Spooky Cats Tarot Kickstarter Project

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halloween-artistWe’re excited to announce that our campaign is now over 80% funded on Kickstarter. Click here to see the campaign. So many great people, so many destinations for the decks; USA, Israel, UK, Canada, Europe, Australia and for the first time ever, South Korea. As a lover of maps and geography, seeing the locations is really exciting.

So this evening I’m getting a few more of the cards drawn between giving out candy to the Trick or Treaters 🙂

Working on the cards has been really great for my sanity lol…I’m serious! Being diagnosed with diabetes about a month ago, has been a little hard, I must admit, and of course I see the irony in drawing a bunch of candy throughout the cards!

halloween-tarot-catsDrawing is very therapeutic and allows you to forget about things for awhile. You’re able to immerse yourself in this little world that you create. In a way I feel I “exist” in this little Halloween Spooky Cats world while I draw it, and when Halloween ends tomorrow…well, It won’t be ending for me. I can deal with that. My Halloween will last, most likely, well into the Christmas season, as I bring these little characters to life.

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How Much Does A Tarot Deck Really Cost?

Occasionally I’ve been asked how much does a tarot deck cost. We’re not talking about what it costs when we purchase on Amazon, or scout out some great deck at Barnes and Noble. Instead we’re focusing on the cost of what exactly goes into producing 78 illustrations.

Hiring a Freelance Artist

I generally charge around $70 for a Tarot card illustration, although it depends on how detailed the cards are to be. It also depends on the amount of time it takes to research the particular topic (especially if the client is unsure or has no detailed instructions. I estimate that it takes about 20 hours total to complete a card, from pencils, inks, then colors, and sizing the finished piece into card templates, but again, it varies depending on the instructions of the client and it really depends on the detail required. We can attach an extra 4 hours for edits, which includes back and forth emails. Rarely have I worked on a card that has not needed edits on afterthought. If you’re doing the math, I think that works out to around $2.80 per hour for an artist to create Tarot cards. Some may charge more, some charge less. For most people in the western world, working for less than 5 dollars an hour seems paltry, but you have to keep in mind that different rates apply to big businesses compared to private individuals who want to see their book or deck; their ideas in print. With that in mind, even council projects and committees I’ve worked with tell me that they chose artists based on price, without obviously compromising on the quality of the work.

That’s Not Very Much, Is It?

I always find it best not to think in terms of hours spent on the artwork, but the overall price itself, and while we do need to pay utilities, groceries and rent, part of the payment from being an illustrator is the enjoyment that others get from your work. That sounds cliche, but it’s true. Until someone like Hasbro or Disney contacts you to strike a deal with your art, (ok so you generally have to chase them, but you get the idea), creating artwork can never be about the money.

DIY

I imagine that most people with an idea for a deck will not be affluent enough to afford to set aside five and a half thousand dollars to pay for an artist to draw their entire deck of Tarot cards; not when public domain works by the likes of Arthur Rackham and Da Vinci can be cut and pasted onto Tarot cards with a little knowledge of Photoshop. This is not a criticism. It’s just a reality. clip art and photo montage is probably a far more profitable option, and when we look at Kickstarter projects, photo montage and public domain art work actually seems to do better at getting funded than hand drawn original works of art (sometimes funded into the tens of thousands) despite often looking quite similar to the many other photo montage decks out there. To my knowledge, however, it can be difficult getting these decks “officially” published by mainstream deck publishers because they need to be certain that you are using photos and art which you have the rights to.

In terms of cost, this really depends on how much you value your time. I’ve heard one Tarot creator claim it takes him about 200 hours to produce a photo montage Tarot deck. That’s a little over a month, if we take the typical 40 hour work week. Others seem to take even less time than that. It also depends if you plan on actually blending in the photo montage work to make it appear as one complete picture. Some choose not to, and so that will lesson the work load. Adding depth, shading etc will take a little extra time. As you get started into your project, you will very soon learn, roughly, how long it takes you to work. Some choose to produce their artwork on the weekends, keeping their day job (highly recommended, especially if you enjoy your job! lol)

What Is Your Art Worth?

A great question. On Facebook I quoted Vincent Van Gogh. Here it is…

“I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.” – Vincent van Gogh

everyone who has ever felt undervalued just has to read that quote, but more importantly, see who said it, to feel a little bit better. Van Gogh died penniless, yet his work now fetches millions of dollars. Who said life was fair?

Just this evening I walked past an art gallery window and saw a print of an original painting for about ÂŁ60. Yet, our 94 prints (since that is what they are) for King’s Journey Tarot was once considered overpriced, and I can assure you it was much less than the ÂŁ60, shipping included. Yet, I am often told that this deck has brought many great readings. In fact there is one guy, David Hopkins, who ONLY uses King’s Journey, and one other deck, for his readings. That is quite a compliment. What price can you put on great readings? Value is in the eye of the beholder I guess.

