Saturday, June 28, 2014

In the Cards - Tarot Illustration (part 1)

So, this is a pretty big shift from most of what I've been doing.

The title pages to chapters of a graphic novel I've been illustrating are tarot cards. I did some very basic research when initially illustrating these, but, as I did more, I became more invested in the process, and refined my vision of the cards.

At a certain point, I realized I wanted to actually create a whole tarot deck, and put more research into the aesthetics of the cards.

These cards are based on the most popular illustrations of the Marseille imagery, and I tried to keep the sensibility of the original designs, while modernizing some of the graphics for consistency and legibility.

Other than the illustration style itself, some of the notable design choices I made:
  • The numbered cards (1-10) have their numbers marked in the corners, per regular playing cards, for ease scanning. Numerals have been replaced with the more common variants (for instance, 9 is "IX" instead of "VIIII").
  • All shading is from the upper-left corner, making it easier to quickly determine orientation
  • Each of the basic numbered cards' bottom number is gold, to make the orientation doubly clear
  • The swords and wands (clubs, etc.) were based on the least similar historical variations I could find within the aesthetic sense: Instead of the more traditional flared ends on both, the wands have rounded tips while the swords are partially unsheathed.
  • The suits have more heavily consistent colors, with the swords & wands emphasizing blue, and the cups & coins emphasizing red, both in the dominant colors and in the shading hue. These match the respective regular suits of spades & clubs (blue instead of black) and hearts & diamonds.
  • The face cards in each suit feature matching details (such as the capes in the above set) to repeat visual notes without limiting palate.
  • A number of proportions on the illustrated cards and ornamentations on the numbered cards have been altered remove some of the more distracting proportion issues and open up the graphic space on some of the number cards, while attempting to remain faithful to the style and content of the originals.

So, these are a draft that I consider quite close to done, and I'll be putting up the other suits as they're completed, but I'm looking for feedback. (Note: these include bleed for printing, so the margins will be smaller once printed)

I recognize that there are details I may have missed or ignored, regarding some of the more specific or historical connotations. I'm okay with this (and hope you are, too): The focus on this deck is aesthetics and legibility. However, details are important for functionality (as a factor of being able to read the cards' meanings), too, so, my first feedback question:

  • Are there details I've gotten wrong that are absolutely essential to the cards? ex: Did I misinterpret water as ground or elide some detail all iterations contain?  (This is opposed to details I missed, that aid in certain interpretations or are in many versions.)

Also, the other aspect of functionality yields another feedback request:

  • Are there ways I could improve legibility? Are there choices I've made which make cards harder to read?

More generally, I'd gladly welcome constructive criticism on content or style, though obviously it's a bit late to change any major stylistic elements.