Trying to Resume the Etteilla Doodles

I’ve been trying to summon the motivation to resume my reconstructed Etteilla Tarot project. Funny… the card I resume on is the Four of Swords, which perfectly captures how I’ve been feeling.

Here are varying drafts of my illustration for the Etteilla Four of Swords. My art process begins with sketches by hand that I then scan in, clean up, and digitally color. I also separate out each feature in the composition as its own layer, so I can move around the pieces, resize, etc.

I’m hoping the companion guidebook isn’t just for my Etteilla deck, but Etteilla tarots in general. You can click on any of the images in this blog post for an enlarged zoomed-in view.

The biggest difference between the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot and this Etteilla project is my interpretative approach. With the SKT, I departed quite a bit from both RWS and Thoth, though it’s evidently inspired by both.

Whereas with this Etteilla project, I’m trying to stay close to “book meaning” as found in authoritative texts. Even when I vary slightly from what you see on the Etteilla I, II, or III, there’s still documented precedence for that expression of the card via “book meaning.”

And while I don’t read with reversals with the SKT (though you most certainly can), a case could be made that you’ll definitely want to read with reversals with this Etteilla. Like that’s kinda the whole point. I mean, I don’t want to say anyone must do anything. Ultimately you do you. But yeah.

Earlier draft of the Four of Swords

In my first draft my thought was for the kylix (in the reversed position) to be filled with red wine, but the resulting drawing looks more like blood. Yikes. And also the open sky behind the woman looked a bit bare. Sure, open sky and airy makes sense for a Swords card (element Air), but still.

Changing it to a vessel of consecrated water made more sense, and stays in line with one of the secondary themes in the subtext of this illustration. Oh– and the silhouette of a trees in the background is modified from public domain clip art. Yeah, yeah– I took a shortcut. =) But I figure doing so is totally in line with what Etteilla himself and his printmakers woulda done. =D

Digitally tinkering with color adjustments.

Lately I’ve been feeling a vague sense of heaviness, and coincidentally that’s expressed here in this card. And as I was writing up the card meaning entry for the Four of Swords, I kept thinking, “oh man, this exactly describes how I’ve been feeling.”

Some of the versions of the card I tinkered with featured the solitary woman as ghost-like, as if you’re looking at an apparition, and not a human. Yet this ghost-like state isn’t lightness; it’s heaviness. Because it’s a ghost who feels stuck, anchored to a place or a situation that’s causing discontent.

I also did the Three of Swords, making the Threes my first completed Minor pips set. The Three of Swords features Pertinax (126 – 193 AD, Roman emperor who ruled for only three months before being assassinated), just as it does in Etteilla II below.

Livre de Thoth (1850s) “Etteilla II”

And my Three of Coins, which I’ve previously shared, features Inanna. This is in tribute to the earlier Etteillas that feature Venus/Aphrodite.

I hear people categorize the Etteilla tarot as an esoteric deck. I don’t necessarily share that perspective. While I approached the SKT very much so as an esoteric deck, I’ve been approaching my Etteilla as a fun deck.

The keywords in the Etteilla equip it to be a user-friendly oracle deck– no prior experience, knowledge, or study required. As I work on the illustrations, I’m also mindful of keeping the deck kid-friendly.

The Threes. Jeu de l’Oracle des Dames (1870), “Etteilla III”

Finally, to answer the question will this deck be published or put up for sale, not in 2023. I’m also fairly certain the entire layout design I’ve been showing so far needs a total overhaul, so that (1) the font size for the keywords is readable, and (2) the design is printer-friendly and won’t get cropped wrong.

My current plan is 2023 – 2024 to finish selling out the SKT: Revelation, and then in 2025 I can focus on production of the Etteilla (I mean at this point it doesn’t even officially have a deck name…).

7 thoughts on “Trying to Resume the Etteilla Doodles

  1. I’m really loving this deck Bell. I’m not sure why—the colors for sure….maybe it’s also the intention you’ve put into it: for beginners and kid friendly. At any rate give yourself time. These creations don’t happen overnight

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Katarzyna

    So one must wait until 2025 or 26 for the Etteilla deck? Oh, that’s sooo long. I’ve been using the Grand Etteilla by Grimaud for some time now but I’d love to see a new version of it, slightly reinterpreted and explained so that it fits to our times better. I love your designs for this deck so far.

    Liked by 1 person

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