Dont worry, I haven’t decided to turn this site into a new age blog. But, saying that, I will be talking about tarot cards quite a bit in this article – albeit from a purely artistic perspective, rather than a spiritual or psychological one.
Whether you believe that tarot cards are a useful way to predict the future, a tool for self-understanding, something malevolent or just something that you can play card games with (and, yes, modern playing cards were inspired by old tarot decks), there’s no denying that tarot cards are also often a vehicle for some quite amazing pieces of art too.
One of the most well-known Tarot card artists was probably Pamela Colman Smith, and her minimalist art nouveau illustrations for the 1910 Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck are probably what most people think of when they think of tarot cards.
Of course, plenty of other artists have worked on tarot decks since then – and, one of the most interesting things about tarot cards is how lots of different artists can interpret the same basic idea (eg: a picture of a knight, a picture of a dancer etc..) in a variety of totally different ways.
If you ever want proof that expression matters more than originality in art, then just take a look at a few tarot decks. They may all feature what are essentially the same cards, but they will all look surprisingly different from each other.
Not only that, if you’re feeling artistically uninspired, then a good way to get inspired again could be to make some tarot cards. After all, you don’t actually have to think of any totally new ideas – all you have to do is to work out a slightly new way of drawing or painting something that thousands of other people have already drawn or painted before.
Plus, making tarot cards can just be a really fun artistic exercise to do if you’re interested in it.
To give you an example from my own work, here’s a version of the “Knight of Wands” card that I made as a gift for someone a couple of months ago:
But, if you don’t want to study “traditional” tarot cards, or you somehow mistakenly think that they’re “evil” or “satanic” or whatever, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make tarot cards. I mean, there’s no rule that says that you have to copy “traditional” tarot decks – you can just make up your own ideas for the cards if you want to.
In fact, the first thing that really got me interested in Tarot cards was “The Jennese Tarot” by Jennifer Diane Reitz. This is a series of entirely new tarot cards that Reitz created, based on both her own philosophy about the universe and her own imagination…. and they are absolutely fascinating.
Because they don’t even remotely resemble any kind of traditional tarot deck, there’s no way of knowing what each card will hold when you look at it. Plus, by distilling her thoughts into a series of cards, Reitz is able to express herself in a surprisingly powerful way. So, the idea of coming up with your own personal tarot deck certainly has it’s merits.
In fact, back in 2010, I tried to do exactly this. Here’s one of the cards that I made:
I also made some more “traditional” Tarot cards a while afterwards, which can be seen here if anyone is interested.
So, yes, when it comes to ideas for your next art project – don’t overlook tarot cards.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