Unrequited Creativity

•April 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been packing for the past couple days, readying myself for a 6 week creative sabbatical in the wilderness of northern Canada. Now that I’ve hired a salesperson for my web business I can handle most of the work remotely, so I’ll be spending the weeks where there’s a wireless connection, and the weekends pretty far away from any wireless connection. Spring is amazing in the North. The deciduous trees seem to explode with foliage almost overnight in May. It’s literally as if the Knight of Pentacles rides through in one week, and the poplars go from bare to flush with his passage.

I’m looking forward to the trip. It recharges the batteries to get away from the hustle of Hollywood life and onto the edge of the wilderness.

I packed all my sketchbooks and my tablet already. That was a mistake. The creative urge has a schedule of its own, and it took hold tonight.  I’m almost to the point of tearing off chunks of wallpaper and burning a stick from the front yard do do a charcoal sketch.

Ah well. The pent up energy will be well put to use when I get off the plane.



Card Layout

•April 6, 2009 • 1 Comment

Here’s an example of the layout of the cards.

I’ve chosen Temperance as the primary image for the deck.

Temperance was the first card that I painted.

Adam MacLean describes on his website how Tarot is an extremely rigid and restrictive artform. The deck has a strict structure, and each image has some precise guidelines. When you add to this the Golden Dawn method of coloring the deck, you are restricted even further, since the pallette for each card is limited.

Temperance was my first experiment with using the limited pallette and the “flashing color” technique as a substitute for gradients. The results were pleasing.


My personal herald -- Temperance.

My personal herald -- Temperance.





•April 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After some deliberation, I decided that it’s time to publish the Ra Horakhty Tarot from the 1995 paintings.

The response from people has been very positive, and I’m very excited to go to the next step.

The deck will be published through Lighthammer Press, and will be available through Amazon.com late July.

Pre-sales will be available soon. I’ll post the details about that as soon as we’re ready.

Here’s a sneak peek at what the back of each card will look like.


Design for the back of the RHT Tarot card.

Design for the back of the RHT Tarot card.



Peace for now.


The High Priestess

•April 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Key 2

The lack of sleep may be catching up to me. 

Sleep is an interesting thing. The body requires it. There are certain processes that only occur during sleep. The liver triggers a toxin flush. Certain hormones trigger recuperative processes. The every day waking state, is a state of hyperactivity. 

There is an saying, “The Magician never sleeps.” Although on the surface this sounds like practitioners of the Western Mystery Traditions are all a bunch of raving insomniacs (only at times!) the deeper meaning behind the saying is that the Magician is always conscious.

Years of practice yield the ability to remain aware in multiple states of consciousness — even deep sleep. Of course, many peope would say that is crazy, but it occurs. Cognitive neuroscientists have been running tests on people who practice meditation. One case in particular was run on long term practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. The study showed that the long term practioners could enter into and maintain a prolonged state of Gamma brainwave activity. There is also the practice of Yoga Nidra, or “Union with Sleep.” In Yoga Nidra practitioners slowly trains themselves to remain conscious during progressively deeper levels of sleep.

What does all this have to do with the High Priestess card? She represents the transition between two very deep states of consciousness that everyday people only experience in very deep sleep. Think of her as the gateway between theta and delta consciousness — she’s the gatekeeper of deep sleep.

Here’s the rough version of the 2009 High Priestess, and her counterpart from the Ra Horakhty Tarot.


Key 2 of the Tarot

Key 2 of the Tarot



As always, feedback is welcome.


The Magician

•April 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Key 1

Last night I got a bee in my bonnet and began the work on Key 1, The Magician, or the Magus.

The process for the deck this time is different than it was in 1994. 15 years ago, I made a sketch of the image based on the photocopy that Laura gave me, then I went over the sketch with three different drafting pens (1mm, .75mm, and 0.5 mm). After the ink dried, I scanned the image into the computer and made a print. When all the black and white images were complete I took them to a printer and printed two copies of the deck on acid-free card stock. Then the painting began.

Now I use Photoshop and a paint tablet.

The process now is to render a sketch (graphite on paper) as complete as possible, and scan it. Then in Photoshop, the real fun begins. The painting process is much faster than it used to be. Partially because adhering to a workflow allows for quick recovery of errors, and partially because my artistic skills are refined.

Painting, whether working with physical media like acrylic paints and graphite, or with a tablet, puts me into an “alpha state.” Alpha brainwaves are characteristic of a dreamlike state very similar to the effect you feel when you are in between deep sleep and waking up. The perception of “time” is gone when you’re in Alpha. So when I began painting last night, it was 11pm. When I next checked the clock, it was 7am.

In the middle of working, I had a clear realization of color. One little trick while working on one of the Photoshop layers sparked a revelation — I learned more about color in that one flash than I’ve ever conceived before. After 20+ years of studying color, from color theory to optics to cognitive development in the visual cortex, one moment changed all my previous perceptions. It was cool.

