You always want to see your work have some form of longevity, as I really feel that that's a sign of a good product. That's not to say it has to be popular and sell lots of decks to enter into the halls of greatness, or relevancy. I don't really believe that (I recall the many music bands I've loved throughout the years who most people have probably never heard of). For me, I want people to experience the same feeling I get when I stumble upon something really cool.
(I think) Waite Smith themed Zombie Tarot called Dead Waite. Strangely enough, we later found out that "Dead Waite" is a nickname that Aleister Crowley once called his arch nemesis Arthur Edward Waite. Entirely coincidental, but the name works. Despite some opposition from certain people, I will finish the illustrations for this deck and release it to the public in some form or another.
The strangest thing has been happening since May; ever since I started really putting a lot of thought into the Kiddy Katz Tarot deck; The strange case of the visiting cats.
Before I really get into the story, I want to make it clear that I am not demanding that the following is anything more than simple coincidence, even if it seems a little more than that.
Drawing the images, I started to have more and more cat visitors. Living in a small town, perhaps that should not be surprising. Having lived in the country all my life, and moving to a town, it's possible that people have cats visiting their homes all the time and don't think much about it. To cut a long story short, as I continued studying cats and then drawing them as cartoons, we would be visited more and more by these little strays.
As an artist with a lot of faith in things, I've seen very strange things become reality; sometimes things that were spoken without being "true" in the sense that it had happened "yet", but spoken as though it had happened...at some point in "time". This can be read in another blog.
In the case of the cats, I was not trying to summon them lol, but it crossed my mind; did I attract the cats through some unconscious thought? Before anyone thinks this is totally ridiculous, I don't think it's any more unbelievable than suggesting we can get special insight into people's lives through reading cards.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you have some amount of belief that the cards are able to give insight into people's lives, as do I. In the creation of the decks on this site, as an artist I've had the good fortune to work with some of the best readers out there and have seen almost surreal results. (Continues below)
FROM THE GRAVES IT CAME
I laughed and called it "spooky cat" and it meowed again. I felt a bit bad because I am sure that the cat had an owner, but I couldn't get it to shoo. It followed me the whole way home, past all the fallen leaves. I gave the wee cat some friskies and hoped it would head home, although it had no collars or anything like that. I figured if it was homeless, it would still be there in the morning, but it headed off. I don't know too much about cats admittedly.
As I write, a white and black cat walks into our yard. That one is a new addition and arrived about 5 days ago, so I haven't got a name for him yet. I like the idea of them being a good luck omen or something of that nature.
It's a very quiet neighborhood and so there were no cars to interrupt the cat from its seat. While it seemed strange to see the cat in the darkness, sitting up, staring at the house without so much as a movement, after about ten minutes I went back to bed. Then I dreamed of cats....
This, of course, coming from a person who was not normally someone who would think much about cats, is still a little strange to me. Then again, like I said earlier; when you put tremendous focus into something, you inevitably dream about it somewhere along the line. I awoke about a few hours later and once again went downstairs to get some water...and the cat was STILL there. How strange. It was sitting in the exact place it was sitting 2 hours before. I woke Christine and she thought it was pretty spooky too lol. Maybe that's what cats do, I don't know. Has anyone heard of cats staring at houses for hours? Or maybe it had walked away and came back to the same spot. I don't know.
I enjoy collecting maps of the places I’ve been (when I can). In terms of illustrated maps, Probably some of the best maps I’ve seen where from Florida, like SeaWorld. The very worst map I have in my collection, but it is not illustrated, is from Sharm El Sheikh, in the Sinai Peninsula. The map was pixelated to death, but that would have been forgiven if it were not for the fact that it was hugely outdated, probably by almost a decade, yet it was the only map I could find in any tourism shop. Streets were renamed, businesses had faded away; you get the picture.
