The Empress

The Empress

The Empress and the Wolf

As many of my works, this drawing is a self-portrait, revealing the female grace of the empress within me. I created this artwork in July 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, marrying the symbolic language of the Rider / Waite Tarot deck with the tropes of my own work and personal journey. In fact, it was through an encounter with a Tarot-practitioner that this card "came to me" as a meaningful pointer: Amidst the feminine splendor and gentle, pink light emitted by the city of Lisbon, this card enabled me to appreciate the meaning of an inner calling I had felt ever since I created the drawing "My best Friend": It was time for me to "become visible" and assume my role in the world - but in the right shape.

I liken my personal journey to a princess riding on a wolf's back - much like Princess Mononoke in the movie of the same title by Hayao Miyazaki. While the masculine energy and appearance of the wolf granted me safe passage through former chapters of my life and allowed me to acquire a certain societal standing with relative ease and little resistance, it was time for the subtle magic and spiritual artistry of the princess to be revealed. Accelerated by the wolf's run, the princess jumps forward. As I tend to under-estimate the maturity of my work prior to publication, it is only fitting that the princess, in this case, is more of an empress really.

In the traditional Tarot representation, the Empress is a "five-tool player": she combines the virtues of the four queens of the Tarot deck and then some. I chose to represent the four elements - earth, fire, water, air - by the three arms and the wings of the empress. Protected by her side, the heart-shaped orb encapsulates the gentle warmth of femininity. I like this visual aspect in particular, and it is much in line with my idea (and inner need!) to create something of a protected space to host the fragile warmth of exposed femininity.

Triumphant without exerting force, the empress conveys a sense of unquestioned grace and power as she rests in her majestic pose, framed by the lush splendor of a wheat field. 

Next to "The Fool", this is probably the most meaningful Tarot Card for me and an important guiding light on my path.

Lady of Lisbon

The original artwork (also called "The Empress") is done with pencils, coloured pencils and "Pentel" ink brushpens on white "Clairefontaine Paint-On Multi-Techniques" paper. It is approx. 30cm x 40cm in size. (Earlier the same year, I acquired a huge, 13 square meter roll of this paper and cut a couple of sheets from that which I took to Portugal.) I created "The Empress" on a sunny Saturday afternoon while enjoying the view of the pink maze of Lisbon's rooftops and listening to the Song "Lady" by "Die Ärzte" on heavy rotation. The drawing is a bit too large for my scanner, so I digitised it back in Cologne using my seasoned Nikon DSLR camera and went from there.

For the Tarot card, I added a transparency layer using GIMP and re-colored the drawing using vector-graphic elements in Sketch. The Tarot card frame is a vectorized design element which I use with all my Tarot cards. The writings on the card ("III", "The Empress", "Kruppa") are all vectorized scans of my actual handwriting. I use the "Protrace" plugin for Sketch to derive vectorized shapes from my handwriting.

Notably, the original artwork leaves the face of the empress blank - probably because I didn't want to run danger of losing the graceful stance of the empress. I created the facial expression later on by layering vector shapes in Sketch. I like the outcome, because it is in keeping with the graceful pose of the empress while exposing a good amount of vulnerability: it looks a bit like a mask or a crumbling mask, something you would see perhaps in A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick.  

I picked the colors to add a certain element of "queerness" to "The Empress". I wanted the card to be colorful and feminine but also a little bewildering and out of this world. The coralline crown, azure wings and turquoise hair definitely hit the spot for me and articulate a flavor of femininity which probably nothing but this picture could express.

On a very personal note, I realize in hindsight that the colored drawing of "The Empress" reminds me of a girl (or maybe even two girls) I was in love with as a teenager - and it sparks a warm and gratifying feeling to see that today, I find these features inside of me as a representation of myself.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding this artwork.

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