The Plight of the Self Published Artist

And then after all is said and done, someone claims you are a “greedy” artist because you can’t match the price of big publishers…(and of course the irony with that, was that I didn’t receive payment for King’s Journey during its first run). Many do not take into account that big publishers have the capital to buy in bulk, distribute in bulk, and don’t have to pay their creators any money for their hard work (oops, did I actually say that out loud?) More on that in a minute). Not hard to see why a self published author might appear “greedy” when you compare it to a “published” deck where the artist receives no payment for their work.

Let’s break it down though. Currently King’s Journey is about 55 dollars, including shipping. With 94 cards in total, if my maths is correct, each “print” is working out at 58 cents each. When you keep in mind that we’ve probably only sold a few hundred copies on certain decks in our store (because our commercial online presence is currently only limited to a few of you who are happy to share our work) we’re not really making that much from the decks.

My brother, who now lives in Malaysia, keeps telling me that I am not valuing my work; that I should be charging more. I tend to agree, but the perception of art and illustration would have to change too throughout the entire art industry. The romantic view of “impoverished artist” or “starving artist” has to be wiped out. There’s nothing romantic about counting pennies at the convenience store and hoping you have enough, just because you can’t compete with publishers who can only thrive through short-changing their creators. These “starving artists” don’t actually like being impoverished. Published authors and artists are the last to be paid in the creative industry. What message does that send out to aspiring creatives?

I am not so sure that art is valued properly, but it is not really the consumer’s fault. I tend to think that the fault lies at the feet of the publishers. To my knowledge (based on my own experience), artists and authors do not really get paid. They receive a small token, called a royalty, to technically suggest payment but most of the time you’re getting anywhere from 20 cents, on a good day, to 9 cents per deck of cards if the deck sells outside of the U.S. (based on my own experience only) For all intents and purposes, “officially” published decks should be treated a little like business cards. They certainly do get you noticed, but they do not pay your bills.

For those who enjoy collecting “tarot awards” (a great many people have to own the deck, so it more or less needs to be officially published, to want to give it an award, think about it!) or having their work shared around much more, I recommend being “officially” published, but do not depend on it for an actual viable option for payment.

I remember writing to the Author Barbara Moore a few years ago to ask her if it was possible to make a living as a published author. She suggested that deck and book sales themselves would not pay the bills. Rather, one should seek out speaking at conferences and that the book sales were really just to get your name out there (I’m paraphrasing though) I became disenchanted with the idea of being “officially published” because I was not seeking “fame” in any particular area. I just enjoyed drawing and being paid for it, to the best of my ability.

My Advice

My advice to anyone thinking they can create decks as a “get rich quick” type of thing is to set down the pencil or pen and choose a different career path. Unless you have the capital to put behind a fairly sized print run, like 500 or 1000 decks, forget about it. That’s why you turn to Kickstarter. Then you’re looking at at least ÂŁ5000 , or around $7,000. Your deck of cards does not have to be amazing, just your outreach! (just look at some of the decks making upwards of $30,000). Do not do what I did and make controversial art, or voice controversial opinions. Do not make enemies. This is ok for a shock jock, but it’s not ok……you know, I really do need to write a book about how I really feel about things.

So, to sum all of this madness up. Make art and do what you love, but be aware that until you can break away from the Print on Demand cycle, you’re probably always going to be breaking even. A good strategy would be to create a few good creator owned decks, get “officially” published, and use your “official” products as “business cards” which can lead people back to your self published work (the products you can make a living from). Better yet, get those self published decks ordered in bulk through Kickstarter so that when your official deck launches, you will be able to trade a little better with your self published decks when more demand shows up.

P.S if you have any insider knowledge about publishing, including royalty rates etc for other publishers, be sure to let me know. Like I say, I can only go on my own experience but if I’m wrong on certain things, I am happy to be corrected. Write to me @ j_battersby@hotmail.com

Our Halloween Deck

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With just 22 hours left before the Kiddy Katz / Spooky Cats campaign is over, we want to give a great big thank you to all of you who have shared and contributed to our campaign. The support has been really appreciated.

There’s still time to guarantee a New Years gift for yourself or a friend.

Here’s a little insight into what went into a few of our Spooky Cats cards…

spooky-cats-halloween-cupsThe 4 of Cups is inspired by a stuffed toy I always wanted for Christmas but never got. It was called “My Pet Monster”. Like many toys, the commercial appeared on television and captivated me. Looking back on it now, of course, the same toy doesn’t seem so exciting, but I remember how it made me feel. I’m inclined to think that it was a popular toy at the time and possibly they had sold out and so Santa just wasn’t able to deliver lol.

One of the things I enjoy about creating imagery for decks is that you can add personal things into the cards without necessarily having to take away from the overall meaning of the card. Most of the cards include personal meanings to me, but will probably not mean anything specific to anyone else.

With the 4 of Cups, I thought I would recreate that mood all over again, only this time the little figure has the “My Pet Monster” costume and is trying to enjoy Halloween.

