I Present to You the Eightieth and Final Assemblage!

cardback

So like everyone else, I thought I was done with Tarot of Bones assemblages at the end of last year. Apparently not.

I’ve spent the past few weeks designing and laying out the final card files using the photos of the assemblages and background images (since the assemblages are not all at the same aspect ratio as the final cards). During the layout process, I began to feel more and more like I wanted the card back to also be an assemblage. It’s not that the illustration that I originally commissioned from Erin “Narumi” Prince of Lotus Lion wasn’t absolutely gorgeous; just the opposite!

But as the deck’s final appearance began to take form in my mind, I realized that I wanted all of the art to be assemblages, even the back. So over the past several days I created one final assemblage that I felt summed up the spirit of the deck.

I started with a wooden box–but not just any wooden box. It’s one of my many antique shop finds, an old smoked salmon box from before they were printed with Salish-style salmon designs. It had seen better days–the lid was coming off and was warped, the paint was faded and distressed. It was perfect.

It initially became involved in the Tarot of Bones when during the photography session back in April Sandra Buskirk took photos of various items–leather, feathers, wood and more–that I could use for the card backgrounds later on. The lid of this box was one of them, and ended up being one of my more commonly used textures during the layout process.

Later on, as I was casting about for the proper backboard for the card back assemblage, I came across the box again in my supply room. It was just about the size I wanted, and the color and texture were appropriate. So I brought it out, fixed the lid’s hinges, and began designing the assemblage.

I made sure all five sorts of bone represented in the Tarot of Bones–skulls, ribs, long bones, vertebrae, and jaws (teeth)–were also present in the assemblage. I also added in various natural materials that I’d used in other assemblages, from stones to moss to one very lovely scallop shell. While it thematically matches the other assemblages, unlike the others there will be no text on the card back, making it easier to distinguish front from back.

So I think now I can officially (again) say that all of the Tarot of Bones assemblages are complete! I’ll be taking it with me to Seattle on Friday along with the last few assemblages that need their photos redone, and hopefully by early next week all the layout will be complete and I can start prepping the files to send them to the printer.

Even More Cards Completed!

Hey, folks! It’s been a busy week for me–I finished the layout on twenty-three more cards, nearly doubling my total and bringing it to forty-nine! Here’s what I got done since the last update:

Chariot

Death

Tower

Moon

Judgement

World

2 of Wands

3 of Wands

Knight of Pentacles

Page of Pentacles

Ace of Pentacles

6 of Pentacles

7 of Pentacles

Queen of Swords

2 of Swords

3 of Swords

4 of Swords

7 of Swords

2 of Cups

5 of Cups

8 of Cups

9 of Cups

10 of Cups

We’re due for a nasty storm tomorrow on the Washington coast, so there’s a good chance I’ll lose power over the weekend, hence why I frontloaded layout work. Once this all blows over, though, I plan to jump right back into it. Wish me luck!

Tarot of Bones Update!

Hiya, folks! Just wanted to give you a quick update on the Tarot of Bones. I didn’t get as many cards laid out in the past week as I spent a lot of it celebrating my anniversary with my sweetie (yay!) but I did get nine more cards done, making the total completed twenty-six! These are the newest cards I completed:

Lovers

Strength

Queen of Wands

Page of Wands

8 of Wands

9 of Pentacles

8 of Swords

10 of Swords

4 of Cups

I need to clear a couple of minor things off my plate but this weekend I should be able to buckle down more on layout. And, as always, you can see the assemblages for the Tarot cards, plus other important information, at the official Tarot of Bones website at http://www.thetarotofbones.com/

Update: 17 Cards Laid Out!

Hey, all! Wanted to give you a quick update. As of tonight I have seventeen of the Tarot of Bones card files completed! This is the current list:

Magician
Empress
Emperor
Justice
Hermit
Hanged Man
Sun
Happy Squirrel
King of Wands
Knight of Wands
7 of Wands
9 of Wands
4 of Pentacles
Page of Swords
6 of Swords
Knight of Cups
7 of Cups

The next week will likely be a bit lighter; my partner and I are celebrating our anniversary for a few days, so I won’t be in the studio much. But I intend to get a couple of marathon sessions in later in the month, now that I’m getting the hang of the layout. I will need to go to Seattle to have Sandra retake photos of a few of the pieces, but my goal is still to have the files to the printer by the end of October. I’m making good progress so far!

