I have a lot of nature photos and have uploaded some to my Redbubble store. Some are pretty amazeballs, if I do say so myself.
But not all of them are that amazeballs, so I’m jazzing up some of them with a little digital alteration. I was really inspired by how Sara Tepes uses photos for visual textures, and my favorite technique so far has been to take royalty-free photos of outer space – stars – and layer these onto the photos.
I’m also isolating elements by making the backgrounds black and white and leaving the important parts in color.
Ukiyo-e Heroes is a fantastic and unique collaboration between illustrator and animator Jed Henry in the U.S. and Tokyo-based printer Dave Bull. This ingenious project combines Henry’s interpretations of video game and animation characters in the Ukiyo-e style with Bull’s expert traditional Japanese woodblock printing methods.
Henry, in his own words, is a “lifelong gamer, Japanophile, and all-around nerd”. What I love about Henry’s designs are that they are unmistakably Ukiyo-e. They are dynamic, make great use of line and color, depict the essence of a moment, and can even be a little grotesque-looking.
He also does an amazing job of balancing the subject matter – video game and animation characters – with historical elements, so that the anachronisms are inventive and delightful. Henry’s designs are so clever and dare I say “original” that they avoid the nostalgia trap, too.
Dave Bull has lived in Japan for over 25 years, printing for subscribers and hosting printing parties. Bull’s love for woodblock printing is evident. He has an ongoing encyclopedia in addition to his own YouTube channel. He has made an impressive amount of prints and print-related material over the years – be sure to look at his website to see them all.
Only recently did Bull open the Mokuhankan workshop in Tokyo and employ apprentices and other masters of woodblock printing, helping to keep alive the traditional Japanese way of producing prints. (If you join the Ukiyo-e Heroes Portraits or Chibi subscription program, your payments go to the apprentices! The subscriptions are $20-$40 a month, which is a ridiculous steal.)
I think the prints are very reasonably priced at $135 to $155, given the immense amount of detailed manual labor that goes into them: Henry’s hand-inking, Bull’s hand-carving and printing with multiple colors, and even the paper itself, which is handmade by Living National Treasure Ichibei Iwano IX and his family. But if you’d like another option, Ukiyo-e Heroes also offers Giclée prints, which include other illustrations that don’t translate as well to woodblock prints.
Now it’s quiz time! What media do these prints reference? Below the pictures are the answers, and a bunch of links for you.
There is so much going on with the gorgeous, intriguing I Tarocchi di Vetro by Elizabetta Trevisan. Today I’ll talk about:
The Art Itself
Names of the Deck
The Art Itself
This is one of the most distinctive, beautiful, and well-composed decks I’ve ever seen. Rendered in tempera and pastels, the effect is that of stained glass. The overall style, in my opinion, is a blend of Art Nouveau and Art Deco – the human and animal figures are realistic and have soft shadows as in Art Nouveau, but the rest of the elements are geometric and sharp like Art Deco. The pip cards (1 through 10) have no people and so emphasize geometry more. You will find yourself tracing the dynamic lines and swirls over and over with your eyes.
While you are doing this, you will discover the clever ways zodiac symbols and the symbols for the suits fit into the compositions. I especially like how the Queen of Chalice’s throne is a chalice.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that the suits have unusual elemental associations. Typically,
swords = air
cups = water
wands = fire
coins = earth
In this deck:
swords has primarily water imagery with air as a secondary element
chalices (cups) seems to suggest both water and air – like a lake environment in the summertime, with lily pads floating on water while dragonflies zip above the surface
wands feature fire but tree imagery frequently overtakes the fire in prominence
pentacles are earth (no change there)
These differences exist because the Minors of this deck are based on designs by Eudes Picard. Many of the Majors are influenced by Oswald Wirth’s Arcana of the Cabbalistic Tarot, which is itself a modified version of the foundational Tarot of Marseilles.*
The Minors (pips) may at first look like they’re devoid of meaning, but if you look closely, you’ll see helpful symbols.
Also, you may notice that the kings age as you progress through Swords, Chalices, Wands, and Pentacles, which is pretty cool. I don’t know what it means, but I like it.
Names of the Deck
This deck has been marketed as “The Crystal Tarots” but that’s an inaccurate translation of the original Italian “I Tarocchi di Vetro”. I’m learning Italian and while I’m no expert, I have learned that “vetro” means “glass” – not “crystal”. Maybe a marketing person thought “crystal” would appeal to the New Age audience.
