The Coven of Corals

Jump to Section:

What I Did /  Why I Did It / Why I Really Did It / The Coven of What? / What I Talk About When I Talk About Tarot / A Frame for Everything  / How I Did It / Where To See It / Reading Recommendations

What I Did

The Coven of Corals is a cycle of 78 paintings I created between Dec. 31, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021. Formally embedded into the framework of a Tarot card set, these inner visions are intimate reflections of femininity, my own sexual identity and an emotional state most precisely captured by the term "Eros" - the sensation of longing, and the joyful anticipation to be in touch with the source of this sensation. The Coven of Corals has been my main artistic project of 2021 and I published it in January 2022. 

Why I Did It

Soon after I began creating erotic artworks in 2019/2020, I found that addressing a topic as vulnerable and intimate as erotic phantasies is something of a spiritual endeavour in itself, which bears a significant manifestation potential. After all, paying attention to my "inner vision" and expressing it on paper helps me achieve a heightened awareness of my heartfelt desires. It allows myself to envision the state of being in touch with the source of this desire and, consequentially, to attract it. But even during the creative process, being immersed in the subject of my art can be a very transformative, "holy" experience - a transient, performative quality which I find equally meaningful as the tangible, persistent result of the creative process.

With the onset of my artistic work (and the simultaneous onset of the Corona pandemic), I encountered spiritual or self-reflective practices such as yoga, meditation or the use of oracle cards and integrated them into my personal routines. Against the backdrop of this emergent spiritual journey, the idea of matching my erotic imagery with the mystical air of Tarot cards was born. Several features of my work supported this notion: First, my pictures were initially drawn on index cards, which invited the idea that each piece is a palpable "thing", charged with an individual story or energy. Even though I eventually moved on to larger formats, this quality of a standalone, self-contained artefact remains with my artworks. In most cases, my pictures are drawn from imagination, i.e. I rarely use photographic or life references. I have learned to consciously prefer the resulting emotional "directness" over a more graphically "correct" style - which, over time, came anyway through practice and observation. Being able to tap into that "directness" means that emotion can flow unhindered - a quality which allows me, and others, to "feel" my works, potentially even when there is a spiritual charge involved. All these features made it seem like a natural choice to marry my spectrum of sexual phantasies with elements of spiritual self-search by creating a Tarot set.

My first attempt to do so dates back to the summer of 2020, when I had piled up a considerable stash of erotic artworks already - but I eventually opted for creating a collection of postcards instead, which helped me gain experience in archiving, digitising, printing, marketing and selling my work. Also, this step allowed me to compile a digital portfolio of design elements and to figure out digital processes which helped my work - and others which didn't. Eventually, this stage informed my financially rather bold decision to take my digital equipment up a considerable notch - something I have discussed in one of my blog posts. Later that same year, this step allowed me to start working on an anthology of my erotic artworks (158 pieces at the time!) which became my handmade art book, "Licking Lion" - again, a source of tremendous practical experience, as I designed and manufactured this volume entirely by myself, and I even got into the weeds of bookbinding O_o. Probably equivalent to my Ph.D. thesis in some regard, this multi-facetted endeavour gave me the confidence that I can turn a big artistic vision like this into reality - step by step. And it was wonderful to see my art collected in my very first book, which I finished in February 2021.

The full sequence of these erotic artworks - visible in context for the first time in my book - culminated in a set of decisive, rather surprising insights about myself. These insights have determined the direction of my art throughout the year 2021, and the last image of my "Licking Lion" series became the first among the "Coven of Corals". 

Why I Really Did It

In particular, there are two notions which have become primary personal and artistic interests of mine, and which I seek to articulate, get in touch with and amplify through my "Coven of Corals" cycle:

  1. There is a female being inside of me or I am, in fact, a female being, but it is difficult to see or to understand what that means. Not only did my art allow me to realise this during the first year of my artistic work, it is also a wonderfully healing and loving vehicle to explore this vulnerable notion, to give space to my femininity and to help it emerge. It is also a process to understand what stands (or stood) in the way of accepting and exposing this set of attributes. You might very well say that this is my personal and intimate take on the issue of gender queerness / gender nonconformity or nonbinary sexual identities.
  2. Now, what does that have to do with my sexuality? Accepting the notion that my sexual identity might in fact be a more facetted blend of "male" and "female" attributes - or, more realistically, eludes these categories altogether - how does this affect how I allow myself to think and feel about sexuality, intimacy, attraction? Assuming that what stood in the way of appreciating my own femininity might also have affected my beliefs about sexual intimacy, I explore a space of phantasies previously inaccessible. This might very well be framed as an attempt to find an inner state of intimacy which is free of toxic masculinity and not concerned with hetero-normative roles. In that sense, the "Coven of Corals" is a foundational work for me, as it involves deconstructing beliefs and building something new, gently, from the bottom up and close to my very own base - a set of inner visions I just know to be true. 

