Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Deadly Balancing Act

This has already featured, fairly prominently, in the new trailer for the full deck, so if you've watched that, it's not much of a reveal. The card is about making difficult choices without full knowledge of the situation, and maintaining your equilibrium in an "iffy" situation. Our two acrobatic clowns have arrived at the moment when, for good or ill, action must be taken. It will require all their skill and training to avoid disaster. Caution is the order of the day, The design makes a sly wink at Pamela Colman Smith, while doing its own thing. 

-- Freder.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Six of Wands

In the world of the circus there is no greater honor than being such a stellar performer, so popular with the crowds, as to warrant being immortalized on your very own poster. And the posters were beautiful in those days, lithographed in gorgeous colors, ranging from the standard one-sheet that is still used in the movie business today, all the way up to posters the size of a house. Your name in lights is nice, but having your own poster blazoned on the side of a building is toppermost of the poppermost.

And so we see the equestrienne May Wirth, who was just such a star, posed on the back of her white horse, whose name was Joe, in front of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey poster that featured them.

Among other spectacular feats, Miss Wirth could do a full handstand on Joe's back, while he was galloping 'round the ring. Not for nothing was she billed on the poster (although you can't see it behind Joe) as "The Greatest Bareback Rider of All Time." The six of wands informs you of Great Accomplishments, and Miss Wirth sets the standard high.

-- Freder

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Party with Your Friends

When the Three of Cups appears, it means that you may have cause to celebrate... and no better excuse to get together with a couple of your closest friends. I suppose this could be the card that best celebrates AUNTIE MAME's philosophy: "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" (A great movie, by the way, if you haven't seen it, with Rosalind Russell at the absolute top of her game as the title character.) 

The image of the three little clowns is one that I've had in my collection for literally decades, and I definitely wanted to find a home for it in this deck.

In other news, the video trailer for the full deck is complete and viewable at my main website, -- but you'll be able to watch it here, eventually, as well as at the Kickstarter project page for the deck (which is why I had to make it in the first place).


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Changes

I seem to have got the Revision Bug -- which, if you knew me, you would find Really Strange. I am not the sort of person to do one bit of unnecessary labour.  When I was at Colby College I worked for a Harridan who could not let ANY design -- whether a display, a poster, an ad or the store newsletter -- go without insisting on at least five or six revisions. This drove me nearly mad, and made me feel like I could not do anything right. The thing is, it was never really about the design: after all, she had the design sense of a tapeworm. It was really all about her flexing her muscles and exercising her Power of Control over Every Little Thing. As far as I know, she is still there, and really I am surprised that no one has dropped a house on her yet.

So, you won't find me making changes just for the sake of making changes. If I revise something, it's because the original ended up feeling like less than what I could do, or less than what needed being done.

Here we hava a new version of The Aeon. It's been brightened considerably over the original: really, on the internet it looks TOO bright. But it will print darker than it looks, and hopefully this means it will fall  somewhere in the middlle range where I wanted it in the first place. The original version printed too dark. 

But the main change is in the new figures at the bottom. In processing the original figures, I went too heavy-handed, and to my eye they lacked any kind of satisfactory detail: the little boy's face especially came out looking like an undefined blob. At the same time, I found a wonderful vintage ventriloquist picture that I could not find a home for anywhere else in the deck: but, with the addition of a dummy hand lifted the the doll's lips, it works just fine and dandy here. 

The original version is posted elsewhere on the site, and if you like it, you'd best score a copy of the majors deck before they are all gone, because this will be THE AEON going forward.

Fourteen cards away from finishing this project -- and I have nailed down keywords for every card, as well as concept ideas for most all of them. This circus train is rolling right along.

-- Freder

The Firebrand of the West

When I was working in the Production Department for a major publisher of Large Print books a few years back, it was my pleasure to set the type for a new edition of Buffalo Bill's personal memoirs. I took my time with it. To find another book as colorful as his would be difficult. To hear him tell it, Buffalo Bill's life had been an endless parade of incident and cliffhangers. It was a great yarn.

And almost none of it actually happened. 

There's no doubt that William F. Cody did his time out West, knew his subject and was genuinely skilled as a tracker, hunter, guide and liason. But the truth behind all of that just wouldn't have made for a very exciting book, nor could it have been spun into an outlandish Circus Spectacle -- and William F. Cody was nothing else if not Entranced by Show Biz and the Limeligjht.

His traveling Wild West Show became one of the most popular attractions in the world, and rivaled Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brothers as one of the top circuses of its time. He recruited the likes of Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley to work on his show, and six days a week staged gaudy outdoor Indian Raids complete with multiple wagons, dozens of horses and a bevy of genuine Native Americans to wow the crowds.

But his show became passe after a while. Buffalo Bill fell on hard times and spent his declining years spinning off on his reputation. 

He burned very brightly indeed in his day, and is the perfect man for my King of the fiery Wands.

Barring only the two remaining Pages, This card completes my Circus "Royal Family" of Court Cards.

-- Freder

Monday, May 26, 2014

Change in Store

In the weeks shortly before the complete deck is published, I'm going to be going over the whole deck -- including the Majors -- tweaking things here, nudging things there, tracking down those little things that I didn't notice at the time but which bug the living crap out of me now. 

Most of the revisions will likely be nothing more than little refinements... but I can't promise that something like this isn't going to happen, too. I came across an image that simply DEMANDED a revision of my MOON card in the Major Arcana... and at the same time, you learn a thing or two in any job, if you're doing it right. This is a major revision of the old card, and I hope a big improvement. In addition to changing the lady in the moon (and doing a more refined job in her rendering), the yods have all been rearranged and shrunk in size; a glow has been re0instated behind the circus tent, the dogs have been lightly beveled, and most all of the elements have been lightened up a little bit. 

I like my old MOON card, but I like this version better. If the old version (still showing elsewhere on the site) appeals to you, then you'd best score a copy of the Majors deck before they're all gone. 

-- Freder.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cutting Through Confusion

The five of swords is one of my least favorite cards in the Waite-Smith deck. It seems to me that the message of the five is subtly shaded: whereas Waite-Smith tries to meet the challenge with ambiguity and contradiction, Crowley's Thoth is no better: it takes sides in the argument and falls on the side of Defeat. 

I looked at a lot of different decks and saw them all struggling with this card's meaning. Until now, I couldn't come to grips with it myself. I went through a lot of different texts and even dipped into the thesaurus, following leads like a detective to find a single keyword that would nail this card down for me in a way captured its tension without getting lost in ambiguity. In the end it really was just like having a lightbulb come on over my head. Of course: it's not defeat, it's not conflict, it's not a vague prevarication: Opposition is something that actually creates an energy, and once I had the keyword, the image dropped into place in my head. 

The central figures were ones that I had intended to use on a different card: but they worked better here, especially after I colored them in mutually opposing shades. The lush background is actually the artist's village of Portmeirion in Wales (where the original PRISONER TV series was filmed. Although I don't necessarily feel obligated to stick swords and wands and cups onto every card in their given suits, here the balance was just right. 

The five of swords is now one of my favorite cards in this deck... and -- dare I utter the sacrilegious words? -- I think my version is a big improvement over both RWS and Thoth. There! I said it! 

Just fourteen cards left for me to complete this deck. The Kickstarter project to raise funds for the deck's printing will launch sometime in June. Watch this space for details!

Onward --

-- Freder