Presenting Smith’s Tarot — First Edition — 2022
Dedicated to Pamela “Pixie” Smith — illustrator of the universally recognized Rider-Waite Tarot, mystic, and advocate for women’s suffrage.
After 56 days of illustrating, the First Edition of Smith’s Tarot is complete.
I promised I would have this deck done and posted by my daughter’s birthday, which is today. It’s been a long journey.
I had little to no experience with illustration coming into this. I’ve learned a lot over the last three months. It’s taken its toll on me physically. Gained a deal of weight. I’m shedding it.
I’ve fallen in love with art. The canvas. Its possibilities. Overcoming doubts. Working through the frustrations. I know some source greater than my own intervened on several occasions, and helped me through it.
Pixie had a lot to do with this. Her energy flows through all the cards. I’m forever grateful to her. She did not receive the recognition she should have received for illustrating the Rider-Waite Tarot. I plan on changing that.
You can expect me to embed a podcast talking about the entire deck in the days to come. I just wanted to get this done by midnight in honor of my daughter’s birthday.
Please let me know what you think!
Introducing the Major Arcana
22 Cards total. The major arcana, when used as part of a daily meditative practice, provides more than enough guidance to understand the path you need to take in life.
Introducing the Lesser Arcana
In the sequence in which they were drawn.
Lesser Arcana — Cups
I introduced microline pens with the Four of Cups and this became a standard moving forward. I started making permanent decisions, and was very careful with this drawing in particular. It took me several hours to complete this one. I also drew this on a sketch pad, which I only do for one other drawing in the deck. The rest of the pages are on Southworth 8.5 x 11" woven paper.
Here’s the only other drawing on sketch paper.
I rushed through this drawing. Wanted to get through it, because of the emotional attachments I had to it at the time. It reminded me of leaving Mexico City. Now I associate it with moving to greener pastures, where I am with my children.
Upon completion of this card I counted how many days I had left before my daughter’s birthday, and made a promise I would finish the deck before then. It would require me having to ramp up production significantly.
Once I started highlighting the neck of the Page of Cups there was no going back. This was before I started using a blending stick, which came with sandpaper. I end up using sandpaper later on to remove microline pen markings. This was before I started using that technique, which can tear the paper. I actually ended up tearing the paper on this one, from the sheer amount of markings on the neck.
This is the only drawing in the deck where I did some touching up using a digital pen through Krita app. Especially for the eyes. J.R. Spiers recalls in the comments of this post that they were the cleanest lines I had drawn. I saw in this folder that I had the Krita file just now, and this is why the lines are so clean! Which says something about J.R.’s recognition of linework. He has an amazing eye!
Pixie’s rendition of the Queen of Cups includes a ton of detail. I honestly got overwhelmed by it, and intimidated. Then I looked at the definition of the card, and how things are being kept hidden by her, so I adapted this and made it out to look like the celestial waterfall in the Great Dome which is found in a number of my novels. This character would represent Ancient Mother in that case.
This man reminds me of my brother. If there was a face to recall from it. Strange how it happens. I just go into it with a big leap of faith and once the lines are drawn there’s no going back. It’s one take, just like my typewritten pages.
This was dedicated to my daughter Lumine. A few faces can be found throughout. I wished for the eye globe in the Two of Swords to be seen on the Three of Swords, which you find below, with three cat faces. The eye is one of the first illustrations I started experimenting with. I find them most enjoyable to draw. Faces and eyes are my favorite. And hands are my least favorite, which I rarely get correct. Slowly learning the dimensions through repetition. As you can see in this one, I just avoided the hands altogether by making the woman’s hair longer.
This was arguably the most abstract of my illustrations. I wished to bring out as many eyes as I could find on the canvas. It ended up looking pretty messy, though if you look closely you will find a number of faces scattered throughout.
This face was originally supposed to be looking out at the ocean, so we could only see the back of his head. A face wished to come out, and then another. I left it as-is. You’ll also see other faces on the wands, if you look carefully. Three sailboats are in the ocean, too, all moving in the same direction.
I completed four illustrations on this day. This was the last one I completed on Southworth Ivory Wove paper.
Here I changed from Southworth Ivory Wove to White Wove, which I love to use now. I also started using a blending stump.
This is the first example of how I used sandpaper to erase ink lines, and it ended up creating this unique rusted effect on the swords. Normally the sandpaper is used for sharpening the blending stump. I just improvised on the spot as I didn’t want to redraw the card, as I was most happy with the rest of it, and it took a lot of concentration — lots of straight lines.