I’m also super-excited by all the near GIMP 2.0 tricks I’ve been learning. I am not a graphic designer, so I’m learning as I go. But it’s nice to be honing design skills, and I really hope you all like the results!

More Card Layout News and a Help Request

Hi, everyone!

So I got the green light from the printer’s tech support–the specs on the test card I sent them were A-OK! So tonight I went back into GIMP 2.6 and started laying out more cards. I finished the King of Wands and got partway through the Empress when I realized I’d made an important mistake. I hadn’t figured out how far from the top and bottom margins I was going to have the outer edges of the text. See, for the Major Arcana the number of the card (for example 0) is at the top of the card, while the name (in this case Fool) is at the bottom. And for the Minors the top would have the number or name (2 or King, for example) while the bottom has the suit (Pentacles, etc.)It satisfies my need for visual balance and makes it very clear which card is which.

While GIMP and the template I was using are both great on helping me get images and text centered (oriented toward the very center of the image) so far the only way I’ve found to have the text the same distance from the top and bottom edges of every card is by carefully moving the margins of each text box by hand (or by mouse) so that the lower edge of the lower text box is always equal with one particular tick on the ruler on the side–oh, just look aat the image below and where the arrows are pointing:

halp

See what I’m trying to do? I have to align the text boxes by hand with those tick marks. And I can’t seem to find a way to add in pre-set text boxes. If anyone has any suggestions on how to make GIMP make this easier for me, please let me know! (No, I don’t want to move to Photoshop or another program. No, I don’t want someone else to do this for me. This is a good learning experience for me!)

Aaaaaanyway. The long and the short of it is that I have THREE WHOLE CARDS done: Magician, King of Wands, and Empress. A lot of the time I took tonight was in resizing background images; because every one of the original assemblages has different dimensions, and none of them are the exact same dimensions as a tarot card, I’m cutting the photo of each and putting it on a background to fill out the rest of the card. So the Magician, for example, is trimmed and then layered over a photo of particularly nice antelope leather. And, of course, figuring out the standard font size and placement took a fair bit of time.

But as I keep plugging away I figure I’ll be able to go faster. And tonight I’m working at something of a mental deficit since I’m sleep deprived and it’s hard to focus; more sleep will help the process.

I figure I’ll make an update about once a week on what cards are completed. I want to have the files off to the printer by the end of October; we’ll see how that goes.

Taking the Next Step: Card Layout!

So I’m really excited–I finally got to do the thing that I’ve been waiting WEEKS to have the time to do: lay out the first card and send the file off to the printer to be sure that I got all the technical details correct. This may not sound like an especially complicated task, but keep in mind I use GIMP 2.0 rather than Photoshop, and I’ve primarily used it for photo edits and simple layout for things like flyers and online promo images. So what may be a simple task for a professional graphics designer is a bit more challenging for me.

However! If it turns out that I did indeed get the layout done right, then I am prepared to make tracks on laying out the rest of the cards. I’m super-excited to be making this next step, and I’ll let you know as I get cards completed so you can keep track of my progress.

I AM going to be keeping the final card designs a secret until the deck is out. Why? One, in case I need to make last minute tweaks to designs, and two, because I want it to be a surprise! I WILL say that the cards will be fairly simple in their designs and there won’t be a white or other border, so that the art is the main focus. The rest you’ll just have to wait for.

And thank you all again for your patience and support as I keep on moving this giant project along!

The Assemblages Are Being Photographed!

photos

My friend, Sandra Buskirk, is taking over the photography duties for the Tarot of Bones since my photography skills aren’t up to snuff for print-quality images. You can see her in her workspace in my Portland apartment; the assemblage you see upright on the table is actually “Blight: Five of Swords”, a pre-Tarot of Bones piece that was part of the inspiration for this project. By the end of tonight I should have a dazzling array of photos of all the assemblages for the Tarot of Bones, which means in the next few weeks I’ll be able to start doing the layout and image editing necessary to make them ready to print!

In the meantime, if you’d like to help make sure I can get the Tarot of Bones out as scheduled this summer, now’s a fantastic time to back the Tarot of Bones Spring IndieGoGo campaign, which ends this Saturday, April 30! You can preorder the deck and book at a discounted rate, and get all sorts of other awesome perks. And if we hit the $5,000 goal before the campaign ends I’ll let all the campaign backers in on an exclusive How To Use the Tarot of Bones video class once the decks and books have been shipped out. Head on over here to back the campaign today!

…And So It Begins

itbegins

 

After completing the last assemblage at the end of December, I took January off from the Tarot of Bones so I could focus on some other projects. Now it’s February, and time for me to get to the most intimidating part of this whole process: photography. I am an amateur photographer at best, and even with a DSLR it’s been a learning curve just getting to the point where I am. However, I have books and I have people willing to give advice, so I have my little kluged-up setup ready to go and I’m hoping for the best! Wish me luck!

THE LAST ASSEMBLAGE IS DONE! Meet the Lovers!

lovers

I am pleased to announce that I have just completed the final assemblage for the Tarot of Bones! The Lovers was a tough card to create; in sawing the resin replica albatross skull I bought for it in half, I miscalculated the cut and one half ended up with a seriously truncated beak, which I then had to painstakingly resculpt, and both needed repainting. However, this actually worked out better, as it allowed me to give each half a distinct personality, inspired by this video of the mating dance of Galapagos albatrosses. I surrounded them with a variety of shiny stones on a verdant green background; Galapagos albatrosses tend to nest on rocky shores with little vegetation, and I thought this pair deserved more luxurious accommodations. It’s an idealized situation for an idealized card, though when reversed it can call up conflict, chaos, and blame-laying all around.

So now that the assemblages are done, what’s next? My production schedule goes into some detail of the steps still remaining. The next thing I need to do is put the finishing touches on the Tarot of Bones book manuscript and get it sent off to an editor. Beyond that, I need to take the final photos of the assemblages for the deck, since the photos currently on the site are just “Hey, look what I made!” shots. I admit I’m somewhat intimidated by the photography end of things, since I am an amateur at best. But I have a lot of people giving me good suggestions and tips to help me through the learning curve.

This means I still have many hours of work ahead of me, taking and editing and laying out the photos into card templates for the printer. As I am not using the remaining money from the first IndieGoGo campaign for living expenses, I look at this time and effort as an investment in the future. There will be a second IndieGoGo campaign starting in February; it will give those who missed out on the first one a chance to chip in, and it will help raise funds for the substantial printing and shipping costs for the final deck and book. In the meantime, if you want to help me offset the time I’m not able to put toward more immediate income, you can check out my books and art for sale.

Despite the huge amount of work still ahead of me, I’m really, really excited about hitting this milestone a day ahead of schedule (especially since I didn’t get started until halfway through January 2015). Producing 79 elaborate pieces of artwork in a year, on top of my usual art production, writing efforts, and other creative projects, was a really massive endeavor, and there were times I was worried I wouldn’t have all the pieces done on time. But here I am, all done, even if I did save the pieces with the more confounding engineering challenges for the very end 😉

The King of Pentacles Promises 2016 Prosperity!

king1king2king3

Here’s the King of Pentacles–at nearly four feet high it’s the biggest assemblage for the Tarot of Bones! I ended up using an Ikea tabletop a neighbor had left out by the trash this summer as the backboard, and yes, I had a LOT of fun painting it up. I’m hoping this old bison can bring some prosperity to the new year–and hopefully other positive changes as well. This animal was, and still is, incredibly important to many indigenous cultures of the American Plains, each animal providing food, hide and bones that could carry a community for weeks, if not months. The slaughter of the bison was meant to destroy these cultures, and so the reversed King of Pentacles reflects that greed and excess.

Just one…more…assemblage…left! I’m a bit behind on it, as I had some engineering issues I’ll discuss later, but I should have no trouble sticking to my promise to have all the assemblages done by the end of 2015. So close!