While working on my Coven of Corals Tarot cards, I mostly refrained from publicly sharing my progress until all 78 artworks were complete - with the exception of my "first edition" cards which I displayed during my exhibition in Berlin, Germany in the fall of 2021, and sparse "behind the scenes" posts in this blog to document some of my methods and considerations.
Keeping my work mostly revealed turned out to be a wise choice, artistically, and I probably haven't yet unwrapped all the benefits which went along with that. At times, however, it required lots of discipline and patience - with this one, "Death", I was practically bursting with desire to share it as soon as I created it in November 2021. Imagine my satisfaction to share it now as one of the first releases from my final "Coven of Corals" cycle :D
As with many of my Tarot cards, this one started as a pencil sketch on white drawing carton. I created it during an early morning work session - a Frühschicht, if you will - on Nov. 17, 2021. You can probably tell from the multiple sets of loose lines in the sketch that I was actually going for a bit of a different pose: I imagined the woman in the picture to perform a "leap of faith" kind of gesture, jumping into the void. Then I tried different angles for the legs and found that the "fell asleep floating" posture resonated more with me, with the face inclined downward, eyes shut and arms loosely spread out to the sides. I then added the floating hair which gives a sense of buoyancy and vertical orientation to the posture. It seemed so peaceful, yet mysterious.
Next, I did some inking, i.e. I reinforced the contour lines and added graphical details with black MIRCON markers before erasing the pencils. This is a very traditional process which I do not employ very often, though. Most of the times, I tend to keep the pencil lines while I add ink or other media on top - or I use a lightbox to do the inking on an entirely new piece of paper, but I will come to that in a minute. So here is what the drawing looked like at that point:
I digitised this stage of the drawing using my EPSON ET-7750 flatbed scanner and added an alpha channel using GIMP, meaning that the white sections of the drawing are translated into transparent areas.
Throughout my work on Coven of Corals, I discovered various combinations of analogue and digital methods which go along nicely with my artistic process and add value to my creative flow. One example is this: I manually trace the outlines of a drawing on a separate sheet of paper using a lightbox, i.e. I illuminate the drawing from behind through my glass tabletop and place a fresh piece of paper on top, on which I then trace the outlines. I scan these outlines using a flatbed scanner and vectorise them using the "Protrace" plugin in Sketch. After some adjusting and cleaning up of the nodes, I can use the resulting vector shape as a fully scalable and modifiable "color underlay" by sliding it "under" the scanned drawing and its transparent areas. I am aware that this process would be practically redundant in a raster-based drawing program such as Procreate or a pixel-based environment such as Photoshop - but I, for one, am a vector-kind of person :D
Now, even assuming one is dead set on using vector graphics, you might still argue that this "color underlay" could be achieved more easily by drawing the shapes directly in the software, and I also did that in previous artworks, such as The Empress. However, manually tracing the outlines adds a lot of vibrancy and tremble - and also just the right amount of random deviations.
Here is what all this looks like in a single picture:
So having all these ingredients in place, I started assembling the arrangement in SKETCH, adding highlights and shadows, a monochromatic background and an ellipsoidal intermediate background shape. More or less by accident, the result had a bit of a fringe effect, in that the outlines and the colors where not quite in synch - I liked it! The initial color scheme was slightly reminiscent of Daft Punk's Interstella 5555.
I wanted the drawing to be more about vulnerability, about surrendering and letting go - which I think is captured really well in the final, softer color scheme. I initially intended to pick this drawing for the "Ace of Cups" card - which is why I inscribed the paper with the words "Ace of Dolphins". But towards the end of the process, it struck me that this one is indeed number thirteen of the Major Arcana, "Death": Dreaming weightlessly in a stage of surrender - shifted out of synch in every direction, exposed in a sharp spotlight while immersed in a shapeless void, simultaneously floating upwards and sinking down. Letting go of all meaning while new meaning emerges. You can tell that the scene is absolutely soundless, and peaceful.
As I said, I was very eager to share this artwork with the first batch of cards from the final "Coven of Corals" series. In the Gallery section of this page, you can find a 70 cm x 120 cm fine art print of this artwork, which I limited to four authenticated copies as part of my "Edition 2022".
I hope you enjoy this drawing as much as I do!