Magnificent Decks In Progress

Alternative post title: Decks I Will Aggressively Be Throwing Money At In The Future !

There is no question in my mind that these decks will be irresistible once they are finished. They are rich, complex and diverse in imagery, colour and symbolism, to the point where I am astounded at the sheer craftsmanship that is going into their creation. The cards aren’t only works of aesthetic beauty; there is clear understanding of tarot archetypes and tradition – and personal exploration of these – backing the artistic choices up.

19 Sun - Sarah Magdalene Tarot

19 Sun – Sarah Magdalene Tarot

The Sarah Magdalene Tarot is one I first discovered when searching for really striking, unique images of the Queen of Wands for my Tarot Super Power post. Sarah Flyingfox – the artist – has completed the Majors paintings, but is currently reworking most of them. Her second version of The Tower is spectacular! I get a mild sense of vertigo looking at it, which really adds to the impact of the image.

The defining features of her work is the use of dense, tiny dots – eg. Sun -, as well as layer-upon-layer of fine details, as can be seen in the flames on the Prince of Wands. I’m really taken by her use of colour as well. Some cards, such as The Hermit, are so bright as to be almost neon, while others are more muted, like in the Queen of Swords.

Sarah has expressed that her growing, changing style during the creation of the deck makes her feel like the cards don’t go together, but I think there is a cohesiveness in the atmosphere and personality of the images so far. The faces are part of what holds the deck together – her people really stare out of the cards, always looking you in the eye, challenging. They are different people, but there’s something behind their individual features that makes it feel like we’re watching a single person grow and metamorphose on their journey through the tarot.

This started as a personal project and I believe it is continuing as such. I hope so, at least. Though it’s the kind of thing that can haunt an artist and drive them to the point of madness, it’s the obvious personal involvement that makes it such a powerful piece of art. The root of tarot is there, but the addition of the artist’s personal symbols and understanding give it a unique depth. If this deck is ever published, it will be equally good for readings and meditation.

Strength - Tarot of the Golden Serpent

Strength – Tarot of the Golden Serpent

Say what you like about deviantArt and the over-abundance of mediocre Manga copies, there are some true artists who share their work there. Tarot of the Golden Serpent is an example of this superlative dA contribution. Sebastian Haines is the artist behind the magical – in all senses – oil paintings of the TotGS. In his own words, the symbols for the cards are “mostly drawn from alchemy and western ceremonial magic, with a touch of druidism.” There will be some parallels to the Thoth-school of decks based on this background, but this work is by no means derivative.

I am struck by the intense, mystical imagery of the deck and the use of a strong, cohesive colour scheme. There is also an inherent symmetry to the cards, even though the images aren’t symmetrical; they’re very visually balanced. The eye can rest and explore the image comfortably, or it can focus and concentrate on one area. This shows a grasp of composition – and its importance – that is missing from some decks I have seen.

There is so much packed into each card, and yet they are not overwhelming. It is quite a feat to incorporate so much information into such a small space and still keep it “clean”. Though the original canvases are large, the artist has clearly planned for them still to be readable on a much smaller scale. He has also said that he would ultimately like to write essays on each of the cards which will be of great benefit and interest to readers and collectors alike.

I love it when a deck takes me on a journey and doubly-so when it teaches me so many new things! Though this one will take a while before it’s ready for publication as well, it’s going to be worth the wait and maybe by then I’ll know enough to use it properly – ?

XII The Hanged Man - Eklektikos Tarot

XII The Hanged Man – Eklektikos Tarot

The Eklektikos Tarot blows me away. End of story.

The artist has explained that the deck is a co-creation between themselves and their husband. They chose the name – “Eklektikos” – as a working title for the deck, stemming from the Greek word meaning “to choose”, particularly in areas of philosophy; choosing seemingly disparate systems of thought without regard to possible contradictions between the systems. The term also refers to the selection and employment of individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles. These ideas represent all that the creators wanted to incorporate into their inclusive tarot system.

One of their core aims was to develop a natural, “green” deck, including as many natural elements as possible. This is highly reflected in the artwork. The cards include many animals, whether for their totemic significance or natural behaviours, and absolutely exquisite outdoor landscapes. That these cards are executed in coloured pencil (and small: 15.4 x 22.8 cms)… ::stunned silence:: The intensity of detail alone makes me want to donate my pencils to a worthier cause! The lushness of the flora and perfect blue skies fill me with intense longing. Though there are decks that have been created to be specifically Pagan, I think this deck truly delivers (whether intentionally or not.