“Tarots” in the plural sounds weird to English speakers but is accurate because “tarocchi” is plural in Italian. There is also a singular word, “tarocco”, and I admit I’m not sure which to use. There are many decks out there called “Tarocco Whatever” and “Tarocchi di Whatever”. If anyone has some insight on this, please leave a comment!
The deck started out Majors-only, possibly as early as 1987.
According to Albideuter.de, images from the Majors-only deck appeared on the covers of Lo Scarebo’s catalog from 1987-1994, but I haven’t been able to verify this.
At some point, Lo Scarebo published an Edizione d’Arte (Art Edition) on large cards with only Italian labels, which was one of many in a series. I don’t know how many cards this deck has. It may have been the first edition.
1995: Lo Scarebo published the 78-card deck, with labels in several European languages; the High Priestess image is reversed for some reason.
1996 and 1998: U.S. Games Systems published the 78-card deck.
2002: Lo Scarebo published 78-card deck with five Majors printed in reverse (High Priestess, Hierophant, Chariot, Judgement, and the World) – the World being kind of a problem given that the four corners have specific symbols for them. There’s no explanation for this – it was probably a mistake.
Again, any insights you can provide about the printing history would be great for comments, thank you!
This deck is gorgeous and a wonderful addition to any collection. If you’re used to Rider-Waite-Smith or its many derivatives, though, you may have initial difficulties with the pip cards. But it’s worth it because they’re so beautiful!
*Interestingly, the Universal Wirth Tarot, by the same publisher (Lo Scarebo), used this same Wirth + Picard combination over a decade after I Tarocchi di Vetro was produced. I wonder how many decks are out there with this combo.
I swear I posted my original sketch of my chibi Birth of Venus from at least two years ago, but I can’t find it. Oh well!
I am using the vector art program Inkscape to make this. I thought I’d try making the basic line art as vector and so far I am loving it. One of my most time-consuming tasks when painting digitally is just matching my own pencil lines with the paintbrush. With vector – and a high “smooth” setting – I can bust out these lines and then adjust them as needed.
I came across Sara’s YouTube channel while looking for tutorials on the open-source digital art program Krita. Ms. Tepes is just eighteen but already has a large portfolio of excellently-done artworks in a variety of media, sells her artwork online, and posts YouTube videos every Sunday of speed-paints and product reviews. (Links below.)
In one of her recent videos, she mentioned she was going away to college to study graphic design, and I was like… really? Just keep on doing what you’re doing, girl! You don’t need to go to college, you have such a good thing going right now!
The good things:
her execution and technique – especially how she does greyscale first and layers over with color (like an oil painting)
her attention to detail
her dedication to posting videos
that she paints people of color
the variety of media she uses: digital, watercolor, graphite, markers
I think the thing to keep in mind when doing tarot cards is always to let the tarot itself remain in control of the art. If the art style or the artist’s personality becomes the star of the show, with the tarot taking second place, the deck and its usefulness are compromised.
I really like Robin Ator’s International Icon Tarot, which is based on the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Its simplified design and faceless figures make it more accessible and emphasize only the most important symbols of each card. For example, somehow I missed there are pomegranates behind the High Priestess – I never noticed them until I saw the card from this deck!
Ator conceived of the idea to use the isotype style of figures while working on an ad campaign employing those figures. He had also been exploring how to draw the human body in the simplest way possible.
At first, he created the Major Arcana by hand, experimenting with cutting out shapes from painted paper and plastic before deciding to learn Adobe Illustrator to make them digitally. You can read more about his process in this interview at Tarot Garden.
Robin Ator also made the cute Ator Tarot and the Prairie Tarot. His non-Tarot work includes character design for commercials and film. Please visit his website, Glow in the Dark Pictures, to see all of the tarot cards and his other artwork.
Below are my favorite cards from the International Icon Tarot:
I finished it! It took a while (10.5 hours over a month) but I’m really pleased. And I put it in my Redbubble store, so take a look!
My technique is to draw the line art digitally and add watercolor textures for color, but I was inspired by Sara Tepes (an upcoming Artist Profile) to add real photos for the sparkly stars. I went to Pixabay and Pexel to find royalty-free space photos.
Using the free, open source program Krita, I increased the contrast of the galaxy photos and set the blend mode of the photo layers to multiply or screen, depending on the darkness or lightness I was going for. I’m definitely going to use this technique in the future, because using real stars is way easier than trying to make random sparkles with a brush – and looks better!