Then you had the genetic mutations like the Giant frog in the Justice card and the Mutant lovers (the alternative ersion). The King of Cups with his mutated feet, even the Knight of Wands with the gigantic bee (or depending what way you look at it, a minature little rider on its back). I envisioned that group coming from a scientific lab with the nuclear power plant not too far away.
Above: The map as it currently stands, without the "area" markers and the "card" markers. Can you spot the nuclear spill area and also the spills along the coastline?
Sometimes they work, sometimes they get snatched up by other people before you have it finally complete (always a danger of that when showing works in progress) and other ideas don't seem fully fleshed out at that current point in time, but might work at a later date.
I started to think that having a “map edition” of the deck would probably seem a bit pointless to most people. That being said, it is a novelty deck so it may work. One positive, I suppose, would be that it could become somewhat like a Jigsaw puzzle. With being about 70-80 percent complete, I will probably do exactly what I set out to do, at some point, possibly, on some distant Halloween.
Portraiture has been around since ancient Egypt and possibly even beyond. From statues of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten to coins depicting Julius Caesar, portraiture has been around for thousands of years.
Traditionally it was only those in power or who had great wealth that could commission portraits. The royals all have their portraits, along with the U.S Presidents.
Yet while photography, and now video, have, for the most part, replaced the hand produced "immortalisation" technique of portraiture, hand drawn portraits have stood the test of time. What's more. You don't have to be the next president or born into royalty to afford a great portrait.
For those of you in the Tarot world, I have begun to once again take commissions for portraits. While it's probably one of the more time consuming services that an artist might offer, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. (We're currently offering portraits around 60 dollars) . I understand that to some that seems like a low price (when compared to other artists) but I'm also aware of the current economical climate.
One of the most important aspects in portraiture, both for the artist and for the "sitter", is whether the finished pieces actually look like the figures. Take the Queen of England for example. There are some really great portraits of her, but there are also some which are a bit....well, not the most flattering. That's why I feel it's important to see a few examples of portraits I've already worked on.
First up is my partner Christine.
Please note while the cards are designed and inspired by Valentine's day, we make no guarantees that the cards will arrive on Valentines (in fact it's next to impossible). That being said, love is supposed to last much longer than the 14th of February right?! lol Love is for life, not just for Valentines!
reading and not knowing how to even read the cards; maybe even doing more damage than good. I saw elderly women walking away from readings distraught, sometimes even in tears and thought "Should I be contributing to this with my art?" Then again, for all I knew the reader was delivering the truth. Tears didn't necessarily mean a "bad" reading in the sense that it's not accurate. Yet going on my own experience with some of these readers, they could not read me at all. Some psychics even felt brave enough to name names of my family members etc, but I never understood this braveness when they must've known there was a high chance it would be inaccurate. (Since they always were). I wanted to believe, but I needed to be convinced...
(Above is Mrs White's residence in Rumford, Rhode Island) Since then I've heard a few optimistic stories like this and I came to the conclusion that illustrating decks of cards can have a noble purpose.
I've had readings from a small number of people in my life. A woman called Doire who lives a few miles away foresaw a relationship with Christine a few weeks after I met Christine online (I had not met her in person at that point) She was actually able to give a name.
Where once I was a bit of a skeptic, I've become a believer. So it makes me wonder. With foresight, what would you do differently? What would you change?
What fascinates me most of all however, is those readers who decide to give a brutally honest reading rather than one that you think your client wants to hear. How honest should a reader be?
I think this is a question that every reader has to answer individually for themselves, on behalf of their clients. Do you do what Mrs White did and tell the client the horrible news that the client is already aware of? Do you deliver the bad news that they are NOT aware of?
A troublesome question I often see in Tarot forums is whether to deliver the bad news that the person their client is in love with is "just not right for them" or the relationship is destined to fail. I can only imagine that there is a little apprehension about delivering bad news to a client. After all, one's wish is to always make their client happy. It's the first thing we learn when we come to conducting most any kind of business. In an ideal world a client would WANT to hear the truth, even if it is not the outcome they would wish to hear.