There artists plan on creating a comprehensive companion book to accompany the deck that will explain the symbolism, traditions and stories behind the cards. It is a truly multi-cultural deck (Strength includes a story from my homeland – a first, as far as I know) with a good balance of equally strong male and female characters and I can’t wait to include its sunny disposition in my collection!
Blessings to all the artists. May neither your Muses nor your hands fail you!

All images used with permission. Please respect individual copyrights and do not re-distribute.


15 thoughts on “Magnificent Decks In Progress

    • submerina says:

      The SM has such a tangible personality, it’s hard to resist. I could get lost in those details forever! Mmm, it will be a good one for “entering” the cards (something I’ve never achieved).


  1. Hedera says:

    Thank you for bringing these to my attention – I’d never heard of them, and they look really good!

    The Eklektikos might finally be the ‘forest deck’ I’ve been dreaming of for years…


    • submerina says:

      “Forest deck” is a great description for the Eklektikos. It’s very “natural”, without being overtly in-your-face. It’s hard to describe, but it’s something to do with the overall attitude of the cards. Maybe “friendly” is the word?


  2. Kieron Blackburn says:

    Thank you for the wonderful revue you have given our deck The Eklektikos Tarot. It is certainly our aim to be very multi cultural with the deck, as can already be seen with the variety of cultural references and races already included in the major arcana cards.
    We have taken a great deal of time to research and choose carefully the animals , flowers, characters settings and various other symbolism present in the cards to be both personal and universal. (they are certainly personal to us, only time will tell if they are universal or not :) )
    As for the artwork.. i am always stunned to see each card develop to its final state. We work together closely to determine composition, but the artwork is ultimately my wifes work. And i may be biased , but i find every finished piece magical.
    Again thank you for the kind words and i hope your blog readers will appreciate all 3 decks you have shown here :)


    • submerina says:

      You’re absolutely welcome and thank you for adding more about your work and process here. I’m looking forward to learning more about the creation of each card; that’s something I’m always really intrigued by: the bones. And no bias – every piece _is_ magical!


  3. sarah says:

    Thank you! It’s so wonderful that some people really do understand perfectly what I am trying to do…makes me so much happier.

    It is definitely a strange obsession but I think rather than driving me to madness, it is saving me from it. Each new card seems to make me stronger and wilder. Each card demands some kind of radical transformation from me too. They take no prisoners. I am honestly quite frightened of them sometimes.

    I am enjoying reading your blog. Your Kali post makes me want to paint a Dark Bat-winged Goddess, an Empress Demon perhaps.


    • submerina says:

      It was long overdue! The latest Princess is like a punch to the gut, in the best way possible! It is wonderful that this project is such a positive experience for you – I think the strength and wildness comes through very well. Maybe that’s why it resonates with me so strongly as well (being attracted to the Dark Ladies as I am). It’s good to be frightened by your art! And don’t be afraid to share :)


  4. Sebastian Haines says:

    Reading your appraisal of my work, I am so very happy to see the effects of my efforts.
    Thank you so much:)


    • submerina says:

      It was a little daunting – not knowing as much as I could about the background material – and I didn’t want to make less of it, but I can still tell when I’m looking at something with meaning, even if I don’t completely understand it. Powerful stuff!


  5. Hedera says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m not sure if you get the comments here, but I didn’t see a place on your website to leave a comment.

    I had a good look at all your cards, and I just LOVE them!!!
    What a wonderful, exciting deck.
    I would love to buy it some day (soon?)!


  6. erishilton says:

    The Sarah Magdalene… Wow! It sort of invites you in, doesn’t it? Lovely! They’d be amazing for doing some pathworking.

    Golden Serpent… I had to show these to The Magician I Married. Waaaaay too much occulty goodness! It’s like the Thoth deck’s badass younger brother came to town and threw an impromptu ritual kegger at the local O.T.O.

    Eklektikos… It’s simply stunning.

    I told myself I wasn’t going to lust after any decks for a while, published or not.

    I lied. ;)


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