it send out into the universe that you aren’t doing so great (and some beliefs say this thought sent out comes back to hit you like a boomerang), it also sends out a message that your work isn’t in demand. If it isn’t in demand, why would you think it would be in more demand with a sad story of how no one supports you? You don’t want pity purchases because to my knowledge, if pity purchases exist, they are few and far between. Buy a diary and write any of your frustrations there and then keep making great art. We’re pretty much all in the same boat.

I don’t mean to be harsh but believe me I’ve been there and done that. In recent times, although this is a different kind of case, I’ve still slightly fallen into that trap of self-pity, but that was because some jerks over the past year have been trying to do everything from ban me from forums (because I defended my work) to trying to flag and remove my work from Facebook because they hated how quickly we were able to create a huge interest in one of our tarot decks without needing the backing of certain people. (or so I’ve been told)

2, Don’t show your jealousy 

Hungary, Budapest, Jealousy, 1892If someone is getting the spotlight constantly and you are not, Just keep producing the best art you possible can. Your artwork might be more superior to that of the latest tarot trend, but more than likely if you produce good art, your work will stand the test of time. Theirs probably won’t if it pertains to a more pop or throwaway work.

In the world of Tarot It’s difficult not to be upset when you’ve spent years perfecting your illustrative techniques while someone else “borrows” the works of an already established (but dead) artist and is held to high acclaim. That’s life unfortunately, and it’s hard to really understand if the praise is because the consumer is a little ignorant of who initially created the works of art While growing up, or that the creator of the deck did a good job at collating the original works of art. It doesn’t actually matter which it is, what matters is that you maintain your integrity even if you never receive any acclaim.

Here’s a little anecdote. I’ve held an interest in comic book art over the years and I would read how these old timers who’ve been in comics for thirty or forty years have become forgotten about because of a new generation who introduced a different style to western comics (in this case they were introducing a more Asian manga feel to a comic industry that had a more American comic book style look). Naturally the old timers, the veterans, felt a bit overlooked (and may even have become less in demand) because of the young comic artists, but I personally felt that it was a lot of style over substance. The old timers had perfected their art and had a more solid education than a lot of the new stuff that seemed flashy and in your face. The old timers were masters of story telling, but for young kids, the visuals of the more dynamic new stuff were more interesting.

In such a niche industry as that of tarot deck creation, try to suppress any jealousy you have over how successful someone else might be doing with what appears to be something mediocre, because believe it or not half of the success that people talk about actually holds little substance.

3, Don’t share your Ideas before you’ve even put pencil to paper.

secretTHIS IS A BIG ONE. The Tarot creating world is FULL of creators with no vision, no new ideas, and if you really care about your work, care about your “brand”, you’ll want to rein in your desire to announce your big mighty plans until you’ve got it all planned out and are almost ready for launch. It’s sad that things have got this way but if you’re a traditional illustrator like myself and can’t produce 78 cards over a few weekends like some of these up and comers, then keep your trap shut!…no seriously, keep quiet. You’re excited, we get it; you want to tell the world of your amazing idea, but unless you want someone else to show you your idea before you’ve even drawn it yourself, then you need to keep it to yourself. We’ve seen lots of our ideas being used soon after we’ve announced them. Is it coincidence? Possibly, it’s hard to prove either way and hey, you can’t copyright ideas.

4, Don’t be a jerk.

Nobody likes a jerk, no matter what industry you find yourself in. We understand that you might be socially awkward and don’t know how to act around others, but being an jerk for no other reason than being an jerk, just makes you….well, a jerk. AKA don’t try to ban my controversial artwork just because you can’t draw your own illustrations. It’s unsporting.

snob5, Be intellectual but not unreachable.

Intellectual people are only ever cool and fun to talk to if they are also able to downplay their knowledge for people who perhaps don’t know everything the intellectual is saying. It’s great that you have perfect grammar, congratulations.(that’s actually to be commended nowadays in our newspeak text age) However no normal person really appreciates words that 99 percent of the population never use in daily life UNLESS these words have no other ways of being conveyed. It creates a disconnect.

Another thing. In the divinatory world, i can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone was a Greek Goddess in a past life, now reduced to being a “domestic goddess” or some ancient mystic from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro three life times ago. Another may claim they own Pamela Coleman Smith’s handkerchief or Crowley’s shoe. hell, it may even be true, who knows, but all but the most docile see this as “props”…stage props that is. Simply bearing the fingernail of Waite or the scrumpled unused sketch from Lady Harris doesn’t make you any more of an expert on tarot than the average Joe. Why would it? Nor will the suggestion that you’ve met with Christ, Buddha and Krishna in person, and they’ve departed some secret wisdom to you that justify the price hike in your readings. You may as well be a black belt in origami as far as I’m concerned. Some of the plainest non boastful people out there have the most amazing tarot reading skills I’ve ever seen. I’m getting to be an old man, I’m not impressed by the stage show, but with the skills… Yet there are enough people who love the stage show stuff, the fanciful, the spectacular and they choose to have their magicians dress the part. I get that. I am not suggesting you don’t dress the part and have fun, but spare people the pretentiousness. Don’t patronize them.

Click here for 5 things you SHOULD do to sell your Tarot Art online.