Tarot Spotlight


Ciro Marchetti

Visit Ciro Marchetti's website


Please note illustrations in body of interview are from the upcoming Tarot deck The Tarot of Dreams


 The Tarot of Dreams 2005

Read Boudica's review of this brand new deck by clicking here.









The Gilded Tarot
by Ciro Marchetti

TWPT:  Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself ? 

CM:  I was born in Italy, brought up from a very early age in the UK, and in my late twenties I moved to South America. From there onto the US where I have been based since 1992. I am a professional graphic designer with my own company here in Miami, Florida, offering a full range of marketing related services to a number of multinational corporate clients. Quite removed from the worlds I deal with in my own personal illustration work.

TWPT:  How does a "Photoshop Guru" get into designing a Tarot Deck? 

CM:  My experience with digital media is a obvious consequence of the corporate design work I do. Applying the same tools to the style of my personal illustration work was a logical evolution but one that evolved over many years as the learning curve is steep, and involves technical as well as artistic input.

What started as a personal pastime when time in between client obligations and deadlines allowed, has over recent years enjoyed some recognition both from my peers in the form of various Adobe Photoshop Guru and other awards, design magazines etc, but also with the general public via my web site and sale of fine art prints. I occasionally teach or give lectures on digital imagery and illustration at the Art Institute. As if I wasn't busy enough, my wife talked me into submitting my work for various Art festivals inSouth Florida where I will now be participating.

TWPT:  Many times the author of the book is also the person designing the symbolism and layout for the cards, and the artist is just the brush.  While the actual artistic style is the artists own, the content is usually the symbolism of the author.  Who designed the elements of this deck and how does Barbara Moore, the author of the book, fit into this collaboration?   

CM:  In this case its the reverse. The images, symbolism etc are mine, the text of the companion book by Barbara Moore was prepared to compliment the images and artist notes I provided.

 I see many elements of the standard Tarot Deck in your cards but you also have a distinct unique approach to the Tarot.  Where did you draw your influences from? 

The style and theme of my work has always included a certain fantasy, mystical Astrological content. But I was never and indeed still do not consider myself particularly knowledgeable in those subjects, but for some reason which I could never fathom I was always intrigued by the symbolism and mystery that they represented.  

When Llewellyn asked if I'd be interested in creating a tarot deck, my first reaction was -- why I hadn't thought of it myself. Indeed I even had some decks which I had mounted on a board and hanging on my wall.

However I was also concerned that it is one thing to produce an illustration that only needed to make sense to me, it is another to produce 78 images that needed to comply with certain established meanings and symbology. I made sure that Llewellyn was fully aware that I was a novice, they felt comfortable despite that, so I started to put pen to paper (or in my case digital pen and mouse to monitor).

TWPT:  What have you encountered in putting together this deck?  Any serendipity moments or moments of difficulty in putting together a tarot deck? 

CM:  There was little purpose taking on the volume of work that a tarot deck represents simply to churn out yet another Rider-Waite clone.  That's why I'm wary of the ultra traditionalists of the tarot community who are unreceptive to any deviation from the established imagery.  I mean, if one took that approach to the extreme then the artist of any new deck is relegated to being a glorified photocopying machine.

Nevertheless, realizing that keeping everyone happy was not going to be possible anyway, I decided to use my lack of familiarity with the subject to my advantage .  I read multiple descriptions of the cards from various sources, but deliberately avoided looking at many images, so that I'd be as uninfluenced as possible by the interpretations of the other artists. Of course there in lies the potential danger of veering off to far and alienating too many people.

So after I had prepared a number of basic cards, I met with the local Wiccan High Priestess of Isis Rising who had been recommended by a mutual friend, and presented my ideas to her. I was encouraged by her positive response and felt more confident that the look and feel I was using was working and so I continued to apply it to the remaining cards.

Indeed, somewhat surprisingly under the circumstances, Llewellyn only requested two changes. One of which was because they were initially uncomfortable about the lack of a male figure on the ten of cups. This was a good example in fact of my personal vision based on what I had read and pictured in my mind.  