So as you can see I had to take quite a few liberties with the design, just to make it tarot-kids-monster-cats-halloweenappear more interesting, since the real character is in the face. Since I didn’t want to wipe out every feline aspect, I decided to keep the face uncovered. For the most part though it does bear some similarities.

I enjoy reading about some people’s thoughts on the “energy” behind cards. I’ve even heard some readers say that certain decks are “soulless”. Not mine thankfully, but it does remind one that some readers do pay attention, not just to the imagery on the cards, but the personality behind them.

In this link you can see the commercial that influenced me as a kid.

Next up is the Three of Brooms.

kiddy-katz-tarot-kittens-cats-three-wandsThe little kitty looks out into the distance. This was inspired by the many nights I sat looking out into the distance at my parent’s house. This is one memory that has become a recurring theme and was and is very important to me. The horizon was full of promise. There was, what appeared a kind of phantom Ferris wheel, along with the shimmering lights of a Carousel; complete with the plastic horses that bob up and down. It was very beautiful, almost like the promise of a child’s view of heaven.

When I eventually grew up, the Carousel disappeared. In reality it was never really there. Instead what I was seeing was a faraway town. To this day, though, I still see the dancing Carousel far in the distance. It still shimmers like it did when I was just a child.

Every time I see the Three of Wands and the figure looking out into the distance, I tarot-cats-halloweenalways think about the feeling I used to get when I looked out and thought I saw something really great.

For our next card we visit The Devil card. It made perfect sense to use the theme of the deck to lead me in certain directions! Since much of Halloween for a child involves costumes and becoming someone else for a day, some of the costumes made perfect sense.

spooky-cats-tarot-devilThis costume was really influenced by the movie Problem Child. This was one of my favourite movies growing up as a kid and my particular favourite scene was Jr not really being invited to the little girl’s party. The reason being is that the little girl feels Jr isn’t a “real kid” because he’s adopted. Rather tragic, but of course Jr gets his own back; dressed as a mischievous little devil he completely ruins her party.

For those wondering about the little creature to the left of our costumed devil; that would be a Devil’s Coach Horse, (although I grew up knowing it with the unflattering name of “Coffin Cutter”) It was my neighbour who gave it that name, but now in the days of the Internet, a google search confirms that that name “Coffin Cutter” is actually is a nickname of a particular Crayfish.

Regardless, the Devil’s Coach Horse used to scare me when I would play around in the dirt with plastic army figures.

To round this little article up, we’ll close with the 6 of Cups.

The greatest of joys! As a kid growing up in Ireland, there was little fanfare in kiddy-katz-6-cups-cats-tarotHalloween merchandise. A few cheap plastic masks, sparklers, and fireworks for the adults. As you can imagine then, some of the best fun was actually creating our own masks, usually hewn from the back of Rice Krispies boxes, and coloured with pens, but sometimes paint brushes.

The 6 of Cups is usually viewed as revisiting childhood.
In the 6 of Cups for the Kiddy Katz Tarot, it features an elderly Kiddy Kat, complete with Apple Pie in the window. That card was inspired by my grandma who I looked after in her later life and who passed to the other side last year. With these kind of decks I feel that I can add a little bit more personality into them. Obviously every deck has its personality; King’s Journey, Twisted Tarot Tales etc, they all have a different feel to them. Regardless of the deck, it’s inevitable that the artist will leave behind their personality in at least a few of the cards but I really feel these last few decks resonate the most with me

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The Winter Lenormand

winter-lenormand-snow-christmasWe still have a few more Winter Lenormand decks available. This is a new deck we’ve released in December and will not be continued after Christmas (at the very least, without quite a few changes). I have decided to release 25 for sale from my site Tarotcollectibles.com and I believe we have something like 17 still available. They are shipped directly from the printer, so I don’t actually have any physical copies sitting around. Rather I have capped the deck to 25 copies for sale, so if all sell, great, and if not, no big deal!

Why such a small print run?

At Tarotcollectibles.com, I had a vision of creating very limited edition decks of cards, something which would be truly collectible. Unlike mass produced decks of cards that can be printed in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, collectible decks allow the possibility of a product increasing in value over time. Just like our Spooky Cats and Kiddy Katz Tarot, we sold roughly around 50 of each on the Kickstarter campaign. I’m not entirely sure if I will ever release either of these decks on my site after the campaign rewards are delivered, but on the small chance that I decide to bring back the decks, there will be quite a difference in the changes to Spooky Cats since 10 of the cards for the Kickstarter edition are exclusive to the campaign. So there will 50 sets of those ten exclusive cards in existence. Can you get more collectible than that?

christmas-snow-lenormandSo 25 decks of cards is practically a drop in the ocean when compared to mass produced decks, but I was late in getting this deck of cards finished for the winter holidays and so wasn’t able to really promote it effectively. Releasing 25 decks only a few weeks before Christmas with my limited promotional reach seemed a more realistic goal to achieve.

So feel free to look through all the cards if you’re interested over @ http://www.tarotcollectibles.com