Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tarot Deck Progress Report Part Two


Deborah: As most of you know, I have been working on a great tarot project for Llewellyn with illustrator Elisabeth Alba. We thought it would be fun to make some blog posts dedicated to the process, showing how I begin by writing a description, to Elisabeth's final painted result. Last time we did the Six of Swords ( Today, we're looking at the King of Pentacles.

The description for this one was:

Picture: An older sage with gray-streaked dark hair sits on a throne-like chair outside; he looks powerful and strong. Behind him in the distance, you can see a prosperous looking manor house. To his left stands a bull wearing a garland of flowers, and to his right, a white hound reclines at his feet with a large bone. He is holding a chocolate cake with a pentacle on top in one hand, in the other hand is a goblet filled with wine. Grape vines are growing up his chair. He wears a green cloak over brown tunic and pants that are decorated with green ferns or leaves and a simple circlet crown with a pentacle in the front. The mood is one of strength and prosperity.

Deborah: I send the description to Elisabeth, and then she starts the magic of transforming my words into art!

Elisabeth: I usually begin with very rough small pencil sketches, trying to work out the overall composition.

Elisabeth: I scanned those, and place the sketch I like best into the card template. I then digitally create a better, more detailed sketch! I send this to Deborah; the art director, Lynne Menturweck; and the acquisitions editor, Barbara Moore. This one didn't require any revisions! Sometimes they do.

Elisabeth: Once the sketch is approved, it's time to take photo reference. My husband Scott (he's also an illustrator) posed as the King of Pentacles.

Deborah: Scott is so cute! I love the way Elisabeth uses him (and sometimes herself) to create poses for the cards.

I work on the finished drawing using my reference. In the background, the manor house had to look like the one included in the Knight and 10 of Pentacles cards, so I had to design a house and make sure it looked like the same house in each! Here is the finished drawing and a digitally colored version. I like to figure out how I'm going to color and shade it before painting it.

Once again, I make sure to get approval on the drawing before I paint it. I print the drawing lightly on watercolor paper and ink it with a dip pen. I watered down the ink a bit so that the background line work would be grey and more atmospheric. Then I start painting, using my digital color version as a guide!

More painting progress...

Once it's painted I scan it, color correct it, do any minor digital touch-ups, and send it off for approval. Here's the final result!

Here is the Rider-Waite version, for comparison:

The process all in one!

Here is the text that will go along with the card in the book, written by Deborah:

“The world is your oyster. Or possibly, your chocolate cake.”
Work hard, do good for others, and all will be well.

The King of Pentacles represents prosperity and abundance, but more than that, his strength comes from being strongly rooted in his own success and the success of those around him. The King can represent your own financial situation or he can indicate a strong male figure who is willing to help you achieve prosperity and security, whether on the job or at home.

Things to consider: The Kings are all strong male figures, but that doesn’t mean that a King card can’t represent a woman, although it is less common. If this card falls at a place in the reading where it stands for you, it indicates that your focus is on success and money. This isn’t a bad thing, but be careful not to let your desire for security or nice belongings sweep you away. If there is a King figure in your life—husband, father, boss—are you taking full advantage of the gifts he is offering you? And is what he offers truly what you want?

Deborah: Well? What do you all think? Are you enjoying seeing our progress? Do you like the cards? If you use tarot, do you think you would find these useful? Inquiring minds want to know.

(And don't forget to enter the current giveaway for a print copy of Circle, Coven & Grove plus a great candle sconce by Mickie Mueller! It's still on for a couple of days.


  1. I'm really loving these images, I'm so pleased to see at last a deck that hasn't missed vital symbols and still is able to improve the reading quality with new art...

    1. That's our goal, Decia! I'm glad you think we're pulling it off :-)

  2. Another lovely card! I cannot wait to get a copy of the deck for myself.

  3. I really really can't WAIT until this comes out!! These are wonderful!

    1. I must confess, they are turning out even better than anyone involved thought they would!

  4. Yay, a Tarot update! The Rider-Waite one sure looks busy/cluttered in comparison, doesn't it? From what I see, I'd sure like to take this deck for a spin when it's done.

    1. One of the things we're trying to do is simplify the cards, while still keeping them rich and interesting. A challenge, for sure!

  5. Wow. Every time you give us a taste, it just gets better. (And chocolate cake!)

    Mary Anne in Kentucky