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Lisa Hunt

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Visit the Animals Divine
Tarot website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Animals Divine Tarot
by Lisa Hunt


TWPT:  Before we get started discussing your latest project Animals Divine Tarot perhaps you could give the readers of TWPT some background information about who Lisa Hunt is and how you came to be where you are now in your artwork and your spiritual path. 

LH:  I have always been an artist. As a child, I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t draw and tell stories. It
wasn’t just a pastime or hobby, but an actual drive that has always sustained me emotionally. It was and is how I connect with the world on a deep, spiritual level. In high school, I drew and painted woodland creatures, fantastical landscapes and spent much of my senior year exploring shapeshifting—people and animals merging within the swirls of paint. I remember my mother, who still has and loves these paintings, looking upon these experiments in amazement thinking that there was something special emerging from my muse. By the time I was 17 years old I was accepted into an accelerated arts program at theEducational Center of the Arts inNew Haven,Connecticut. I knew from then on that I wanted to become a professional artist. I simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life journey. 

TWPT:  Tell me about your involvement with tarot over the years and specifically how the idea first came to you about doing the deck and the book that is now Animals Divine Tarot.

LH:  The precursor to my involvement with tarot began with the acquisition of the book Shaman: the paintings of Susan Seddon Boulet. I was in my early 20’s at the time and that book made a significant impact on me. The book, filled with dream-like paintings, demonstrated that art could be used as a means of exploring latent imagery in the psyche and helped to articulate what I wanted to do with my own art! Not long after that, tarot became a great passion of mine and I began a 15 year journey studying mythology, symbolism, tarot and psychology; eventually completing graduate studies encompassing all of these interests. 

Animals Divine Tarot has been with me for a long time, but a concrete idea didn’t manifest itself until five years ago. At first, I envisioned it as a book but as I worked on the project proposal, I realized that it was meant to be a tarot deck. 

TWPT:  What is it about the animal associations that brings out different shades of meaning when you are using this deck?

LH:  We may have some preconceived notions about what animals represent and how they may reflect different aspects of our psyches, but I think it is really important to use Animals Divine Tarot with an open mind. I didn’t always go with the most obvious symbolism. Sometimes I associated the animals with certain cards in the context of the mythology or the particular setting or circumstance. Some of the representations are obvious such as the sagacious elephant (high priest) or the strong lion (strength), and others are more subtle like the alligator (5 of cups) that appears almost paralyzed in a algae covered pond. We may think of the strong, agile alligator as being indomitable in its own habitat, able to catch anything within its grasp; but in the context of the card, I felt it is important to demonstrate that all creatures on this planet are vulnerable to changes in fortune or circumstance. Situations can arise that may pose challenges to our physical and emotional well being. The animals as represented in the cards are there to help us see and prepare for these challenges that may surface during the course of our lives. I show ravens on several different cards in different situations (ie The Fool, Knight of Swords, and the crows in 9 of swords). Their messages vary depending on the circumstances. Some of the meanings are more obvious than others. This can make this deck challenging at times. And believe me, it was challenging to create! 

TWPT:  What kind of research was necessary for you to do to have a good grasp on what the animals represented and how they would be placed within your deck?

LH:  I researched for many years, part of that time under the guidance of experts. I pored over comparative mythologies and researched how animals were symbolized and represented in different cultures and religions. It was interesting to identify the parallels as well as differences depending on cultural perspectives. What one culture may see as an omen, another culture may view as an auspicious sign. Take for example the snake. The snake is ubiquitous in world mythologies and is viewed in many different lights depending on the story and/or culture. I am endlessly fascinated with the snake and its place in our psyches. Its ability to shed its skin is but one symbolic aspect of the creature, keeping us transfixed by its mysterious, hypnotic presence. 

TWPT:  Could you explain the process that you went through when you were creating the artwork that would end up on the cards of this deck and how this is different from the process that you go through to create stand alone pieces of art?

