Saturday, 4 June 2011

Pimp My Rider Part 2

Well, I have done it: pimped the Universal Waite; blinged it, if not to death, certainly to sparkledom.  It was a fascinating experience, and one I am glad to have done.  However, the results don't scan well and, to be honest, aren't all that great.  I can see that using irridescent colours, as well as sparkles, would give a greater effect.  Still, the difficulties and complications of such a task put it well beyond my artistic abilities.  I had enough trouble, and didn't always succeed, in getting sparkles in the right places, never mind adding something where it matters rather more that you stay within the lines you're colouring!

And yet, despite the fact that the deck itself is no great work of art, I learned a lot from doing it.  For one thing, it reminded me of some of the reasons Mary K. Greer gives in her seminal "21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card" for drawing your own version of the cards.  Focusing on the cards in this practical way, I noticed details and elements I had never seen before!  Other details which I know are there, somehow didn't spring out at me, which made me wonder why that should be.  So, it was also a great way to review the traditional iconography from a different perspective to when I first learned about the card images.

Another thing I got out of this was a renewed appreciation of my preferred RWS version, and what it is about it that I like.  The first RWS deck I chose to learn with was the Radiant Rider Waite.  The Universal Waite is actually closer to the Original Rider Waite in terms of colouring, and there are aspects of it that I just don't like.  For example, I get that when Pixie created her images, printing was at a very different level than it is today.  So, monochrome backgrounds were both the norm and necessary.  However, many of her skies are grey!  While I kind of understand it for the Three or Eight of Swords, it makes a lot less sense for me in the Seven and Eight of Pentacles, the Hanged Man, and the Hermit.

The Radiant Rider Waite went for bluer skies in most cards, which lends a far more cheerful feel to the deck.  I was going to say that it looks more realistic, but given that I, and Pixie, have lived in London I have to confess that sometimes the sky really is very grey, lol.  The Radiant Rider Waite feels more whole, the faces are often more distinct, and the colouring makes it more natural, less simply blocked in.  This is one of my major objections to Marseille-type decks - the extreme block colours.  I understand this used to be necessary, but I just find it really unappealing.  Although there are now some more nuanced Marseille decks, I also am not a fan of the haggard-looking queens and the unillustrated pips.

Returning to the blinging, being able to play around with the colouring myself to a degree was also thought-provoking.  For example, with the Hermit I chose to add some purple to his robes, which I associate with wisdom.  This brightened him up, but also added a different layer to my ideas about him, as well as making me think about why he traditionally wears dark grey robes.  Those robes seem to be about being in touch with more unconscious elements, of turning inward, part of what differentiates him from the Hierophant.  Having him in pure or block purple might suggest royalty or status, but I feel this light, sparkling dusting of purple adds a sense of wisdom - turning inward isn't just about our shadow or about silence.

Another "different" colour choice arose with the suit of wands, where I chose to add red sparkle to emphasise their connection (for me) with the element of fire.  This was partly because I couldn't find any brown sparkly polish, but also because putting gold on them, my first thought, felt wrong.  That would link them too closely with the suits of cups and pentacles, the more "feminine" suits.  So, I chose red, colour of fire, also linked to security and direct action. 

Finally, the blinging was very meditative.  I lost track of time as I focused on the cards, on the colours already there, on trying to colour within the lines, on deciding which colour to put where.  I became so focused on the cards that, one night, I stayed up over an hour past my usual bedtime.  I also ended up with an awful crick in my neck from bending down close to the cards and trying to very carefully apply the glitter.

Illustrations: The Fool and the Hermit, Universal Waite Tarot, coloured by Mary Hanson-Roberts, inexpertly blinged by me.


  1. I primped about five decks last spring and like you, found it a teaching process. My A#1 favorite was the Anubis Oracle.

    Great job, and you are correct...almost impossible to show on the screen.
    (our sky is grey a lot here too!)

  2. Hi Sharyn,

    I'm curious, what made you choose to primp the decks, and how did you decide which ones to do? Were you happy with the results? At the moment I can't imagine doing another one, but give me time... :-)