One of the motifs that kicked of the work on my first Tarot deck in 2021 was "Polvo (Aquatic Lovers III)", a pencil drawing that depicts a female character and an octopus in dynamic entanglement. Based on this drawing, I created the first version of my Tarot card, "The Lovers", featured in my "Coven of Corals Tarot":
While the artwork generated a modest buzz online and evoked plenty of reactions, I believe that it was also poorly interpreted by many who felt reminded of violent alien tentacle phantasies, a common trope of hentai porn. Instead, the idea of my artwork is to illustrate a tender and sensual encounter between two very improbable lovers - and it specifically builds on the fact that for an octopus, tentacles are not merely tactile organs, but they are delicate sensors experiencing taste and smell, too.
So with my new version of this card, I sought to emphasize the notions of mutual, consensual pleasure, curiosity, exploration and gentle stimulation.
For the female figure in this artwork, I used a photographic reference which I bought from Studio Grafit, a creative studio in Yerevan, Armenia. They sell reference photo packs on Gumroad and Artstation and I can highly recommend them, specifically if you are a freelance artist looking for affordable and very diverse photo sets which are cleared for commercial use.
1) First, I traced the outline of the female figure from my reference photos with a digital brush (blue) and added the general shape of an octopus from imagination (purple). I de-satured this sketch, reduced opacity and printed it on a page of drawing paper as a guide for the next step.
2) Here you can see how I drew my pencil artwork "on top" of the digital sketch, which I superimposed here for demonstration purposes. The composition is such that the "hands" and "feet" of both protagonists are touching, implying a gentle, sensual connection. If you explore this drawing for a while, maybe you will discover more elements of the composition which imply harmony.
3) This is the digitised version of my pencil drawing, where I added some stronger black lines with the digital equivalent of an ink brush pen.
4) A gray base color allows me to then "elevate" areas which are directly illuminated, creating a more believable integration of the characters into the surrounding space.
5) You know this step already from my other Major Arcana cards, such as "The Magician" or "The Empress": By mapping the gray values to a purple palette, the archetypical trump cards are seemingly shifted to an ethereal space.
6) Here, I add a darker skin tone and also highlight the little "D"-shaped, enclosed area between the breasts and the tentacle.
7) To finish the "astral projection" look, I add bright turquoise highlights where there really should be dark shadows - this way, the whole composition seems as if glowing from the inside.
8) In the final step, I adapt brightness, contrast and saturation for printing.
How do you like my re-make of "The Lovers"? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below, and let me know if there is anything else you would like to know about this artwork.
This card is included in my "Neon Kruppa"-Tarot, which will be available starting November 1st, 2023 and can be pre-ordered now!