TWPT Pentacle

Wiccan Pagan Times Logo
Seasonal Banners on TWPT courtesy of Mickie Mueller

Tarot Deck/Book Spotlight

 

Deborah Blak Author

Deborah Blake

Visit Deborah's website

 

Elisabeth Alba Illustrator

Elisabeth Alba

Visit Elisabeth's website

 

All images on this page 
copyrighted ©
and used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday Witch Tarot and Book
by Deborah Blake, illustrated by Elisabeth Alba  


Everyday Witch Tarot Box Cover

Everyday Witch Tarot Book Cover

TWPT:  Tarot decks are all very interesting these days, quite beautifully illustrated and cover a large variety of subjects but what is the initial impulse in your case that started the ball rolling?

DB:  I actually got an email from Barbara Moore at Llewellyn, asking me if I wanted to do the deck! (This hardly ever happens.) I had just done a book called The Witch’s Broom with a cool retro cat/broom/black hat cover, and they’d gotten the idea to do a deck with that sort of theme. I was insanely busy working on both novels and another book for Llewellyn, but how could I say no?

TWPT:  You have a series of books with the "everyday" theme so how does you new tarot deck tie in with the concept of your other "everyday" books that you have written so far?

DB:  One of the reasons they asked me to come up with the theme for the tarot deck and write the accompanying book was because they liked my general approach, which is both practical and accessible. I know that many modern witches (me included) are busy and torn in many directions, and I try to help them find ways to “walk their talk” as witches and Pagans every day, even if it is only for five minutes at a time. The deck was based on this same concept—I wanted it to be easy to use and understand, and fun, too, even when it was being used for serious matters.

Ace of Pentacles Everyday Tarot Card
Ace of Pentacles

TWPT:  How soon in the process did you start to think about an illustrator for the project?

DB:  Almost immediately! Once I’d submitted a formal proposal, Barbara and I started talking about who would illustrate the cards. She told me that Llewellyn had a few people in mind, including one illustrator they’d never worked with, but had been keeping an eye on. She sent me a link to Elisabeth Alba’s website, and I took one look and knew this was the person I wanted to illustrate my deck! I emailed Barbara back within five minutes and literally said, “Please, get me THIS ONE!” Thankfully, she did.

TWPT:  How do you go about making contact with different illustrators to see if a project like you have in mind is something they would want to participate in?

DB:  Barbara handled all that for Llewellyn. I wasn’t involved in those conversations. And in this case, since I’d fallen in love with Elisabeth’s work, they only talked with her. But I’m pretty sure they only approach one person at a time.

EA:  I just wanted to chime in! My husband, Scott, had been in the midst of illustrating a different tarot deck for Llewellyn when I got the offer, so I had an idea of what the work would entail and what I would be in for. I was excited and definitely up for it!

TWPT:  When you first started this everyday tarot project did you have at least a framework in mind for how you wanted to the cards to flow?

DB:  Since the deck is based on the classic Rider-Waite deck, that part was already predetermined.

TWPT:  How did you go about fleshing out the various cards and deciding how your deck would differ from other decks on the market?

DB:  I wanted especially to make sure they were easy to understand and use. Some of the women in my circle had complained to me in the past that they’d tried to learn the traditional Rider-Waite cards and found them confusing, so it was important to me to update some of the images and descriptions so they were easier to understand. I also used much of my own personal interpretations of the cards, arrived at after years of reading tarot professionally. I tend to be as positive as possible in my readings, and that is reflected in the deck as well. Plus, of course, I always sprinkle my books with a bit of humor—Elisabeth was great at capturing bits of whimsy, while still balancing that with the serious nature of the tarot.

TWPT:  How much of a collaborative effort was there between you and Elisabeth in regards to the looks of this deck?

DB:  It was huge. I would give her my basic descriptions for a card, but she often put her own twist on them.

Eight of Cups Everyday Tarot Card
Eight of Cups

EA:  It was wonderful to work with Deborah. I've done a lot of work in publishing and it is rare to be able to work one-on-one with the author. Usually the art director or editor handles everything and you never get any communication with the author. So I really appreciated getting to work with her, discuss the cards and imagery, and really collaborate together.

TWPT:  How does the process work once you have reached the drawing stage? Do the two of you look at each image as it is being created and talk about changes or tweaks that you want to see made?

Strength Everyday Tarot Card
Strength

EA:  I started with small very rough sketches, working out the composition and making sure I have all the necessary elements depicted. I showed these sketches to Deborah and Lynne, the art director, to make sure I was going in the right direction. When the sketch was approved I would work on a more finished drawing. If  Deborah or Lynne had any comments or concerns we addressed those and I made any needed changes.