Here’s a rough version after last night’s session.

Key 1 of the Tarot

Key 1 of the Tarot


Let me know what you think.


A 15 year journey

•April 4, 2009 • 3 Comments

A Brief History of Design

My journey developing tarot cards started 15 years ago in a small town just south of Seattle.

At that time I was a student with a Golden Dawn group called Ra Horakhty Temple, run by Laura and Peter Yorke. At that time, Laura was the literary agent for Pat Zalewski, a Golden Dawn adept from New Zealand, and author of many book. Laura negotiated Pat’s contracts with Llewellyn Publications. Pat’s Golden Dawn Tarot manuscript was in edit at that time. The artist who was working on the illustrations for the book was very meticulous, and the illustrations were slow in coming.

I had worked with Laura and her editor on illustrations and diagrams for the Ra Horakhty Temple Correspondence Course, and Laura offered me the opportunity to design the Tarot deck to accompany Pat’s manuscript. Within a few months, the black and white line drawings were complete, and over the next year I painted them.

The images were never published in the United States. Pat self-published the Tarot manuscript with the images I designed a few years later, although I was never credited for the illustrations in that publication.

A Journey of Design

The Adeptus Minor curriculum in Golden Dawn work requires the student to paint their own Tarot deck. Depending on the artistic skills of the person, each personalized deck varies. 

Prior to the advent of photocopiers, students had to copy the images from the temple prototype deck, learn the color scales, and color the deck following the instructions. This is no small undertaking. Each deck consists of 78 cards  – 22 Major Arcana, 16 Court Cards and 36 Minor Arcana. The Color Scales, which are the colors from which the pallettes of each card are derived, consist of over 256 individual hues.

I followed this path in designing the Ra Horakhty deck. Laura provided me photocopies of the line drawings of the cards that were used in the Whare Ra temple in New Zealand. She also provided photocopies of the Court Card drawings done by W. Wynn Westcott. From these I derived new styles of images for the deck.

In 1995, when the Ra Horakhty deck was designed, the only tarot deck on the market that followed the Golden Dawn taught color scheme was the Book of Thoth designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. (I’m not sure if Tabitha Cicero’s deck was in publication at that time.) Since then I’ve seen a couple other decks that have been produced.

Painting the deck was an arduous task. Each card is a mandala, and the color scheme associated with each card involves a technique of using complementary colors that is called “flashing.” Painting puts you into a meditative state. Experiencing the flashing colors with the archetypal imagery depicted in the Tarot deck for extended periods of time is something that can only be experienced. There were times when I was physically ill during the process. It was not uncommon to become obsessed with each card, working without sleep for a couple days as I painted.

The end product was a full deck of cards.

Continuing the Journey

Over the years since finishing the deck, I’ve continued doing Golden Dawn work. Ra Horakhty Temple went underground in the late ’90s in response to the internet “flame wars.” All of Laura’s Correspondence Course had been copyrighted. My Tarot deck was copyrighted, although I’ve never published it. Over the years a set of color scales has evolved to fit the digital age — based on the RGB color cube. It has complete RGB and CMYK color values, so that students can easily replicate a color without trying to translate descriptions like “Livid indigo brown-black-beetle.”

Recently, I opened up the file of the original paintings and scanned them to preserve them on disk. In doing so, things started happening again. I thought I should finally publish the deck. In addition, it occurred to me that I could now digitally update the cards with the “corrected” or evolved color scales.

Outer Visions

Pat made a comment on the website advertising his self-published “Golden Dawn Tarot” that he didn’t like the designs of the Ra Horakhty Deck, but the coloring had been executed with skill, and truly flashed. I respect his opinion. The designs reflected the state of my personal journey 15 years ago. It’s a funny thing looking at the designs now — some of them are brilliant, and some of them are not. There are errors in the color schemes that I now look at and say to myself, “What kind of crack was I on when I painted that one?”

I have never been very happy with the Golden Dawn tarot cards. The images are static and the symbolism is childishly blatant. I have a deep love of Crowley’sBook of Thoth.” W. Wynn Westcott’s designs for the Court Cards were inspired. That said, it is also important to understand that the Tarot designs are templates. Each design is unique to the artist(s) involved.

Inner Visions

Artists see things inside their heads. We have these inner visions and the urge to make them.

When I was painting the deck, I started experiencing extremely strong visions. These were clear, brilliant, emotionally disturbing vistas on the inner moviescreen that we all possess. The tarot was redesigning itself as I progressed. Over the years, these images have stayed with me. I’ve sketched out several of them, and have now begun to bring the visions into reality.

A New Journey

I’ve decided not to redo the Ra Horakhty deck with the new color scheme.

The time and energy will be better spent in developing the new deck — one for which there is no name yet.

This will be an ongoing process, and I’m inviting you to take part in it.

Let me know what you think — share the blog, tell as many people as you want, and by all means, leave as many comments as you like.