Certainly, these are no easy topics to address, but bear in mind that my art helps me to actually be in touch with what I draw, meaning that for the time I draw it, it is real in my life. Imagine you could make things real by drawing them, what would you draw?

The Coven of What?

The motivic connection of these two topics forms the inspiration for the title of my work, "The Coven of Corals":

"Coven": A kind of circle or secret society, typically the organizational form of witches or magicians. To me, this term indicates a spiritual or transformative dimension, an initially hidden, arcane location where my story takes place. The idea of such a hidden dimension befits the occult appeal of Tarot cards, which are formally divided into "Major Arcana" (big secrets) and "Minor Arcana" (little secrets) and have been employed as divination tools for centuries. The term also resonates with the idea of transcending gender: A "magical" step into the extra dimensions folded between those which can be plainly perceived - and the splendid company of the covenants, who are courageous enough to explore this uncharted space.

The notion of "Corals" introduces an associative spectrum of warmth, gentleness and delicacy to my work and thus supports "femininity" - or a range of ​​attributes that I would like to make visible, emphasize and appreciate in myself by using this declaration. It also underlines the fact that the matter I am exploring here is highly fragile and sensitive, almost translucent, and deserves to be touched in the softest and most loving way, in a protected and safe environment.

With my work, I invite the viewer to explore this intimate and vulnerable “Coven of Corals” and thus participate in my own longing, erotic desire for a wondrous cosmos of feminine magic and utmost tenderness.

Image: The first edition of my Tarot card "The High Priestess" (Giclée Print, 60cm x 102cm) during my exhibition in Berlin, Germany in 2021

What I Talk About When I Talk About Tarot

The structure of the Tarot set has amplified and guided my artistic efforts and encouraged me to build my creative process in the shape of a spiritual, almost ceremonial routine, and to accept the evocative energy of the resulting artworks as something of an omen, a pointer born from the dreamlike mesh of my transient visual impressions, paired with sometimes obsessive thoughts and speechless intentions. In many ways, this process is a manifestation of a quote I encountered somewhere along the way:

"I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me."

- Hermann Hesse

My artworks are grouped in five branches, which formally correspond to the categories of the Tarot cards but are adapted to the topics of my journey. In general, the cards have not been created in a particular chronological order with respect to these categories.


Image: The 78 cards of a Tarot set in a schematic representation. There are 22 trump cards, called the Major Arcana, plus four suits of 14 cards each, collectively called the Minor Arcana. The latter are structurally similar to french-suited playing cards, but instead of hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades, the suits of a Tarot set are the pentacles, cups, wands and swords. Each suit starts with an Ace, followed by the numbers 2..10 and the Page, Knight, Queen and King card. Typically, all numbering is done in Roman numerals, but starts with the arabic number zero for the Major Arcana.


In the following section, I will outline the meaning I personally attribute to these five categories within the Coven of Corals artworks and share examples of each branch. For traditional Tarot card interpretations, I refer to Stefan Stenudd, whose page and online repository I found very insightful and particularly helpful in familiarising myself with the spectrum of the 78 cards and their spiritual meanings.

Also, I have compiled a list of personal Reading Recommendations below, focussed on articles which connect Tarot to contemporary issues, including queerness and sexual diversity.

The Major Arcana, the 22 trump cards of the Coven of Corals Tarot deck, are predominantly reflections of myself, in a figurative way - what I see in myself, what I know to be true about myself, and the internal processes set in motion by past and current experiences. Visually and spiritually, these images are sometimes playful re-interpretations of the Major Arcana of the traditional and most commonly used Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot cards, and they may include stylistic nods to the timeless aesthetics of these quasi-canonic cards, to varying degrees. However, throughout my creative process, I favour personal expression over resemblance to the traditional cards and take the liberty to re-define symbols as needed - or simply not to refer any existing imagery at all.

