30 April 2019

0 The Fool

Watercolor woodblock print (moku hanga) plus digitally-mainipulated rubber stamp text
10 x 6 inch print (254 x 152 mm)
Print made from 2 blocks, 10 hand-rubbed applications of color
Variable edition of 4 on Echizen Kozo

The Fool is the beginning, the Origin, the “big bang” of creation. Possessor of unlimited potential, the Fool is both empty and full, everything and nothing, foolish yet wise. The Fool takes the ultimate risk and leaps into the unknown with joy, with dynamism, with faith, and perhaps with foolishness. Many tarot readers think of the entire Major Arcana as the Fool’s journey through life, but the Fool isn’t thinking about the future. Unconventional, free-spirited, childlike and naive, the Fool is immersed in the now.

Here are some process shots of the woodblock print.

I'm experimenting with creating all 22 of the Major Arcana cards with just three colors: pthalo blue, magenta, and yellow oxide. I started this print with one layer of each color, with a circular bokashi, just to see how the colors would interact.
Once I had a sense of how the colors interacted, I went back and overprinted them again, emphasizing the blue in the lower portion and th yellow and magenta in the upper portion. For the tarot cards, all I need is one print that I like, so four seemed like a good number of prints to make. You can see that I tried throwing some paper dots on the plate before printing in the one at the upper left. Interesting effect, but I decided not to use it for his print.
Next I carved another block in the shape of the striped suit to add a shadow to the body area.
I carved stripes from the same block I had used for the shadow and added the red stripes.
On another block I carved the arms and legs and printed that. Four similar but not quite the same prints. I selected one and scanned it, then reduced it to card size and added the rubber stamp text on the computer.

21 April 2019

XVIII The Moon

The tarot's  Moon card represents intuition, dreams, and the unconscious. Under the influence of the Moon, creativity and imagination intensify; symbols, impressions, and instincts rule over facts and linear thinking; and powerful dreams and visions can occur. Familiar things looks different in moonlight and we realize that things are not always as they seem. This can cause disorientation and anxiety, especially for people who are usually more intellectually oriented. The more negative aspects of the Moon are delusion, deception, and secrets. The Moon can symbolize self-deception and escapism, especially through drugs or alcohol. When the Moon appears in a reading, use your intuition and listen to your dreams to find your way in its dim reflected light.

The Moon is a card of the Major Arcana. While the Minor Arcana (four suits) mainly reflect daily activities and events, the Major Arcana represent major events and/or large complex concepts.

Some tarot readers conceive of the 22 Major Arcana cards as a “hero’s journey” taken by the first card, The Fool. In this scenario, the Major cards represent experiences that every person must assimilate into their psyche before they can be completely whole. Others consider the Majors to be archetypes of the collective unconscious; universal aspects of the human experience. I think of the Major Arcana as long-term universal influences or important society-level concepts in contrast to the personal everyday dealings of the four suits. Whatever interpretation a reader gravitates toward, a Major Arcana card is always given extra weight in a reading.

Building up layers of color for the underlying woodblock monoprint

I created this card as a woodblock print which I then scanned and further manipulated in Photoshop. I thought often about my woodblock students who will often say "that's cheating!" when I suggest that they fix mistakes in their prints by painting or using colored pencils on their final copies. I always try to reassure them that they're the artists and thus they can't actually 'cheat.' I had that same fear at the beginning of my woodblock printing career, though, and I think it's par for the course when working with a traditional Japanese craft method. There's a lot of cultural weight that comes with the traditional Japanese arts, and many rules about the correct way of doing it.

So let me state clearly, this is a collage. It's a digitally-assembled collage of one watercolor woodblock monoprint (below), rubber stamp lettering, and a photograph of the moon's surface.

This is the "final" woodblock print, which I then scanned and imported into Photoshop for further manipulation.

14 April 2019

Asking Again

There's something that every card reader does from time to time, which is to try to get a better card when you don't like the one you just pulled. I did that today. Having just completed all 14 cards in the Suit of Air, I was thinking that I would do the Suit of Water next, but I decided to ask the cards first.

I sat down and shuffled the deck and asked the question "Which suit should I do next?" I pulled The Moon card. It's a perfectly nice card, but it's not one of the suits, it's one of the 22 Major Arcana cards. "No no," I said to the deck, "which suit?" and I picked another card. The Emperor. Not a suit, but a Major Arcana card. This is funny, I thought. So I pulled another: The Hierophant, also a Major Arcana card. I practically yelled at the cards, "I said what SUIT!" Pulled another. Haha, it was the 9 of Swords, which is Air, which is the suit I just finished.

I got the message. It's time to turn my attention to the Majors. So I'm going to work on making a card for Major Arcana #18: The Moon.

13 April 2019

The Characters of Air

Here are the Air Character Cards as they currently exist. For the moment I'm happy with them, although as I work on the other suits in the weeks to come I may find myself making adjustments. I tried to make the figures fairly androgynous but not just "stick people," and I wanted to show the same figure through the series, since all of us have all of these qualities at various times in our lives.

Novice of Air
The Novice of Air is newly embarked on a course of study, or exploring a new way of thinking. They are curious, thirsty for knowledge, natural communicators, full of enthusiasm and bursting with new ideas. They’re highly rational, they ask a lot of questions, and sometimes, just as children speak unpleasant truths, the Novice of Air may speak youthful truths that can come across as rude.

Evangel of Air
The Evangel of Air holds rationality over all else, and is enchanted with their own mind. They are ambitious, assertive, quick thinkers, and driven to use the power of intellect to achieve their goals, although they sometimes act impulsively. A good communicator, the Evangel is often sure that their truths are right for everyone and will use their formidable logic to convince the world.

Mentor of Air
The Mentor of Air possesses all the clarity and intellectual power of the Evangel, but tempered with receptiveness to others. Although they care deeply about the world, the Mentor’s connections with others are through the intellect rather than through emotion, which can be intimidating to some. They are quick-thinking truth seekers who speak honestly, get straight to the point, and are capable of distilling complicated subjects into concise arguments.

Paragon of Air
The Paragon of Air stands in their own intellectual power and truth, and they want to take the lead using logic and reason to navigate the path ahead. They can seem detached and judgmental, preferring the clarity of the abstract over the messiness of everyday life, but their discernment and advice are invaluable.

05 April 2019

Court Cards Part Two

I’ve settled on names for the four character cards in each of the suits:
The Page becomes The Novice
The Knight becomes The Evangel
The Queen becomes The Mentor
The King becomes The Paragon
Although gender in the tarot is symbolic rather than literal, I’ve always wanted words for the People Cards that don’t immediately conjure a gender. I feel like the words I've selected are pretty neutral and they’re mostly words that don’t carry a lot of other baggage (for instance, I considered calling the Knight the Zealot, but the word zealot felt too loaded). Here is a brief description of each of the People Cards.

The Novices in each suit are young or inexperienced. They’re usually enthusiastic, childlike, excited about learning. They see the world with fresh eyes.

The Evangels are full of energy and are hands-on and headstrong. They have some experience under their belt, which they will promote and defend, but they can be wild and impetuous and prone to extremism.

Mentors are people who have developed a mature understanding of themselves, of others, and of the energies of their suits. They express these energies from the inside out, influencing others without imposing on them.

The Paragons are experts and leaders, having mastered their suits after years of study, dedication and practice. Paragons want to control the energies of their suits and make a mark in the world.

Now I have to figure out how to design these cards. Do I show people? Silhouettes? Not sure. I'd like to depict these people without depicting race, gender, or even personality, but take those things away and the depiction rapidly becomes cartoon-y. I have work to do!