A new Tarot Card page on sortmind.com showcases a handful of the seventy-eight cards in my eccentric Tarot deck, which really doesn’t have a name so I guess two rough draft names will do for now. Sometime in 2000 the owner of a New Age bookstore in Dallas dared me to make my own set of Tarot cards, producing a pack of blank cards for me to start with. It took me three years from 2001-2004 to finish the set in black ink on card stock, each card 4.75” x 2.75”.
There are twenty-nine Major Arcana and four suits: Shapes, Notebooks, Strange Bishops, and Nudes, but not all the suits are complete. I had no fixed rules in doing this project and by the time I figured I’d made too many Major Arcana I decided I could skip a few cards in each suit. So nobody gets a full run from Ace to King, but so what? One of the Strange Bishops does list the missing cards.
Somehow the whole collection has an autobiographical feel. Included in the Major Arcana are homages to the twelve novels I’d written up to that time, including the most recent effort, Nonprofit Ladies, which I later changed to Nonprofit Chronowar.
I’ve done some Tarot readings with this deck and they really do seem to be psychically informative!
I’ve only digitally colorized twelve of the original black and white cards, and will do more from time to time and post them on the Tarot Card page. But I don’t want that page to get unwieldy, and I only want to colorize when it seems fun, so I doubt I’ll finish the deck anytime soon. The fact that some cards are better than others also enters into the equation; a few are dazzling gifts from the universe, or so it seems to me at least, and they should come first. I colorized a couple cards just because I was writing a blog post and wanted an illustration; a card would come to mind, so I’d colorize it for that post.
- Scan at 300 dpi grayscale for an UR-image, then save as a black and white bitmap to have just two colors, black and white.
- Close up all the black lines into discrete fields so that solid color can later be introduced into them. In some cases I’ve had to do some serious editing with Paint’s pencil tool.
- Save the result as a 256 color bitmap, then start filling the fields with (usually) the default Paint colors so the cards will look similar. Microsoft’s Paint may be primitive, but it has the feel I want here; the results look curiously similar to the Waite Tarot (illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith).
- Save the color bitmap when all is colored to my satisfaction. Then save as jpeg at 72 dpi (paint.net is great for this) to minimize the final file size for the web.
- This process generates five or more files, all of which I keep.
Colorizing a card is like working a puzzle and is satisfying, albeit low level, craft work. Some cards have come out very nicely, and others could always be redone. Each is an entire evening’s work, during which time I could have written ten pages of fiction. I’m always amazed at how time-intensive image work is. It’s relaxing and obsessive, but never requires the courage involved in singing out fiction.
The original black and white cards, which themselves are never colored or altered, have some interesting experimental touches. I did rough drafts for many of them on separate sheets of paper, but aside from a couple cases where I penciled the card first and then traced the image in ink, each card was a fresh new ink drawing, and so if I made mistakes I had to figure out creative ways to correct them with even more ink. Sometimes in colorizing a card I’ll correct those original mistakes in a more elegant way.
copyright 2015 by Michael D. Smith