TWPT:  Do you go down the list of each card prior to when work on drawing starts to talk about what each card should look like and what it needs to represent? Do you do this on the phone or do you do any face to face meetings?

DB:  I can tell you that as of this interview, Elisabeth and I have only communicated by email and Facebook messages. But we’re planning to get together in mid-January to sign our limited edition, as well as some additional books, so we’ll finally get to meet in person!

EA:  All email! Deborah had all of the card information written down for me from the start, so I knew everything I needed to know before beginning. I'm definitely pumped to finally meet Deborah in person though after all this time!

TWPT:  Did the two of you ever have different ideas as to how something should be illustrated on a card and what is the process you go through when that happens?

DB:  Thankfully, we were usually very much on the same page. Occasionally we had small differences, and then we’d usually email back and forth, and sometimes Elisabeth would do a couple of extra sketches until we’d gotten it figured out.

EA:  Yup, we were pretty much in agreement with everything the entire time!

TWPT:  Was all of this information in your book in the back of your mind when you first thought about your deck or did it come to the surface as you worked with Elisabeth in designing the cards?

DB:  I actually designed the cards myself, on the basic level. That is, I’d send Elisabeth a description of how I envisioned the card to look. Then she’d tweak it. The book and the deck were created at the same time.

TWPT:  Was the book designed to be a manual for the deck or a reference book for those aspects of your deck that might need more explanation as people started using it?

DB:  The book is definitely a specific guide for this particular deck, card by card, but it also covers some of the basics of doing tarot readings that would work for any deck.

TWPT:  Elisabeth, did you have multiple cards in the works during the creation phase or did you work on one card at a time until each one was completed?

EA:  There were so many to do that I worked on multiple simultaneously. I worked in suits. I started with Swords, for example, and did all of the sword sketches at once, then sent them all for approval at once, and then worked on all the drawings for them at once, etc.

TWPT:  As an artist is drawing for someone else more difficult than drawing what you see in your own mind for yourself?

EA:  Sometimes it can be difficult to translate writing into art if the author doesn't really know how to compose the scene visually.  I didn't have any issue with Deborah's descriptions, fortunately, but in other projects I've had writers who were so descriptive and there was no way to include everything they wanted to include without the art looking like a mess. For example, wanting to include objects that were so small they wouldn't actually be readable on the image at print size, or including multiple actions in one image so the viewer wouldn't know where to look first.

DB:  There were a few cases where Elisabeth had to write me and say, “I can’t really fit this all in here the way you described it!” But not many, thankfully. She did have lots of good suggestions for minor changes, when what I had originally didn’t quite work.

TWPT:  Were there any illustrations in particular that presented more of a challenge than the others? How did you overcome it?

Four of Wands Tarot Card
Four of Wands

EA:  The most difficult images were the ones with multiple people and cats in them. The tarot card is tall and narrow so trying to fit so much in that space was a challenge sometimes. After reading the descriptions for the 4, 5, and 6 of Wands, I was dreading having to work on them. They actually turned out to be three of my favorites!

DB:  And don’t forget the 10 of Pentacles!

TWPT:  On a project like this where so much is communicated visually through the illustrations do you feel that you are equal partners in the creation of the deck instead of the feeling that this is Deborah's deck and Elisabeth is "just" the illustrator?

DB:  ABSOLUTELY! This was definitely a co-creation. There is no “just” about Elisabeth’s contribution. Without her fabulous art, this would be a completely different deck.

EA:  I agree! This is definitely a 50/50 project.


Elisabeth surrounded by her finished artwork

TWPT:  Now that the deck is coming up on release in January 2017 what are your feelings about having reached the end of the collaborative road so to speak?

DB:  It has been such a joy to work on this deck with Elisabeth. I hope we’ll find other projects we can work on together in the future.

EA:  Deborah and I communicate online just as much as we did when working on the deck, and I am happy to count her as a friend! Though the collaborative project has ended (for now), it hasn't really felt like an ending.

TWPT:  Ok big selling pitch here. Why would someone want to pick up your deck as their next purchase? How is it going to be the best thing they could get to start their new year off right?

EA:  The design team at Llewellyn did a marvelous job with the packaging design so it's very eye-catching! And once people go past the appearance, they will see that it's a fun, happy, new deck with a lot of love put into it.

DB:  It’s beautiful, easy to use, and fun! Also, there are lots of cute cats.

TWPT:  Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about your new tarot deck and what it took to make it come to life. Hoping that this deck marks the beginning of a prosperous 2017 for the two of you.