Oh, the Shadowscapes Tarot. Long have I pined and gazed in longing and faithfully saved to multiple hard drives its twilight beauty, checking with near-religious dedication for updates, new card images, any news at all that it might one day take form as a real live deck. The sighs… the print-outs… the wistful contemplation of a love that could not be…
I discovered Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s fantasy art (and mastery of watercolour) when I was working as a computer programmer, back in a former lifetime in a strange land far, fara way. The joys of a permanent internet connection (back in the Dark Ages of Dial-up) and little supervision (just get the work done) can never been emphasised enough. The things I learned… I can’t even remember if the Shadwoscapes Tarot existed back then yet, but I think Stephanie might have had a few images up. Nevermind, I fell in love with her paintings and ink drawings instantly. Over the years I have collected images of, found inspiration in and even purchased several prints from Shadowscapes. Above all, I have waited for the Tarot.
When it was announced that yes, the deck will be published (Spring 2010 by Llewellyn, last I heard) and that there would be a hardcover book to go along with it, I was overjoyed! Stephanie blogged a little about the difficulties she experienced in getting the book published; problems with printers and the dubious joys of being a one-woman operation almost prevented the book from happening at all. My pre-order was swallowed by PayPal so I had to wait even longer before receiving my copy, but oh! Was it worth the wait!
The book is hardcover with a glossy jacket and the paper stock is a very good weight – also glossy. The printing is very vivid and high colour, probably bolder than the actual watercolour originals, but this doesn’t detract from them at all. (I cannot describe what this woman does with watercolours: what I used to view as a medium solely for the wishy-washy renderings of landscapes and floral still life is now something I want to explore further, in the hopes that I, too, will be able to achieve the combination of detail and airiness that she is able to express in her paintings.)
This book details the 22 Major Arcana only and if you see it, you’ll know why. Four pages are dedicated to each card: 1 full page describing the story taking place in the card and its meaning with a gorgeous ink drawing border (each one unique) created specifically for this project. The facing page is a full size image of the painting. The following 2 pages are reproductions from Stephanie’s sketchbooks showing the evolution of the final paintings, with notes on the symbols included in each image and her personal aims and thoughts about the card. I admit, I have a weakness for pencil sketches and artistic process, but the little extra notes are massively helpful in understanding and fully appreciating the final tarot image.
No more staring at a computer monitor! No more printing out crappy reproductions! No more embarrassing lovesick behaviour (actually, I’ll just transfer to my next Object d’Obsesse, whatever that might be)! Of course, now I want the Minors too, but I understand how this might be a little too much to hope for. The amount of work that would take… But, maybe if the deck turns out to be as popular as it should be – based on the delirious ravings of my fellow Shadowscapes fans – Llewellyn will see the sense in making that happen as well. Until such a magical day arrives, I highly and unequivocally recommend that you: