Reflecting Back on the Design Process

While I’m waiting on production of the first print run, I want to share some of my reflections on my design process and the personal experience of creating and illustrating this deck.

Plus, everyone keeps asking me about it. Admittedly I thought I covered this ground, but guess not, given how often I get asked the same question. So let’s talk about my design process. How was Spirit Keeper’s Tarot created, or at least the technical side of things?

In the above photograph you’ll find my tools of trade. I sketch with a mechanical pencil using HB graphite lead (for those who do pencil drawings, this can matter, since most of us have that whole metal tray set of graphite pencils at different softness and hardness levels….), erase frequently, then go in with a superfine tip black pen. I always have straight edges, a protractor, and compass on hand, because that’s how I manage those lines, or angles, or circles you see in the card illustrations.

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Journal Notes on a Deck Production Process

Proofs Line Sheet #1

The ball is now officially in motion. It’s well past the point of no return. Also, fair warning: this is a really long progress update.

I ended up not having to convert my card image files from JPG to PDF, and could submit them directly as JPG files, which I was really happy about. By the way, if you want to see all finalized images, I’ve shared a Gallery of All Cards here.

Proofs Line Sheet #2

Also, aspiring tarot deck creators: from the line sheets I’m sharing, you can now see why it makes sense to design 80 cards, right? Even if you are sticking to the 78, I would still recommend creative ways to utilize the remaining 2 cards. Even if you say you’re going to print 78 cards only instead of 80, you’re getting charged for 80 anyway. Do you see my point?

And check out the ordering of the cards on the line sheet. My educated guess is that the automated printing machine will be cutting the cards starting from the bottom row of the sheet, going left to right. (Not all that important to know, but for the curious nerds, something fun to observe.) You’ll see what I mean.

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2019 Metaphysician’s and Metaphysical Day Planners

$25

The 2019 Metaphysician’s Day Planner

Okay, so at this point, I would reckon about 95% of the people who are going to be buying this have already bought this before and know all about my Metaphysician’s Day Planner already, so I’m not sure how much I really need to say about this thing? =)

If, however, you stumbled here by chance and so have no idea what I’m talking about, in 2017 I debuted a Metaphysician’s Day Planner, which you can read all about and see pics of here, the 2017 Metaphysician’s Day Planner.

I did one again in 2018, which you can watch a video walk-through of and read more about here, the 2018 Metaphysician’s Day Planner.

Product Description

You send me $25 via PayPal and then e-mail me at abelldelivers@gmail.com with the completed form (you’ll see it below) and within 3 business days, you’ll get a confirmation e-mail that your order has been received. If you don’t get a confirmation e-mail in 3 business days, something went wrong and we didn’t get your order, so contact us again to follow up.

However, the digital e-delivery of your order won’t arrive in your inbox until November 30, 2018.

What’s the $25 for? You get the digital files only (as a PDF e-delivered to your e-mail inbox) of the 2019 Metaphysician’s Day Planner. It is going to come formatted and ready for third party print-on-demand printing with a site, such as Lulu.com (it’s the most economical option I’ve found, and substantially cheaper than if you tried printing locally, but you can also home or office print it for free if you have that kind of access). I’m going to recommend that you get it spiral-bound for easy use.

Your $25 Day Planner includes customized options, such as:

  • Your choice out of three size options: (Option A) U.S. Letter, 8.5″ x 11″, (Option B) Trade Paperback, 6″ x 9″, (Option C) A4 European Standard, 8.27” x 11.69” or 210 mm x 297 mm
  • Your birth chart in Tropical Whole Signs (not Placidus), featuring decan rulers along the outer ring, both traditional and modern planetary considerations, a couple asteroids, and key personal sensitive points.
  • Your 2019 solar returns chart, but it’s not a true solar returns chart. It’s just a transit chart for your birthday in 2019 with location of birth changed to your current location of residence.
  • Your choice out of the provided options of what I refer to as “Divinity Pages” (only because I have no idea what else to call it). Click here to view all Divinity Page selections you can choose from.

You will get a folder full of lots of different day planner cover options. You can mix and match or choose any cover option you like. You do not need to tell me what your cover option is. You get all of them. You get to choose on your own time. OR! Create your own! Or customize, edit, modify, and change up any of the cover art options I send you!

You will also get the digital files only (both a PDF formatted digital file and also a MOBI e-book file to upload onto your e-reader) of a companion guidebook to the Day Planner. For those who have the 2018 Day Planner, don’t get too excited. It’s pretty much the same exact content as the 2018 one, only updated with some of the 2019 astro info.

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So It Begins: The Artist vs. Business Reality

Thumbnails of the finished cards will illustrate this blog post so there’s a balance of images and text.

At the end of my post on creating a fluffy tarot deck, I relayed that James has urged me to print and independently publish the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, and we’ll be doing so in black and white. As of this posting, I’m about 25% regretful that I said yes.

