An Ink Swatch Tarot Deck

About six months ago, I was looking for a suitable project to showcase the qualities of fountain pen ink art through seamlessly embracing chromatography, serendipity and alchemy. It was then that I began a conversation with Alison Cross who is both a member of the The Fountain Pens UK Facebook Group and is also a respected knowledge on the subject of Tarot.

Alison Cross suggested that the mystical perception of Tarot might be a viable visual environment in which to showcase the inks and their effects while becoming a Major Arcana deck in their own right for use within Tarot. I’d already considered the possibility of creating a standard 52 playing card deck but through Alison’s suggestion saw more visually creative and abstract possibilities with he Tarot concept.

Having swatch tested hundreds of inks and discovered ways of triggering their chromatography, plus any sheening and shimmering effects, all I needed to do was select 22 fountain pen inks! The choice was overwhelming but at the end of the day it was all about quantity of ink available. So even though I have hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous inks, many of them are in quantities of 2ml which is just not enough to utilise for a decent size background.

The other half of the requirement was to come up with an illustration concept and style for each of the 22 major Arcana cards. When wishing to showcase complex colour backgrounds, the illustrations were always going to have to be minimal and so researching medieval manuscript images together with wood block prints from that era became my main line of investigation.

So without wishing to directly plagiarise, I had tremendous fun taking elements from a wide range of found images and creating my own collaged beasts and icons eg mixing a human head with a goat’s legs or a human torso with a fish tail or a female saint with birds legs – all of which by utter fluke turned into a unique visual style via the bleach treatment technique. This wasn’t a fast process by any stretch and took a good 4 months of trial error until I ended up with 22 unique illustrations that I was happy with.

I discussed these at length with Alison who fully appreciated that my Tarot deck was going to be slightly more visually abstract and deviate from the more typical formats. Not only did I want my deck to comprise of square cards with rounded corners but to help describe the cards better, I wanted keys words and card title type set on a circle which would then surround and enhance the bleach illustrations at the centre of each card.

Using an absolute minimum amount of digital editing I selected, copied and pasted the bleach illustrations onto their chosen backgrounds and once the type setting was complete the cards were formatted for print.

The Fountain Pen Ink Backgrounds I. Diamine Oxblood  II. FPUK Scribble Purple III. Noodler’s Rome Burning IV. Parker Quink Black V. Diamine Seasons Greetings VI. Diamine Nutcracker VII. Robert Oster Australian Opal Mauve VIII. Diamine Winter Miracle IX. J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor X. Diamine Golden Sands  XI. Robert Oster River of Fire XII. Diamine Elf  XIII. Diamine Solstice XIV. Waterman Green  XV. Cult Pens Robert XVI. De Atramentis Ebony  XVII. Diamine Purple Bow XVIII. Robert Oster Graphite XIX. Diamine A Night in Jodhpur XX. Waterman Purple XXI. Edelstein Olivine  The Fool. Diamine Happy Holidays.

I think that working this way with fountain pen inks really does showcase what a unique genre fountain pen ink art is. Just beautiful art from destruction. I really have enjoyed this project. And I’d like to give sincere thanks to Alison for all of her advice and support.

As a matter of interest, which card is your favourite? Please do leave your comments below.

And HEY! If you’re interested to know more about how to use fountain pen inks in more creative ways – whether it’s simply to observe their chromatic behaviours, or, to recreate one of my swatch cards, or, to learn how to use them in watercolour painting, illustration and calligraphy, why not check out my online course? It’s undeniably one of the best ways to pass the time while cocooned in your Covid 19 isolation inspiration station!

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