Tarot Feature: International Icon Tarot

Tarot Feature: International Icon Tarot

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.

~Robin Ator

(crossposted at Ridley the Fool)

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!

Rider-Waite-Smith on the right, International Icon on the left

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.

The Fool

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:

The Lovers
The Hermit
The Star
3 of Cups
8 of Swords
5 of Wands
Knight of Wands
Ace of Pentacles
9 of Pentacles (look at the snail!)


Tarot Feature: Tarot Nova

Tarot Feature: Tarot Nova

(crossposted at Ridley the Fool)

You may be surprised to know that Tarot Nova* is the only deck I actually own, despite all my Tarot Features. My mom bought it for me many years ago, and at first I didn’t like Julie Paschkis‘s simple, Medieval woodblock style. But it’s really grown on me and now I like it quite a bit. It’s whimsical and fantastic – just looking at the Knights, you’ll see that three of them have pretty non-traditional mounts.

The Knight of Pentacles rides a turtle, the Knight of Cups rides a dolphin, the Knight of Wands rides a horse, and the Knight of Swords rides a bald-headed eagle.

The cards are small – good for small hands, and almost square. The corners are rounded (love it) and color-coded: purple for Major Arcana, red for wands, yellow for swords, blue for cups, and green for pentacles. On the downside, they are too thick and smooth to shuffle normally, and their shininess makes them hard to photograph.

I would also not recommend the Tarot Nova for beginners, as its imagery departs somewhat from Rider-Waite-Smith and can be confusing. For example, the IV of Swords represents rest, but Tarot Nova’s boxed-in person projects a feeling of confinement and being trapped and uncomfortable. So sometimes I ignore the imagery altogether, but other times it can help.

In general, though, Tarot Nova is a charming deck and great for petite-handed readers.

*It’s not actually called Tarot Nova – it’s sold in several (?) versions: I’ve seen a super-tiny deck, a “Fortune Telling Kit”, and a “Tarot: the Complete Kit” (the one I have).

Tarot Feature: Tarot of Trees

Tarot Feature: Tarot of Trees

(crossposted at Ridley the Fool)

I love Dana Driscoll’s Tarot of Trees – so vibrant! Also I love trees.

Driscoll says that she started the project because she couldn’t find a Tarot deck that really spoke to her, so she decided to make her own. She painted the images in watercolor, acrylic, and ink – you can definitely see the watercolor in the winter skies of the pentacles. The original paintings were four by five-and-a-half inches and took a bit over a year to make. Head on over to her Process page to see several in-progress photos of the Three of Swords – I like how she builds up the background.

The deck comes in two forms: a physical one and as an app made by The Fool’s Dog, an app company specializing in Tarot.

Below are some of my favorite cards.

The Fool
The High Priestess
The Moon
The World
Page of Swords
Ten of Wands
Nine of Pentacles
Page of Pentacles
Queen of Pentacles
Tarot Feature: Shadowscapes Tarot

Tarot Feature: Shadowscapes Tarot

(crossposted at Ridley the Fool)

I love Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s Shadowscapes Tarot so much! Actually, I already wrote about it in 2014 but I wanted to bring it to your attention again because it’s lovely. (This post has all-new images, so be sure to look at both.)

What I notice this time around the “scapes” part – the landscapes and how many of the cards show two or more “worlds”, like sea and sky, and how the main figures on the cards often occupy the space between. Click on the images to see the details at Pui-Mun Law’s website, Shadowscapes.com.

Also, see her YouTube channel for some cool painting videos!

Shadowscapes Tarot, The Tower
Shadowscapes Tarot, The Star
Shadowscapes Tarot, Two of Cups
Shadowscapes Tarot, Three of Cups
Shadowscapes Tarot, Queen of Pentacles
Shadowscapes Tarot, Page of Swords
Shadowscapes Tarot, Two of Wands
Shadowscapes Tarot, Three of Wands
Tarot Feature: Tarot of the Magical Forest by Leo Tang

Tarot Feature: Tarot of the Magical Forest by Leo Tang

(cross-posted at Ridley the Fool)

Tarot of the Magical Forest, by Leo Tang, is a deck featuring cute animals. The animals’ wide eyes have a touch of creepiness to them, but not so much that it’s off-putting (to me, anyway).

Strength is my favorite, and is my favorite Strength card of any deck I’ve come across – so cute and really only possible in an animals-only deck.

The Hanged Man bat, likewise, is clever.

The Major Arcana show several kinds of animals, but the Minor Arcana have just one type of animal each:
pentacles = foxes
swords = cats
cups = rabbits
wands = frogs

Below are some other cards for your perusal. You’ll notice that there are two editions – the one with the swirls is the 2005 Taiwan printing and the one with six languages is the 2008 Lo Scarabeo edition.

The Chariot
The Hermit
5 of Wands
10 of Cups
4 of Swords
Tarot Feature: Illuminated Tarot by Carol Herzer

Tarot Feature: Illuminated Tarot by Carol Herzer

This is my 500th post!! : D

(cross-posted at Ridley the Fool)

Carol Herzer’s Illuminated Tarot is my first Tarot Feature, a series highlighting my favorite Tarot (or Tarot-like) decks that I’ve seen online. (They are basically my Tarot wishlist!)

Ms. Herzer’s deck has the same line art as the ‘standard’ Rider-Waite-Smith deck (RWS), but her use of the early-Renaissance mische technique of painting sets her decks apart. For the original set of paintings, she used many thin layers of paint to create a jewel-like luminosity to the colors. For the printed decks, Herzer hand-paints the iridescent colors before she sends each one out to be laminated.

The origin of Herzer’s deck is interesting. She says she had a vivid dream in the 1960s in which she saw the tarot cards as paintings. Over the next twenty years, she painted many esoteric subjects and even created her own tarot deck, Astrotaro, but was left wanting to paint more. Eventually she came into possession of some black-and-white line art of the RWS deck, and with this as her basis, she painted the Illuminated Tarot.

She chose to paint the RWS deck because the drawings by Pamela Coleman Smith had “so much more potential in them, as real paintings” than what printers have produced so far.

Herzer painted the initial version from 1987 to 1989 and has improved upon it since then, even expanding into a few more color palettes like “Elemental Visions”, which emphasizes the elemental associations of the suits.

If you’re interested in purchasing a deck, you have to go a little old-school by emailing her first and then sending her money directly via PayPal – the process is described on the Illuminated Tarot Decks page. You can also choose the pattern you want on the back of your deck, as well as the size (very nice for a person with small hands, like me!).

You can read some reviews at Tarot Elements and Aeclectic Tarot.

If anyone orders a deck from Ms. Herzer, post about it on your platform of choice and tweet me @ridleythefool about it!