After preliminary due diligence, I noted that the minimum order quantity for most playing card printer companies is 500 units. Okay, I think I can do 500 units. Sounds like a scary lot of copies but maybe with effort and more marketing balls than I have, I can move 500 units….

Except then I learned that printing 500 copies of the deck is about the same price as printing 1,000. Okay, no not exactly, but for argument’s sake, the price difference is so negligible there is no good reason to order 500 instead of 1,000. Heck, if I order 1,000 copies, the number of decks I need to sell to break even is less than the number of decks I need to sell to break even at 500 copies.

Here’s the only problem. Can I sell 1,000 copies? I don’t know if I want to risk it. I don’t want a wall of my own tarot decks taking up space in my house for the next decade.

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Am I Creating a Fluffy Tarot Deck?

Ongoing working draft of the cards.

Nevermind that the premise of the Major Arcana for Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is to connect you to your Holy Guardian Angel, and therefore by definition is an angel tarot deck, which we all know occultists immediately giggle at, but now as I study how some of the imagery for the cards are coming along, I can’t help but giggle to myself and confess: oh man, I’m creating a fluffy tarot deck.

Maybe I can defend such an accusation by saying it’s not fluffy, it’s just a strong statement in favor of self-empowerment and an expression of religious faith. (But isn’t that what all designers of fluffy decks say? Crap.) Take The Tower, for instance. More commonly, the focus here is on a punishing Act of God, or having to tear down what you’ve so meticulously and painstakingly built, because you’ve built it wrong. There’s typically a forceful sense of calamity when you consider The Tower.

Yet here I’ve added a talisman to The Tower: I’ve given the Seeker an axe. There’s also blood dripping from the axe, suggesting that you’ve done this before; this isn’t your first time at the rodeo, so you know what you’re doing–you can do this. Also, if you consider the bigger picture here, we see that the serpent tail of the Demon is coiled around this tower, along with chains binding this tower to the Demon, so this destruction also destroys servitude to the Demon. There’s an element of liberation here.

Is that nice-washing The Tower card?

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Ruminations on the Court Cards

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Rumination Notes:

Aces to Threes

Drawing the cards in sets of three, actual card size. This is how I begin.

I’ve been struggling with how to depict the tarot courts since back when I was still doing the Majors. And the whole time, I’ve been reading, brainstorming, researching, thinking– though no drawing– how the heck am I going to do this, and do this with any semblance of justice.

The more texts I studied on angelic correspondences to the elements, directions, and/or astrology, the more confused I got. Do I go Golden Dawn since up to this point so much of my point of view with the deck has been GD-influenced, or do I follow the lead of religious scholars turned mystics who say some of the Golden Dawn attributions for the Kabbalah are anti-Semitic in their source origins? How do I reconcile Christian mysticism, Jewish mysticism, and Islamic mysticism when it comes to angels? How do I also do it all with resonant subtext to Chinese, Taoist, and Buddhist ideas of angelic(-like) realms?

Also, when deck creators want to incorporate multiculturalism, they typically follow– shit–what’s his face–I can’t think of the name without looking it up. I’ve got it in an end note citation in Holistic Tarot if you really care. Anyway, Eden Gray followed what’s-his-face and everybody after Eden Gray followed Eden Gray so we go with this whole notion of Wands medium-hair, fair-eyed, Cups light-hair, light-eyed (or those two swapped), Swords dark-hair, medium-eyed, and Pentacles dark-hair, dark-eyed, so we typically end up with Asian or Middle Eastern for Swords and then Middle Eastern, Native American, or African for Pentacles. I opted not to go that route.

Agrippa made note of correspondences between geography, directionality, and the four elements, though he kept it relatively vague. Crowley then gave his thoughts on geography, directionality, and the four elements. His directionality conflict with Agrippa’s, but the geography and four elements kind of lined up. Well, lined up close enough to work for me. So that’s what I went with instead of what has become the more popular and trending ethnic associations for the four courts.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg of daunting considerations for the courts.

Drawing angel wings on the knights assembly line style…

The more I thought into it, the more stressed and nervous I got. And I did not want to go the direction of “screw everything and everyone, I’m gonna follow my intuition and channel it from my own higher consciousness” or whatever it is people say when they don’t want to listen to precedent or read books. How do I honor precedent and still acknowledge my intuition?

The art style for the deck I opted for is in the spirit of Renaissance humanism, a time when Christian mysticism and paganism merged in eclectic ways and mystics of that time were far more cosmopolitan and worldly than we folks today give them credit for being. I think the louder establishment voices of that time in history for structured Catholicism and the Church came as a knee-jerk reaction of the establishment to the subversive undercurrent of diverse thoughts that were emerging at the time.

Click to enlarge for viewing.

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Aces to Threes

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Rumination Notes:

Fours to Aces

Annnnd…. I’m done with the pips. Phew!

