When I began this blog, I wasn’t sure which images I would use to illustrate it. The Rider Waite was my first thought and probably the most obvious choice, but on discussing whether to use it with a friend, we considered the implications of consistently using something which is copyrighted.
I am no stranger to blogging. Before Tiferet Tarot, I blogged daily about the cards, using many decks to illustrate my posts. However, my friend suggested I avoid the problems of copyright by illustrating the blog myself this time. This is what I have done, using some old tarot illustrations [which I began some years ago] as a springboard.
Time moves on and I am now half way through the creation of the deck. I am beginning to wonder if this set of silhouettes could go further. Would someone be interested in publishing it? I have always dreamt of illustrating my own tarot. But this is not my first attempt. It is far from it.
Many years ago, I worked for high street clothing stores. As an apparel print and garment designer, I became more and more proficient at computer aided design. The more I learned, my interest in photo-collage and vector-drawing spilled from my daily job into my evenings and time at home. I began digitally designing what was my first unfinished deck, the Theatre of the Moon Tarot – an odd-looking carnivalesque set of collages, where each character was made from many different pieces. It was a long, drawn out process, since I was still learning. Needless to say, it was never finished. However, a creative fire was lit within me.
Not much of the Theatre of the Moon exists anymore. I have a few printed out copies of cards and a couple probably lurk somewhere in the deep, dark corners of the web, but my originals were lost on a damaged memory stick a long time ago. It still saddens me, since it was the beginning of a long journey and I liked the cards I created a lot. Over the years, I have attempted many different ways of describing the tarot cards through my drawing and collage. A few years ago, I began to doodle in biro in a hardback sketchbook.
As well as returning to the computer, I also had a stab at water-colour pencils, inspired by the beautiful drawings by Joanna Powell Colbert. It wasn’t a medium I was used to and I didn’t continue further. This Child of Water was one of just a few court cards I tried out with pencil.
For the creation of my silhouette tarot, I use Adobe Illustrator. I like the cleanness of line I can achieve when using it. The program became an important tool for the creation of two important steps between the Theatre of the Moon and now. Five years ago, I began 78, a project which I used to illustrate an old blog, entitled Pro-Tarot. It was heavily people-based, since I used my friends as subjects for each card. You can probably see how these illustrations influenced the silhouettes I am working on now.
After 78 (another incomplete project), I’d planned to work with the cartomancer, Deborah Leigh. I cannot remember why we never got down to my illustrating a playing card deck for her, but instead, I began working on The Green Tarot. Using many people I knew as models, I began to create the images. I looked into the symbolism of plants and flowers, jotting down my reasons for each one used in every card. Each illustration was painstakingly drawn with a mouse in Adobe Illustrator. Every single line. Every single blade of grass. It became another unfinished project, but at that point, it was the one I’d spent the most time on.
Over the years, I worked on other ideas, including oracles. I finished one – The Dark Beach (which I used consistently on my old blog for daily readings) – but others didn’t get much further than just a few card illustrations, such as a manga-inspired set I began.
Eventually, I decided to see if I could actually finish a whole deck. The result was The Fragments of an Illusion Tarot. For many years, I’d wanted to create an all-male deck and this turned out to be it. I used Photoshop to collage my images, just as I had all of those years ago with the Theatre of the Moon illustrations, shaving away every part of the many layers with just my mouse. Each final illustration comprised many different elements. I added swords to hands, sat people on thrones, created environments from many different pieces and pulled them all together. As an example, those guys on the 2 of Cups were never facing one another to begin with and were never holding their cups.
Once again, I used the set on my blog (more than nearly any other deck in my five years of blogging at that address). There are only three copies of the deck in existence. I own one, I gifted another to a friend, and I put one into a giveaway. I have two of the final illustrations framed on my wall here. It is a very dear tarot to me, since it is the first one I managed to finish.
Because I used images from magazines and the web in my digital collages, I knew it would be difficult to sell Fragments, so my friend and I began to work on a new one almost straight after. I started to use people I knew once again and stuck to the format I liked so much with Fragments. However, I put a wash over the different suits, to suggest their elements more clearly.
The deck, nicknamed the Bright-Kenny Tarot, remains on the back-burner. At the time, we tried to find just the right models for each card, but getting people and props together proved difficult, which was probably why it didn’t succeed.
I have played about with a few ideas since then, but nothing really took off until I began my [still unnamed] silhouette deck. I’d drawn-up the 5 of Cups a few years ago and it stayed in a file on my computer until recently.
Some time ago, I’d read an interesting children’s book which used decorative cut-outs as illustrations, not unlike silhouettes. I was also inspired by the out-of-print Universal Icon Tarot, which eliminated features, gender, and race in its tarot characters. Needing to illustrate this blog, the deck was born.
I have thirty-something cards left to illustrate and I am working through them at my own pace. I am looking forward to using the set in my own physical readings when it is finished, but my dream would be for it to become published. I think it would be a great starter deck for beginner taroists, but also something straight-forward and simplistic for experienced readers to work with. Since one of my other passions is writing, I’d love to write an accompanying book for it.
Maybe my dream will come true one day.
© Steven Bright Tiferet Tarot 2014
All illustrations by Steven Bright