LH:  While researching and sketching this deck, I gave each card thoughtful consideration. It was an enormous challenge because I really wanted to include so many more animals than I was able to within the confines of 78 cards. It was important to me to remain consistent with the overall look while simultaneously giving each creature its own, unique place within the deck. I wanted every single image to have visual relevance regardless of its place within the deck. As a body of work, the creation of 78 paintings required an enormous amount of creative energy. But my enthusiasm never waned. I felt I was on a fascinating journey touring the depths of my psyche, where animal companions were waiting to be acknowledged and rendered into full flower.

With stand alone work, one doesn’t necessarily have to worry about one image dominating another.. A stand alone piece is a much more temporary engagement of soul for me. It would be analogous to stopping on the path and sketching that particular moment in time. With the tarot, the images represent a long stretch of my creative and spiritual journey.

TWPT:  What are the main differences between designing a tarot deck for yourself as opposed to doing a deck for someone else where they explain to you what they want? I guess what I am asking is if the process is basically the same regardless of who you are doing the deck for or is it easier if you are doing it for yourself as you have a much deeper grasp of the concepts you wish the images to communicate.

LH:  Creating my own deck was easier in the sense that I was able to completely follow my creative inclinations without any outside constraints. I was able to generate multitudinous ideas from initial brainstorming sessions to the actual creation of the artwork. I also had the freedom to bounce my own ideas back and forth between words and visuals—a very liberating experience that enabled me to get deeper into the heart of the work and push the boundaries of creative expression.

With each deck that I have worked on, I have enjoyed a growing freedom with my muse. This also coincides with the fact that with each body of work that I produce, I grow as an artist. It is a continual learning experience, actually.

Celtic Dragon Tarot and Shapeshifter Tarot were examples of having symbiotic ties with the author/s. We fed each other creative inspiration, which was a wonderful experience in itself. With Celtic Dragon, I would receive a basic description, send back sketches to the writer and she would continue to expand on the text by viewing the artwork and so on. It was great fun because we approached the project with a unified passion for the subject matter. We were delighted with the results.

TWPT:  Did you have a good grasp of the entire scope of Animals Divine Tarot and the artwork that you wanted to associate with the cards right from the beginning or did it evolve and change during the creation process?

LH:  From the beginning, I wanted to include animals and stories from around the world and knew that some of the research would pose great challenges. But during the process, much of my success finding obscure material was serendipitous: one story or myth would lead to another and another and soon I felt I had a good grasp of all the stories I wanted to include. It is as if a thread connected all the stories in one way or another; thus helping to support the theory that many of the motifs and symbols represented in mythological stories are derived from our collective psyches.

Regarding the artwork: I just allowed the paintbrush to flow as it wanted to. I didn’t set limits on myself or envision a particular style. I think the dreamy softness of the hues reflects the transcendence I felt while immersing myself into the watercolor medium. I didn’t want the cards to appear heavy handed and overprocessed, but wanted the images to retain a dream-like quality. The “feel” of the deck is very spontaneous and represents my artistic emotions in the raw. I painted until I felt the image was just right and then left it alone.

TWPT:  Not only did you create the cards and the images but you also wrote the accompanying book. Tell me about the companion book and how a person will use this book to work with the cards once they start to use them.

LH:  The companion book contains all of the stories and descriptions relevant to the cards. The explication of symbols as well as suggestions for practical application is provided for the reader. I do mention in the book that I encourage individuals to feel free to go beyond designated text and to look at the images objectively, as a means of deriving their own special meanings from the cards. I don’t want anyone to feel restricted by my interpretations, but I encourage further introspection as a means of becoming more connected with animals on a personal level. I offer 2 original card layout spreads in addition to the standard past, present a future layout.

I also give background information regarding my research, the creative process and how to use the deck. Kris Waldherr (Goddess Tarot, Lover’s Path Tarot) composed a beautiful foreword that I think accurately sums up who I am as an artist/writer and what I was trying to achieve while working on Animals Divine Tarot.

