Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Making Of: The Cat

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Last Wednesday, I showed this sketch for the Cat in the Celtic Lenormand.  Adding a Cat card to Lenormand decks is a very recent phenomenon, yet one which has quickly become quite popular.  Perhaps unsurprising if you consider how many cat-inspired tarot decks there are out there.  However, popularity alone is not the reason why I decided to add a Cat card to the Celtic Lenormand deck. 

Firstly, with its pagan theme, it felt only right and proper to add in this most traditional of familiars.  As such, the Cat card in a reading can be taken as a friend or loyalty; as an actual cat; or as any kind of familiar. In fact, it could be seen as any creature or object that helps provide support in magical workings or more mundane pursuits.

Secondly, for me there is a very clear difference between a Dog and a Cat.  Both can be dear friends, both can be loyal, both can support us.  And yet, a dog's loyalty is more unquestioning, and can fall into sycophancy and dependence. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
A cat, on the other hand, is loyal, but won't lie to please you, nor accept what you say or do without question.  As such, a Cat friend or colleague, while still having your best interests at heart, will use their intelligence to try to find the best way forward.  They will stay independent, and encourage you to do the same.  They will be there as a shoulder to cry on, but once the tears have dried they will prod you to find a more lasting solution.

As for the card itself, Will based the painting of the Cat on his own feline friend.  This cat is a little chunkier, with thicker tail and fur, a little less domesticated than a modern puss.  I placed it in a flower-filled meadow, enjoying the sunshine, because cats are good at finding the joy in life, and bringing a smile to our faces, too.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Making Of: The Sun

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Welcome to another round of the Tarot Blog Hop, and another in the series looking at the making of the Celtic Lenormand.  You may have followed links here from Joanne's Cosmic Whispers, or from Pepi Valderrama, if you're headed in the opposite direction :)  There's always the Master List, too, if you get a bit lost.

Our wrangler, Sharon Cumming, asked us to talk about creativity, so here I offer this glimpse at the creative process behind the Sun card of the Celtic Lenormand deck.  As to why the Sun card: it's the card I associate with this spoke on the Wheel of the Year, the Summer Solstice or Litha.  Today is, after all, the day when the sun shines longest, and has long been celebrated by rising and welcoming the sun.

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Many of the cards in the Celtic Lenormand are set close to the sea.  In part, this is because of the Brittany connection, and the fact that sea-faring was important to ancient Celts.  Another part of it is because I wanted the cards, as much as possible, to feature all four elements: fire, water, earth and air.  This isn't explicit in the card meanings, nor in how they are read, but it is an underlying feature that emphasises the pagan understanding inherent in this deck.

From the outset, then, I wanted a scene of bright sunshine pouring down onto a beach, lending that sense of happiness and joy, energy and life, that are key meanings of the Sun card in the Lenormand system.  My brief to Will read simply: "The sun illuminates a beautiful, somewhat rocky beach, with waves gently lapping at the shore."  I also included some reference images that caught my eye. 

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Though I loved Will's first sketch, I asked him to alter the trees in the painting, as I didn't want something that could detract from the 'Sun-ness' of the card.  We also had a discussion about the colouring.  Will used watercolours for these paintings, with some egg-tempera for highlights.  It gives the cards a lovely, soft feel, with a lot of lightness.  However watercolours mingle, as Will pointed out, and mixing blue and yellow risks giving you green, rather than a nice sun in a blue sky.  His creative solution: show the sun as a bright, white light which, if you look at many photos of the sun, is exactly how it does appear!

When the first painting came back, the Sun, trees and landscape were great, but the clouds felt overly central to me.  Requesting that Will change those made some extra work for him.  Still, I think the final outcome was worth it.  What I see here is a warm summer's day, with barely a breeze.  A time to enjoy the light and the time of ease, to feel energised and joyful.

I hope you've enjoyed this insight into what goes into the creation of these cards.  For more creativity, please hop on over to Pepi's lovely blog!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Pangur Bán

A friend pointed out a poem to me, which she thought of when she saw the Book card from this deck a few weeks ago.  It made me smile, and think of the Cat and Mice cards, too.  As this week's 'Making Of' post will form part of the Tarot Blog Hop on Saturday, 22nd June, I thought I'd share an English translation of the poem (courtesy of sky-net.org.uk) with you here, as well as a sketch for the Cat card!

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
'Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.
 
Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.
 
'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
 
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way:
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
 
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
 
When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
 
So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
 
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
 
Translated by Robin Flower

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Making of: The Clover

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Once again, I'd like to take a look at the evolution of one of the cards in the Celtic Lenormand deck: the Clover.  

As Will worked through the briefs I sent him in order, this was one of the first images I received from him.  My original brief read: "A gold trefoil coin lies in a patch of bare dirt by the side of a path.  Nearby, we see a four-leaf clover growing."  I also sent some images of the kind of path I had in mind, and the trefoil coin and clover.

After seeing the first sketch, Will and I talked a lot about perspective.  One of his visions for this deck was to have a wide-open view on the majority of cards, a feeling of openness and space.  I really liked the idea, though in practice found it wasn't always entirely practical.  Many of the Lenormand objects are quite small, and I didn't want them to get lost in the landscape.  

©C. McCracken & W. Worthington
Posting the first image to Facebook, people's ideas about what it showed varied from Paths to Mountain, with only a few spotting the Clover (though I think the black-and-white also played a role there).   We decided, therefore, to make the Clover and the trefoil coin more central (and the coin dustier so it doesn't overwhelm the plant by its side).

Another thing you can see in the original Clover sketch is the basic idea for how to include Lenormand numbering and playing card associations on the cards.  As Will retains the right to sell these paintings after the deck is made, the originals won't have this numbering painted on.  I'll be photoshopping that into place over the next month or so.  Wish me luck :)


Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Prototype Deck!

Since I first started this project, I've been looking forward to the day I'd have the cards in my hands.  When I was still thinking about self-publishing, I had planned to send the artwork off to printerstudio.com and wait for them to work their magic.  However, given the problems with pirating that even firms like US Games have been experiencing recently, and given my contract with them, I didn't want to risk that.  Then, about ten days ago, Pepi Valderrama talked about the release of her Vintage Poster Lenormand, a free resource that people can download and print off for themselves.  So, I decided printing from my home printer was probably my safest bet.

These cards use the slightly wonky, low-resolution images Will has been sending me via email, printed on the thickest card my printer could take (200 gsm), which is about a third of what a normal card thickness would be.  And, obviously, there's no shiny finish, nor high quality toner.  I'll also be adding numbering and playing card associations to the official card images before sending them off to US. Games.  Still, after trimming them and cutting the corners, they look and feel like proper, if somewhat flimsy, cards, and are just beautiful!

Finally having a set in my hands has been amazing!  I've done several readings, which worked wonderfully, and feel re-inspired by the cards and the project.  This is, after all, what it's all really about, a lovely deck to play with ;)