Let’s recap. On June 13 of this year, I got into my head this fantastical idea of drawing my own tarot deck. It was supposed to be a ha-ha fantasy but then I couldn’t shake the ha-ha fantasy out of my head, so immediately I got to work.

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Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces

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Ritual Coloring of the

Major Arcana

I shared all my digital files for the Major Arcana from the tarot deck I’m currently drawing at the end of June, 2018 here: Spirit Keeper’s Tarot (Majors Only). Then went on to explain the purpose for ritual coloring of the Majors, among other thoughts, here in a subsequent video and blog post: Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana, though there I share some draft images from the Minors as well. If you’re not subscribed to my Instagram, then you probably don’t know that I’ve been sharing progress photos of my work as I go along. In the event that interests you, subscribe here, IG: @bellwen.

So as I explained in the last blog post on drawing my own deck, after completing the Majors and beginning on the Minors, I started with the Fours. And the suit order I’m going in for each number set is Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, which I’ve renamed to Scepters, Chalices, Swords, and Orbs. Lots of really specific reasons for the renaming. I definitely didn’t do it just for shits.

The above thumbnail snapshot does not show the cards in the order I completed them. Because of the digital filenames, when I take a screen shot of the file folder that the scans of these images are in, they’re in alphabetical order. Also, these screen shots don’t include the titles and captions.

Continue reading “Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces”

Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana

I posted a video over the weekend in which I ramble in many different directions. It was supposed to be a video in which I introduce you to the black and white line drawings of the Major Arcana from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, which are now available for your free download. It was also supposed to be me making a case for undertaking a ritualized process of coloring in the black and white line drawings.

And instead, I went off on a tangent about God, the Devil, my lifelong love of art, and the role of religion in occult study. I do at a couple points keep to topic and mention the tarot deck and coloring in a tarot deck, but I’m afraid most of it is just a winding road of rambles.

Yes, you can tell I’ve cut and edited the clips because the original rambling was even longer, which all but turned into an unfiltered incoherent video diary of what I did for each Key. When I went to edit the video clips, I thought, yeah, I’m not going to post a one hour video, so I literally cut about half of the footage. Hence the noticeable heavy-handed cutting here. Don’t worry, I promise you, you’re not missing out: the cut ramblings were very boring.

If you haven’t already downloaded the Majors-only black and white line drawings (all umteen zip file folder versions of them…) and the companion guidebook (your operation manual), go here:

Download the Majors from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

Original pen and ink art on white heavyweight cardstock, 100 lb. cover (270 gsm) at 8.5″ x 11″, so I draw three cards per sheet.

I’m now at work on the Minors, but it’s going to take a lot longer to complete than what it took for the Majors, because I need to return my focus to other projects in the pipeline, both professional and personal.

For the Majors, I worked on them pretty much during every single millisecond of non-day-job-work time I had for sixteen days (new moon in Gemini to the full moon in Capricorn). I won’t be able to commit that full-force on the Minors, so the time allotted for the Minors will need to be distributed out more evenly and in a more balanced way with my regular schedule.

Like I did with the Majors, my process for the Minors is to first read Mathers, Papus, Waite, and Crowley, find the common denominator (not easy at all; really struggled with this), then factor in my point of view, philosophy of life, and how I’m sensing that common denominator energy in today’s collective unconscious, and then depicting that personalized and updated extrapolation, all while attempting to keep with that medieval grimoire woodblock print art style.

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Quick Tutorial: MovieMaker for YouTubers

Previously I shared a Quick Tutorial on using PowerPoint to create animated video footage with voiceover narration earlier, here. This Quick Tutorial is on Windows MovieMaker.

Basically, this Quick Tutorial series for newbie YouTubers like me demonstrates how to make video content on a shoestring budget, or no budget at all. The premise is to be as low-tech as possible, using what you probably have on hand already. It’s all about being smarter with what you have.

Before reading further, can we both acknowledge that I am not an expert, not sufficiently experienced or skilled to the level where I should be giving anybody advice, and have literally only been doing this for about a year. On the other hand, to make a case for myself, I think this makes the Quick Tutorial series all the more endearing. It’s me saying to you, hey look, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing but I still manage to get stuff up and running, so you can, too.

Note: MovieMaker was discontinued effective 2017 and replaced with something called Windows Story Remix. Since my computer and my set video-making ways pre-date 2017, I’m going to proceed with MovieMaker. Assuming at some point in the future I upgrade to Windows Story Remix, I’ll make a Quick Tutorial for that then.

The first thing I do is set up my laptop on a stack of books to get the angle and positioning just right. (I’ll get into how to angle and position your camera lens in the subsequent post.) The laptop came with a video camera recording program, so that’s what I use. I click the red record button, and then just go.

I like to use jump cuts (also explained in subsequent post) so that it’s easier for the final video product to look like I stay on point the whole time and don’t wander off on irrelevant tangents or have you all sit there watching me think, on camera, about what next thing I want to say.

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