The Minor Arcana, which are constituted by four suits of 14 cards each, gravitate towards four distinct topics:


The Pentacles of the Coven of Corals are dedicated to the notion of (intellectual) obsession - a consistent, characteristic energy of probably anything I have ever undertaken, and have taken pride in. Discussing a phenomenon which can be painful at times, these cards are intended to reconcile myself with the beauty of my obsessive traits - which are, beyond any doubt, an essential resource which contribute to my ability to focus my attention and to my stick-to-itiveness. Tracing the progression of these cards, the viewer may observe my desire to achieve mastery - and also my disillusionment at the limited degree of happiness which this path holds, or my limited ability to convert "bloodless" technical effort into personal meaning. Still, there seems to be a value and a meaning in this pristine path, and the Pentacles are my way of assessing, doubting and illuminating this trajectory. In a traditional Tarot interpretation, the Pentacles illustrate states of the human mind, broadly speaking, so there is some correlation in that [Stenudd].

The Cups of the Coven of Corals talk about lust, and about being in touch with others, emotionally and physically. These cards are definitely where the "Corals" come in, they describe a realm of translucent softness and the ethereal pleasures of weightlessness. Surprising and perplexing to myself, I hold these images very dear as mysterious, fragile artefacts from an underwater treasure trove - they are absolutely where the magic happens, and most of them I would find hard to explain, after all. In a traditional Tarot interpretation, too, the Cups are about emotions and matters of the heart, so there you go.

The Wands of the Coven of Corals illustrate the physical part of my journey, the idea of being in touch with the world: Putting feet on the ground, becoming visible and leaving a palpable mark. The female physique is represented in a particularly flashy, trim, muscular way in these cards, articulating the capability, but also the inherent sexual force of the body which often seems to have a will of its own. In the context of traditional Tarot divination, wand cards point towards material concerns and earthly matters [Stenudd].

Prophecies and badasseries: The Swords of the Coven of Corals talk about radical decisions - the notion of doing things which are quite unheard of, and doing them in a very consequential way according to an "inner compass". Furthermore, the Swords include prophecies of the heart, prescient visions of what is to come. As with intellectual obsession, these are characteristic ingredients of my life and my artistic endeavours: The inherent desire to purge and to re-frame who I am and what I do, to achieve consistency between my values and my reality - and to let myself be lead by the strange clarity of inner pictures.

Traditionally, the cards of the swords suit are indeed about setting intentions and acting towards those [Stenudd].

For Tarot connaisseurs, there will be plenty of recognisable links to the imagery and spiritual meaning of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot cards throughout my entire "Coven of Corals" series. While I used the traditional Tarot cards and their interpretation as a constant reference and inspiration throughout my process, I eventually refrained from attempting a one-to-one adaptation, which I found to limit the flow of my imagery to the detriment of my work. While I am sure that my "Coven of Corals" cards will remain readable as a source of spiritual truth and a guidance for myself going forward, I wonder if and to which extent Tarot practitioners might derive their own meaning from my imagery - which may be determined by their willingness to follow my stream of consciousness and accept the cards as a quite immediate and unique reflection of the inner workings of my mind. On the other hand: If one were to use my "Coven of Corals" images in the practical sense of Tarot cards, i.e., perform spiritual readings with them, rarely would there have been a set of cards so full of authentic expression, supercharged with the intimate energy of my own spiritual and personal journey. I think this could be particularly powerful for Tarot practitioners who themselves explore topics such as gender queerness or a state of sexual intimacy which is free from toxic masculinity.


Image: To varying degrees, my "Coven of Corals" artworks are playful re-interpretations of traditional Tarot imagery, applied to the language of my phantasy. Left: My version of "The Hermit", No. 9 of the Major Arcana. Right: "The Hermit" in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, the most commonly used and quasi-canonic Tarot card set.

A Frame for Everything

I use a uniform frame for all the cards and highlight the four suits by the color of the decorative elements of this frame. Instead of "forcing" the symbols of the four suits into my images, I define the cards by written declaration, which I think does more justice to the individual pictures and allows the writing to be a part of the artwork. I.e., the "Two of Pentacles" card is identifiable as such primarily by its written title, so that the art can be freely perceived without needing to convey the information of its placement within the deck. I use all-caps writing with the Major Arcana, the Aces, Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings of all suits, and mixed upper case & lower case writing with the remaining cards. Some of these choices I would have probably made differently if I were to design a product focussed on usability, but here I wanted to focus on artistic expression while still incorporating the Tarot frame as a common visual theme.

