I am still not certain about this and am posting it in hope of getting some feedback. It's as close as I've come to succeeding, however... and if this doesn't fly it may be time to scrap the whole design and start fresh. So, please, y'all, let me know what you think: duckmeister[at]ducksoup[dot]me.
The central eye has been the biggest issue. From the start I wanted at least a symbolic Cabalistic "All-Seeing Eye" in the center of the card. I started with a vintage illustration that I often use in all sorts of projects, but I knew right away that it wasn't right. For one thing, there was just the fact that I have used the same eye a lot before, and didn't want to use it again. But -- it wasn't reversible and it didn't work for a lot of other reasons, too. I found it to be kind of off-putting.
A second version was at least reversible, but perhaps a bit too creepy. I'd spent quite a lot of time looking for the right eye, but all fell short for one reason or another -- most often because they were not reversible. Do you know how hard it is to find a reversible human eye? 'Just sayin'.
Carrie Paris suggested the ticket element, and that helped, but did not nail the thing down.
Well -- I was making yet another run through all of my graphics sources, having no luck at all, when I chanced upon a photo at Flickr that showed a completely subliminal eye created by the mix of landscape, reflection and focal elements. And it was then that I realized that if you look at a Circus Ring from a certain angle, it actually takes on the general shape of an eye.
This was my lightbulb moment: the circus ring itself would be my All-Seeing Eye, home as it is to every character of the Major Arcana. So that's what I did. I had to build it from scratch, because even at that angle a circus ring is not reversible thanks to perspective issues.
I still ran into trouble, because I originally wanted the iris and pupil to be a reversible bust of a clown. I could not make this work. Just take my word for it: it was a good idea but not, like many seemingly good ideas, a Happening Thing. It was only then that I recalled seeing a picture of a real circus ring that had a compass-pointed star occupying the whole of its center. This, I finally decided, would be my iris. The six-pointed star being a common tarot element made it perfect. I put two of them together and played with them a bit, and there at last was the design you see before you.
It is, hands down, the version of the card back design that I'm happiest with. I have my all-seeing eye, but in way that works with the theme and does not, I think, creep people out. But -- is it too busy? Do I need to just start all over again? Sometimes you just get too close to a design and can't see what might be obvious to a disinterested observer.
Does it fly, or do I need to go back to the drawing board on this one? Let me know! This will be on the back of every card, so the user will be seeing it a lot. That makes it one of the most important designs in the deck!
Next up: THE SUN.