Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Making Of: The Owls

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington

The creation of cards, the thoughts and ideas behind them, and how that eventually gets expressed, is something that has always interested me when looking at other people's decks.  That is the kind of insight I'd like to offer in this post...

Working with Will Worthington has been absolutely amazing.  He is a wonderful artist, with decades of experience, and an eye for animals, plants and nature that I have always admired.  When we started work on the Celtic Lenormand, I sent him through "storyboards" (which he later called briefs) on each of the cards.  In these, I included reference images taken from the internet, as well as a written description and suggestions of which aspects of the reference images would best depict that.  Most often, these were enough for him to create sketches, and later paintings, that expressed beautifully what I had been trying to put across.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
While Lenormand cards aren't read according to the images in the same way that tarot cards would be, we are still affected by images at many levels.  Art therapists, Jungians, and other psychotherapists, as well as neuroscientists, recognise that art affects us at the level of instinct, in visceral ways.  And many also talk about how images work with our intuition, tapping into cultural ideas that are often not conscious.  Due to this, unless you have a card with just a word on it you cannot avoid a "visual" response to a card image.  Even then, we react to the shape of words as though they were images, and respond to the meaning of words at a symbolic level! 

For this reason, although I am not trying to create cards which should be read by image alone, I still feel it is important for the image to offer the same sense as the card meaning.  For the Owls, I asked Will to draw three European owls sitting huddled together on a tree branch, looking in different directions.  When he sent me through the first sketch, though, it really didn't have the "feel" I was hoping for. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Originally, I wanted European owls because in French folklore these "eared" owls are considered wise, while the "earless" owls are seen as harbingers of death.  Will and I had an email discussion about whether European owls, with their tufty ears, could ever look wise and calm, and I finally agreed that in most photographs of these birds they do look rather grumpy and arrogant.  Photos of non-eared Barn Owls look much nicer, and they also seem more sociable, which fits with the idea of communication.  On that basis, we agreed to try them out in a sketch.

While this sketch was much "rougher" than the majority of those Will sent me, I decided I liked the feel of it, and gave him the okay to go ahead on that basis.  And I'm very glad I did! 

Although the final painting doesn't fit as well with French folkloric ideas, it fits perfectly with what I wanted the card to express.  I find the colours on the owls' wings beautiful and their expressions lovely.  The dark outline of the tree branches behind the owls lends an air of mystery and uncertainty, and their posture echoes this, a certain nervousness that requires them to sit close together and try to watch each other's back.

This painting, for me, expresses both the idea of communication as well as that of nervousness.  It supports an intuitive understanding of the basic keywords connected with this Lenormand card.  I hope that others will agree and enjoy using it in their readings.

8 comments:

  1. There is just something spooky about Barn Owls, I love them. So glad to see them on the final card.

    There have been so many new Lenormand decks that I stopped buying them, as many of them lack depth but I think you two are doing fine work in this deck and I want it.

    I'm a sucker for Will's work--was just using the Wildwood today and thought to check how you guys were getting along with this deck. Good stuff Chloe and Will.

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    1. Hiya JJ,

      Well, I think there's something a bit spooky with all owls, it's part of their magic.

      As for this deck, you can't really go wrong with Will's art ;) Glad you like the look of it!

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    2. Oh well, part of the attraction is your writing in the book. The French folklore angle really appeals to me, as does your particular insight and experience.

      I think that will be interesting and not the dogmatic mess that I see around Lenormand decks recently.

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    3. Thank you, JJ, that's really kind of you to say. However, I'm not sure how much of the French folklore will make it into the book - it's more of an aside, not relevant to most people's understanding of the cards nor how to read them...

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  2. I actually like both versions of the Owls. In fact, the pointy-eared ones are my favourite. You're right, they do look grumpy and arrogant, and to me even comical! Probably not what you wanted. The barn owls do look calmer. :)

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    1. You're right, grumpy, arrogant and comical is not the feel I want for this card :D I like the Owls, and associate them with the Goddess. So, calm and wise, yes, even fierce or spooky, but not grumpy and comical ;)

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    2. I still like the pointy-eared ones better though. :D

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    3. Whereas the barn owls are one of my favourite paintings of the 45! :)

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