There is a lot to be said about the details of my Tarot card frame - how I first created it and how it evolved throughout my process, visually. This could be a fruitful topic to explore in a future blog post - for now, I will just say that I find the frame in it's final appearance supports my work, by topically binding all 78 works together, while at the same time setting each of the artworks free by enabling them to persist individually and also to radiate beyond the frame, to some extent.

How I Did It

Methodically, my "Coven of Corals" artworks are a blend of traditional drawings, paintings or mixed media works on paper and digital processes such as vectorisation or the use of overlays. Most frequently, I use pencils, ink brush pens, watercolours, chalk, gouache and acrylics on DIN A4-sized paper - either thick, white almost cardboard-like "Clairefontaine Paint-On Multi-Techniques Paper", or smooth, heavy "stone paper", with the addition of a couple of pulpy sketchbook pages. I scan my traditional works using an EPSON ET-7750 flatbed scanner and then perform digital drawing / painting steps using GIMP and SKETCH - this includes adding transparency to certain regions, colouring or re-colouring the artwork, adding vector-based shapes and elements and, most importantly, placing the artworks inside the Tarot card frame, which I designed using SKETCH. My Tarot cards have an aspect ratio of 7:12 and a resolution of 7000:12000 pixels, so they can comfortably be printed in large sizes. Each card includes a title and a signature, both derived from vectorised scans of my handwriting.

Where to see it

For the time being, I have chosen to present the outcome of my "Coven of Corals" work in the shape of Gallery Fine Art Prints, sized 70 cm x 120 cm (27.6 In x 47.2 In). I will display a rolling selection of my 78 artworks in the Gallery section of this page, with each artwork limited to a total number of four authenticated prints which can be acquired there.

Please feel free to reach out via E-Mail if there is something else you'd like to know about my project. Also, check out my FAQ section.

And, finally: Enjoy my art.

Cologne, January 2022 


Reading Recommendations

Here, I would like to point out resources which I found especially helpful in approaching Tarot cards and understanding their history and cultural meaning. In particular, I'd like to emphasize the work of authors and journalists who report on contemporary Tarot re-interpretations:

    • Megan Bradley of The New York Times Style Magazine reports on "The Artists and Designers Making Tarot Decks for Today". The article provides a visually appealing and very thorough overview of historical and modern approaches to Tarot. Bradley links the power of Tarot to make meaning and establish community to recent artistic endeavours revolving around environmental sustainability or diasporic experiences of the black community.
    • Terra Loire of published a compelling article on Queer Tarot, in which she reflects on the predominantly heteronormative interpretation of Tarot - most characteristically captured by the common omission of Pamela Coleman Smith as the female artist and main creator of the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck - and presents recent Tarot art focussed on sexual diversity and queer representation.
    • Eleanor Tremeer of shared an article on "How Queer Identity & The Tarot Are Connected", in which she traces how Tarot is fundamentally connected to the exploration of identity - or hidden parts thereof - and offers a surprising amount of reference points to articulate the queer experience in contemporary times. She also presents a modern selection of Tarot art picking up on the connection between spirituality and queer identity.
    • Leaning more towards a critical dissection of commercialised spirituality, Stefanie Diemand of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung discusses how Tarot cards have recently acquired an unprecedented mainstream appeal - and how a renewed, broadly-based interest in witchcraft and oracles generates billions in business revenue.
For a more in-depth discussion of traditional Tarot cards, their documented history and spiritual application as a method of foretelling, I recommend:
      • Stefan Stenudd, - a particularly detailed and well-written online repository with descriptions of all Major and Minor Arcana Tarot cards and all the suit symbols. Stenudd is the author of the book "Tarot Unfolded" and many other books on divination, oracles and spirituality.
      • Helen FarleyA cultural history of Tarot : From Entertainment to Esotericism, Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, ISBN: 1788314913, 9781788314916. From the book description (Nielsen Book Data): "This is the first book to explore the remarkably varied ways in which tarot has influenced culture. Tracing the changing patterns of the deck's use, from game to mysterious oracular device, Helen Farley examines tarot's emergence in 15th century Milan and discusses its later associations with astrology, kabbalah and the Age of Aquarius."