The High Priestess

The High Priestess

Finding what you didn't know you needed

Ever since I decided to be a full-time artist in 2020, I came to realize that in a life shaped by courage and intuition, being able to receive is much more of a virtue than being able to achieve. Or, in other words: The most decisive turning points  in my artistic career so far relied on my capability to let go of the past, be present in the moment and to receive whatever finds me - and to be open enough to ask myself what it could mean to me, as a sign or a pointer.

Here's an example: During my daily morning walks, which structure my freelance life ever since the Covid pandemic ushered in the era of lock-downs and contact restrictions, I found the most amazing things while strolling through the streets and parks of Cologne.

At one point in the summer of 2020, I found a small, functioning - or at least, semi-functioning - photo printer next to a trash bin. A photo printer, can you believe it? Granted, it looked a little neglected and apparently, someone decided to toss it for a reason. But I had a distinct intuition - a gut feeling, if you will -  that there is something for me to learn from that encounter, so I stuffed the printer in my backpack and continued my morning pilgrimage.

After I cleaned it at home and replaced the printhead with a 20 Euro spare part from a local printshop, this nifty little device allowed me to explore the idea of producing my own prints - in particular, I was interested in printing my own postcards. Before that, I relied on an outside service provider to print postcards, which forced me to a) order massive batches of postcards in order for it to be cost-effective, and b) accept the risk that my prints will arrive in a merely "good enough" quality, with slight color distortions or unforeseen defects caused by the external production process or paper choice. All in all, this made me the owner of massive batches of "good enough" prints of my art, a questionable joy for any artist.

Soon after plugging in my new mini photo printer, I revelled in the joy of being able to rapidly prototype my own prints in small batch sizes. Being something of an IT nerd, I instantly knew that this capability would be key to my working process going forward - it was just so very "me" to consider (sometimes even obsess over) the color range, paper quality, resolution and placing of the artwork on the paper to just waive all these brilliant opportunities to make my art even more personal.

Without this "random encounter" and my whim to take the printer home, I would have hardly been able to grow an extensive portfolio of erotic postcards, which I sold through my shop on Etsy. Encouraged by the vibrant energy of this cumulative working process, which saw my inner artist shaking hands with my scientific self, I soon invested in a proper photo printer (googling "best printer for fine art" helped me discover and appreciate the Epson ET-7750) and updated my computer so I could use contemporary design tools (I use Sketch on an iMac). Suddenly, it all came together and I felt like I built a proper altar for me to celebrate my art and my career as an artist - technical and spiritual at the same time. Without this bold upgrade, I would not have mustered the confidence to design and produce my own art anthology, "Licking Lion" - or my erotic Tarot Card deck, for that matter.

So, that's what I mean when I talk about being able to "receive" - receive a hint from the universe maybe, or an intuition, an encounter with another person or an artistic inspiration. It is my most important skill these days.

The Receiver & The Malachite

Which leads me to the original artwork "The Receiver", based on which I desgined my Tarot Card "The High Priestess". I created this artwork in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2021. It is a spontaneous pencil sketch, rendered from imagination on white "Clairefontaine Paint-On Multi-Techniques" paper. The size of the original artwork is about 15cm x 15cm. I used HB pencil and smudged it to create the soft shades on the belly and thighs of "The Receiver". As with "The Empress", I like to preserve all the sketchy lines of the drawing, which gives the artwork a lot of inherent dynamics and vibrance.

The drawing is a visual representation of a mantra which I learned at the Anand Ashram in Ubud, Bali:

I open myself to all possibilities /

I accept everything with gratitude.

The genital area and torso of "The Receiver" are fully exposed in a wide-open gesture, a powerful pose of utmost vulnerability and courage. There is something spiritual and otherworldly in this apprehension of the great beyond, a willing sacrifice to dissolve into a higher plane of existence. No wonder that this drawing seemed like the natural choice to illustrate the Tarot card "The High Priestess".

For the Tarot card, I started from a 1200dpi scan of the original artwork, reduced it to grayscale, added transparency and re-colored the drawing "from the back" using pixel-based digital painting techniques in GIMP, specifically the brushes included in the "MyPaint" extension. The coloring is based on an underlying hue of green, reminiscent of chromoxide green -  a color which has left a lasting impression on me as it was often used by traditional painters as a background color, which remains perceivable as translucent layers are added on top. In this very fashion, I added multiple layers of tan, ocher and umbra to nuance the body and skin of "The Receiver". In a very final step, I added more pubic hair than in the original drawing. Due to the green color scheme and a spiritual encounter I had in Lisbon at the time, I named this colored version "The Receiver (Malachite)", referring to a Malachite stone - which can also be seen embedded in the amulet of "The Receiver".

I added the Tarot card frame in Sketch, where I design all my Tarot cards in a vector-graphics environment. I vary the color of the "Wings" of the frame with each card to match the content a little. With this card, I used a green hue to match the background color of "The Receiver". The writings on the card ("II", "The High Priestess", "Kruppa") are vectorized scans of my actual handwriting. I use the "Protrace" plugin for Sketch to derive vectorized shapes from my handwriting.

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

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