Of Hesitance & Doubt
I just finished a new ink piece, an allegory of the holy virtues, Hesitance & Doubt. Crickets on Patreon will get a deep-dive on the symbolism in this piece soon, but I wanted to share a public preview and bonus post here because this is the last media & concept test between us and rekindling the New Spirit Vertigo tarot! It's time to catch you up on What Even is going on with these ever so wily decks in progress!
Spirit Vertigo is a yummy sort of mystical disorientation, characterized by awe, sometimes fear, and instinctive grounding in reaction to one's partial dissolution before something incredibly beautiful, or palpably ineffable.
This deck is, at its core, about animist mysticism, dissolution & recombination, and the running themes of folklore, natural history, and subconscious fantasy that drive my work in all media.
Now I'm open about being a spoonie for solidarity reasons, and deeply appreciate those in the chronic illness community who take on activist roles and speak generously about their experiences. I don't mind painting in broad strokes about my own experiences, but for my peace, I strongly prefer to keep most of my medical specifics private. (Naturally, some of the more vulnerable things get encoded and vented through the art.) I didn't feel right talking publicly about the disruptions in this deck until I knew where to take the project from here. I have a good sense of that now. (I have spoken about some this gradually on my private social media pages and in newsletters, so friends, fam, & letterees please pardon if you've heard some of this before!)
I don't mind the extra time taken to develop as artist, crafter, and thinker. I don't love how this project got interrupted, but I'm confident it will benefit from the digressions. I need to start over from scratch now, but with a common aesthetic and core spirit. If you've been waiting for the old Spirit Vertigo deck, highlights from the concept art live on as prints & posters available on my homesite. But the new artwork will be even better!
So much needs to change seven years out from the starting line. For one thing, in aiming for a diverse cast of characters, I walked right into some tropes on round one. Drawing Strength as a black woman for example, coming from a white artist, can further the harmful expectation, born of white nonsense, that black women should be stronger and more composed than everyone else around them. Not cool. Diversity and inclusion are still core priorities for the new deck! I'm aiming to handle these in a way that will be respectful and of service to anyone who might like to use these cards, understanding that no single deck can tell every story, that not all stories are mine to tell, and that tarot is not desirable to everyone.
For another thing, I just wasn't ready emotionally, intellectually, or artistically for the scope of this project the year it began. It needs to incorporate more and different symbolism now than before. Among other things, that includes more age diversity in the figures than I bothered, or even knew how to draw at age 28!
And on the technical side, back in 2015, I was re-learning how to draw after several years of precious little studio time, and to any trained eye, it really showed.
I'd poured most of my hobby time in my twenties into my most addictive art-swoon of song-writing. When I made any visual art, I worked in marker on card stock, because it was cheap, portable, and photographed well on a phone or iPad, without needing access to a computer or scanner. The studio art skills I'd formally trained in had rusted before I picked this project up. They bounced right back as I got into it--on a much steeper curve than expected. By the time I'd drawn through the majors, the first cards in the series completely mismatched the latter ones in quality and style. I'd have had to redraw half the majors to assemble a majors-only deck from that material, but by The World, my hands couldn't take any more pieces that large and detailed in marker.
So I tabled the project and moved onto the more minimal Black Ink and Interrobang Tarot Decks:
Having landed for a while in one place after years of constant moving, and finding myself freshly marker-less, I set up a desk, dug out my brushes, and began to paint again for the first time in years, holding above all to that great aesthetic tenet: "Put A Bird On It..."
I don't write in script all the time just for the FUN of being an insufferably pretentious fancy-pants! (Not that there's anything wrong with the joys of unjustified fancy-pantsery, and that is absolutely part of it.) I was unhappy with the hand lettering on the first drafts for my tarot decks when I started these projects back in ’15, so I started studying lettering on the side in earnest, including Spencerian penmanship. The latter took because it's fluid and gentle, lovely in appearance, and comparatively comfortable to these cranky paws. The script I use now isn't pure Spencerian, but an organic blend between it and the Palmer technique that formed my early hand. (Penmanship freaks may weep.) The final cards of the Spirit Vertigo Deck will have decorative borders and, if all goes well, hand-lettered titles better than the first attempts--ha!
Here's a pin board with recommendations of some of my favorite lettering and typography books, for anyone else who wants to learn! I adore lettering, but it's never been my strongest suit as a designer, so if the script doesn't work out in practice, we'll do some vintage-looking witchy font as a backup, like in the shop posters.
If you Dreadful would let me birth
Nothing but ephemera,
I would keep my fingers bruised
For beauty, and learn us how to make
A coiled tautness live to scream.
If I continue to pace myself, and work efficiently, I should be able to keep drawing and painting for many years to come. I'm very confident that I'll be able to complete the new Spirit Vertigo majors, at least. I may have to shift the balance of my work to looser, less detail-saturated techniques, or more digital design than traditional drawing in time, so we'll have to see from there if there's a full 80 card deck in store for us. This deck is up next, and I'm keeping at it until I have the majors down, at the very least. We'll do something with it, even if that something has to be adaptive.
I've grown to approach each personal project as though it might be last thing I do in visual art, not to panic, but to lend each work that degree of urgency, strangeness, respect, and care. With deeper content and higher stakes, I'm pouring much more planning into the new Spirit Vertigo deck, and pencilling each set of majors, courts, and suits together before moving on to ink. I'll be blogging all of my process for subscribers on Patreon. The Crickets already have a VIP video tour of the secret mood boards and new concepts for the project! Only subscribers will get the full process, including all the pencil sketches, and draft excerpts from the guidebooks.
Having both the accountability and the income of Patreon subscriptions has been a huge help for me creatively! I get a bit lost without deadlines. I've written and created more there in the last year and a half than I published in the entire six years prior on both my public blogs combined! As we go, I'll be using our monthly Patreon content more and more for these epic long projects, like the tarot decks and books, and music albums. (I'm back on music too, but that's a topic for another day...)
With your support, the finish line to publishing is in sight. (A ways away yet, but visible, and doable!)
Thanks for reading and thanks so much for being here! I hope that folx who were interested in the first round of the Spirit Vertigo art will stay tuned for its next incarnation. I'm so excited to share the process to come! Much love! 🖤
What Else Is New?
A while back, I had the great fortune of joining Seerah on her DM Talks podcast, where we had a long, deep-diving, and super fun conversation all about tarot, creativity, queering, and creative resilience. Check it out here on YouTube, or for the audio stream head here. It was a great time on a quality podcast! Send the show some love while you're there.