My take on it was that the male figure is there in a sense, I saw myself as the male figure, returning home from my labours and observing in the third person the domestic scene with the positive connotations it projects. Llewellyn accepted the interpretation. 

TWPT:  Could you discuss how you designed this deck and worked it through the computer medium?

CM:  Technically my illustrations and the Gilded were produced digitally. I "paint" using a digital pen and tablet. I only use Photoshop.  Unlike most computer "generated" decks,  I didn't  use special third party filters or scanned photographs.  Everything is created from scratch, with the exception in the Gilded where a few photographic faces of myself, family members and friend who posed for some cards were incorporated. 

TWPT:  Your website is awesome.  I loved exploring the site, the artwork, and it is well laid out and easy to navigate.  Is this your design also?

CM:  I designed my web site to serve as a virtual gallery and shop window to offer fine art prints of my work.  While it's probably a little frustrating for anyone with slower Internet access to view, I felt it was important and appropriate to have the contents somewhat graphic heavy, and to try and show as much detail as possible. I'm pleased to say that its attracting a growing number of visitors, and I'm receiving almost eight hundred a day. 

TWPT:  Tell us about the "Special Edition" decks you have available on your website.

CM:  The special edition versions of the Gilded Tarot have been an interesting exercise. It started as a couple of hand made decks I'd produced for myself .  I simply didn't have the patience to wait for the published version to be released so I could actually have something tangible in my hands.  I then offered them to the public, but did not seriously expect anyone to buy them.  It gave me something to talk about and discuss in various tarot related forums, while once again waiting for the standard deck to published.

Unfortunately the fact that they were printed one deck at a time front and back, hand glued, trimmed, plus additional satin laminate etc. etc.; it was extremely time consuming. Along with the cost of special paper inks etc, I was obliged to charge a high price for them, which to be honest still didn't make business sense considering the effort involved. and is certainly not an option I will repeat for future projects. But certainly as a marketing exercise to promote interest in the published deck that followed, it was worth it. 

TWPT:  What have you in store for us in the future?  Can we expect any more projects like the Gilded Tarot Deck?

CM:  My next project is called the Tarot of Dreams, and I'm particularly excited about it. While I'm satisfied with the Gilded, to use the following analogy: its like the The Hobbit, whereas the new deck will be my Lord of the Rings. I hope that it will provide the tarot community with some significant new approaches.

Once again it will consist of a 78 card deck, with fully illustrated minors. But the illustration style will be far more detailed that the Gilded, and will be deeper in esoteric symbology. This is due to my own learning curve, along with the collaboration of Lee Bursten, who I have contracted to join me and will be writing the text for the companion material as well as providing insight and recommendations. He has also developed a Tree of Life chart which is incorporated in the imagery of the cards.

In addition to the deck itself, there will be a CD containing an easy friendly interface that will allow the users to navigate to the various sections. This will of course include a full intro and explanation of the cards, each of which can be viewed either in order or randomly. The majors will also be animated, so that there will be a number of possible variations from one time to the next for the image of each Major, which I hope will provide an almost infinite base of combinations for both reading and personal meditation.

To appease those who prefer to work with a Marsaille styled deck, the CD will also offer the option of viewing less illustrated minors, thus essentially there will be 118 cards. There will also be an optional narrated voice over and background music, plus free themed monitor desktop wallpapers, screen savers and letterheads. Finally there will be an option to print out a hard copy version of the text for those who prefer to read in a more tradition book form. So all in all I hope this will offer something for everyone, and put a fresh face on the tarot genre.

As I mentioned earlier, I won't be producing a hand made limited edition version of this deck, but I will be offering all those who have requested to be included on my mailing Tarot of Dreams mailing list, some kind of extra thank you such as signed numbered versions. 

TWPT:  We would like to thank Mr. Marchetti for his insightful answers to our questions, and wish him much success on both of his projects.  Please take the time to visit his website below and view some of the brilliant imagery he has produced.  It is well worth the trip to his website.