TWPT:  Is there some advice that you would give to someone who has purchased a copy of the Animals Divine Tarot as to how they could best get started using these cards and connect to the imagery that you created?

LH:  I suggest that you take the cards out and study them for a while. I think it is a good idea to establish a connection with the cards and identify which images immediately speak to you. I also think it’s important not to dismiss those cards that you may have an aversion towards. There may be a deep-seated reason why a particular card is triggering a negative reflex. This is something I elaborate on in the book. I also think it’s important to try and keep an open mind and see the animals beyond the confines of literal associations or how you think they should be portrayed. Instead, view them as spiritual messengers on a mission to provide you with insight.

TWPT:  Tell me about your source of inspiration for the images that adorn the cards of this deck. Did you have some general ideas when you started work on it?

LH:  Nature and animals served as the greatest inspiration for Animals Divine Tarot. Observing and reflecting upon them served as the creative foundation for this project. They inhabit a large part of my internal creative library.

Mythologies, folktales and fairy tales containing references and stories about animals also inspire me. For this particular project, I examined a lot of myths with animal-centered themes and associations and looked at various depictions of animal gods from around the world. Reading the stories in addition to viewing the many artistic renditions of mythological animals provided an endless reservoir of inspiration.

I’ve also read James Hillman’s  Dream Animals numerous times. I find his writing and Margot McLean’s accompanying paintings incredible!! It’s one of those books that I can read over and over again and never grow tired of. It is a book I would wind down with after an intense day of painting for Animals Divine.

Artists inspire me as well. I love the delicate work of Sulamith Wulfing and am the owner of several of her oracles in German. She was cited as one of Susan Boulet’s influences, unbeknownst to me when I first discovered Boulet’s work. And of course, I love Margot McLean’s paintings for Dream Animals.  I am also a fan of the mid-20th century surreal artist Remedios Varo.

TWPT:  Most everything these days has a “learning curve” before you can become proficient with it. Do you feel that folks will be able to pick up your cards and use them without a steep learning curve? Are the concepts familiar enough to those who have worked with the tarot before that they should have no problem tuning into the associated images/meanings of your deck?

LH:  I kept close to tradition; with a few exceptions (i.e. Challenge instead of Devil, The Hanged Woman instead of The Hanged Man etc.) and feel that the writing and images are straightforward and intuitive enough to allow even the beginner to immediately connect with the cards. One can read a card on either an immediate level of recognition or derive additional meaning by examining the cards more closely. I’ve included layers of symbolism, but nothing that is too esoteric or beyond the reaches of straightforward review. But I think the challenges inherent when including a lot of symbolism and underlying meaning will prevent this deck from becoming repetitious and uninspiring. This deck can be used in an expansive, versatile manner depending on how you would like to use it for your particular needs.

Also, I have cups as water, swords as air, wands as fire and pentacles as earth. In the book, I give a full explanation for my choices and how they reflect the four functions of the psyche.

TWPT:  Do these cards represent a particular viewpoint when it comes to spirituality or are they inclusive of many paths?

LH:  I tried to approach this with a universal, all encompassing voice. It does not lean towards a particular religion or mode of spirituality, but rather focuses on the essence of animals and the important roles that they play in our psyches. I would like to think that anyone who is interested in establishing a deeper connection with animals, nature and mythology would find this deck helpful and enjoyable to use.

TWPT:  In closing is there anything else about this project that you would like to share with our readers?

LH:  Animals Divine Tarot was a labor of love and reflects my great reverence for the many wondrous creatures that inhabit the earth. It is my hope that Animals Divine will help inspire you to see animals in ways you may not have considered before; perhaps helping you to connect with them on a deeper, spiritual level.

TWPT:  Thank you Lisa for taking the time to talk to me and let the readers of TWPT learn a little bit more about your new tarot deck. We wish you the best of luck and look forward to your next interesting project.