Looking at this objectively I think many clients seek a reading, not necessarily for an unbiased opinion, but to seek affirmation about a situation. They want to hear their desires and wishes repeated back to them. Romantic relationships, especially, can be sensitive topics and when one is caught up in the feelings of love, they do not want to hear negativity.
We only have to point out the fact that Vincent Van Gogh died penniless, having sold only one painting in his lifetime.
Greatness is something more than that. Presumably Van Gogh would have loved wealth in his own lifetime, yet today he is considered one of the greats in the art world and his paintings sell for millions of dollars.
As a general rule, I’d like to sum up what makes something great by doing a bit of ad-lib on one of the quotes of my childhood hero Stan Lee. (I can’t find the actual quote unfortunately).
Lee said something along the lines of the great thing about comics is that you have to love comics personally to keep doing it because comics is the kind of medium that demands so much time and energy and eats through so much material in terms of storylines and plot, that someone with low dedication would burn out really quickly.
Ok, so that’s a more elaborate explanation, but in summary, it basically means that to create good comics you need to love with you’re doing.
When I designed most of the characters for King’s Journey, I really loved what I was doing because I had never seen a full story taking place in a tarot deck before. I mean King’s Journey tracks the journey of a young boy who at the end of the deck, is basically a much older, full bearded, long haired man with a wife and child. I had never seen an actual story played out in a Tarot deck like that before.
For Twisted Tarot Tales, each image was a labour of love because I got to draw all the monsters and crazy scenes that, let’s face it, anyone into comic book art would have fun imagining. My co creator Christine has been a fan of horror comics and film since she was a kid growing up in the 70’s.
The Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot is another one of our successful decks thanks to Christine’s love of and knowledge of Chinese Propaganda Art along with the historical background the art is based on.
In short, the best works of art, writing, music or film, almost always comes from a love of the genre which you’re basing your work on.
"To have something with my name on it as the writer be so globally reviled is gut wrenching. To receive hate mail from all over the world is heartbreaking. (...) I went into the project chasing after a big payday, not as a fan of the franchise but as a businessman taking on an assignment. I have learned that when you go into a creative endeavor without passion you come out with sub-optimal results, and sometimes flat out garbage. So I’m not blaming anyone for Dragonball but myself.”
Dragon Ball: Evolution was apparently so bad that Akira Toriyama; creator of the original manga, revealed that he felt the Hollywood producers did not listen to him and his ideas and suggestions, and that the final version was not on par with the original Dragon Ball series.
He felt the result was a movie he couldn't even call "Dragon Ball". Discussing the film in the 2016 Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary “Super History Book”, Toriyama wrote: "I had put Dragon Ball behind me, but seeing how much that live-action film ticked me off..."
I haven’t seen the movie personally, nor have I ever read or know anything about the manga the movie is based on, but there’s a two things we can take away from what Ramsey said…
1, He went into the project, not as a fan but as a businessman hoping for a big payday.
In other words he believed he would be able to cash in on the Dragonball name itself, ( purely a business like attitude of course, but one that cost him) rather than caring about the content.
2, He learned that when you go into a creative project without any passion about the content you’re working with you come out with much poorer results, and “sometimes flat out garbage”
There you have it readers. If you want to pursue something and make it great, take a word of advice from Ramsey and create something on a subject you’re passionate about!
I've always done my best to support new Kickstarter projects in our industry If I think they are good and of course, if they happen to pass my radar! As a self employed artist, you can imagine I don't always have the "disposable income" that I wish I had to be able to support such projects more fully, but at the very least I like to share links etc. Here is the Venetian Carnival Tarot and it is currently ongoing on Kickstarter. Here is their facebook page if you'd like to see more!
James is the artist behind the illustrations on this site, maintains the website, writes the blogs and puts together the newsletter.