This was before I started erasing my pencil sketch lines. You can see them. The swords below became quite messy, so I made an attempt to fix this by making them look like they were sitting under glass.
The two defeated foes are looking over and one has his bags packed and the other is looking back with shock and awe. There are expressions in the clouds as well.
I wish you could have seen the faces before the microline ink was applied. They were most expressive. And now they have a unique 3D effect. All-in-all, I’m happy with the way it turned out.
I was very intimidated by this card, as there’s so much action happening that I wished to re-create. I just went at it with the microline pens, and what resulted was a drawing that’s different than the rest of the offerings in the deck. Curious to know your thoughts. Saturn can be found there, sparring. He’s the one with the hat.
Here’s another example of how the microline pens force decisions to be made. One face led to two, and both became masks at the end of the day. I also used the sandpaper under my signature, as the sword lines crossed over and ruined the illusion I was going for where the swords were stuck in the background. You can see where the paper started deteriorating as a result of the scrubbing. And if you look carefully enough, some of the ink line remains, though subtle enough not to notice unless it’s pointed out. I love the face on the moon above. Complete look of disapproval, and not with the man getting away with the swords, but with someone we don’t see off the page.
This was before I started doing linework on the wands and the clothing of the characters on the cards. You’ll see the difference in detail in the Eight of Wands below.
I’m most happy with this card. The linework was very precise on this day. We’re talking about a very small canvas — 120mm x 70mm which is the standard size of a Tarot card. That’s the space allowed to get this done. A lot of the linework for me just required constant leaps of faith. If you zoom out it looks very detailed on the 8.5x11" page.
You’ll see I committed an error with the second sword from the top, though I left it in. I drew cascades of hexagons to bring out texture in the bed comforter. This required a lot of straight lines. One of four cards completed on this day.
This was my second or third illustration of the day, I do not recall the sequence in which they were drawn, though I am very happy with the line work on this offering. If I were to make some touch-ups, I would add more hair to remove the perceived bump on the head. Though technically this card represents the wounded warrior. So it’s all good. Happy with it.
Many of these scratch effects I will use again — all thanks to Blackwing pencils and Southworth White Wove paper, gives you the foundation for some very cool effects to come out on the page.
This one is pretty wild. I started working on the face, which was the top-most portion of the head. The proportions were off, so I kept going with the microline pens and drew another face underneath, and blended the two to where it looks like the top is a helmet, Darth Vader-style. This card represents a spy, so it all worked out in the end. The blending stumps added a nice rain effect with the saturated clouds, which I shall use again. It was a happy accident.
The face before using microline pens was most detailed, so I promised myself I wouldn’t use permanent pen with the Knight of Wands. I like how the horse ended up looking back at the viewer.
I used tons of care with the queen’s face. Just the slightest touch with the microline pens. We’re talking about a very small canvas size: 120mm x 70mm — the standard size of a Tarot card. No room for error.
This time I used the sandpaper on the face of the king to create a beard stubble. The face is quite realistic as a result. Looks like my brother. None of it was planned. Like all others in the deck. The faces that arrive are meant to be. Had difficulty with the hands, per usual, though this time it appears as if the sword is about to fall out of the king’s hands. Some shock and surprise that caused it.
Ten of Wands intimidated me, and then I just went at it, and started drawing the wands, as I at least knew how to get those done. The feet were my biggest concern, and they turned out better than I could have hoped. This was a big leap of faith.
Here’s an example of how the absence of microline pens on the face leaves an incredible amount of detail. Canvas size is much smaller than what we are looking at here — only 120mm x 70mm.
This is what I imagine my son Liam Yeshua will look like as a young adult before his beard grows in.
This time I intentionally removed the face detail with microline pen. Wanted there to be a bit of mystery left.
This is my proudest achievement in the entire deck. From the microline work on the queen’s face, to the corset, to the cat in front. The gift she holds with her left hand I created dot by dot. If you check out the link to the card above, you’ll see how she looks similar to Vanessa Carlton. The video of her song 1,000 Miles, was made entirely without green screen. Vice did a cool documentary about it. She actually was strapped to a camera dolly and transported all around. It’s a remarkable video.
I liked how the face of the King of Wands took on the form of hieroglyphic art. I went with as it started developing on the page. Wanted to make his crown look like it was on fire, since this is his dominion.
This was the last card I completed to wrap the deck.
Thanks for reading, and viewing! Would love to know your thoughts in the comments. Next plan is to have these printed on gold foil.
Until then, let’s groove!