It’s Art, It’s Cards, It’s Creativity, It’s Fabulous

Not that I was browsing or anything, but I like to keep my eye on new playing card decks or similar quirky card decks. Many of these are only available from Kickstarter or private sites that I don’t like to buy from. These caught my eye because the cards feature three of my favourite things, illustrations/caricatures of real people, art history, and quotes. It is available at Book Depository and Amazon in the States as well as the publisher’s site, Laurence King Publishing. Well done Mr. King for instigating a wonderful project and making it available to us. I ordered it immediately.

Art Oracles: Creative & Life Inspiration from Great Artists is written by Katya Tylevich and illustrated by Mikkel Sommer and the 50-card deck was just published in August 2017. This is supposed to be a tarot-inspired game, and I’m not sure how that works but even single cards can be inspiring. Here is an example of a card featuring Piet Mondrian with a few choice words.


I spot Jean-Michel Basquiat on the cover, I’ll have to haul out my copy of Gray’s Anatomy and show him I bought his favourite book. Then I can show him that patella and poem inspired by a tiny illustration in the book. Inspiration lies everywhere!

What I also liked is that the author chose people who were unique artists and did work that was fresh and different. That’s a good quality for igniting and firing up the creativity of others. I often speak of creativity here and on my other blogs because it lives in my mind constantly, and I like a good card deck that fuels creativity and causes me to learn and look things up.

Thank you Katya and Mikkel for stimulating us all with your work; I look forward to exploring your deck. This is an understatement given my joy in discovering this deck.

Oh, they’ve got Charles and Ray Eames too and William Blake naked in his garden…! You guys!!!!




Cryptic Moths in Spades

Arrrr Jim lad, there’s nothing like a deck of playing cards with moths.

These are the Cryptic Cards by Immy Smith. I suppose you could call this a semi-transformation deck, but her scientific illustrations of moths are gorgeous. She uses acrylic gouache on Bristol card. I’ve had these on my wish list for ages but they are quite costly for a playing card deck at $34 CAD which includes shipping.


But that’s why they call it a “wish list”.

Oh man, let’s all go and draw insects!



Cheralyn Darcey Decks

I’ve had these two on my wish list for a while.


I’m predictably taken with decks with plants or animals, but it’s a rare thing to find artists who work by hand these days. These particular decks are linocut which is a technique I like and I did myself when I did my review of the Mirrors of the Heart deck.

Gosh, was it really twelve years ago? Shiver me stamens and stalks.

I couldn’t afford to order these from Australia but I managed to find them here in Canada online so I hope the order goes through okay. She has a new deck which is done in dark colours like a negative, and that is funding on Kickstarter but is too costly for me.

With winter coming up I wanted something cheery and I can pair it with my botanical postcards or something and have fun and enjoy the art. It rains a lot here. Almost worse than the snow of Ontario is the relentless rain of British Columbia which I find depressing. But one must cope and I find using uplifting plant decks helps.

I bought a type of cranberry plant for the front garden. We managed to transplant the hydrangeas and the rose but I lost the beautiful old viburnum shrub.

Cards and cranberries: a great compensatory combination.




A Cat Reflects on Talent Gone from the World

I think I bought a package of notecards with this design around 1980 or so. I found it in the old set of drawers I threw out.



Mads Stage was a Danish artist who died in 2004. I was sorry to hear that as this is a favourite piece of art of mine.

His designs were used on postcards, stamps, greeting cards and notecards, ceramics, textiles, and books. He favoured birds and animals but also did cityscapes and landscapes, as well as scientific medical drawings.

What a loss, I always loved his artwork. He illustrated Walden, I would love that edition with his drawings, but it is only available in Danish, and is very pricey, alas.



Database in Denmark

No, it isn’t a Shakespeare deck and Hamlet, It’s the Javanne Tarot by author Karen Javanna Jordell, and illustrator Annelie Zofia Bisgaard. The Danish book was translated into English by Serena Rose Blossom and is bound between acetate covers. I ordered it from a shop in Denmark and had it shipped to Canada (which you can still do today.)


Years ago, one of my tarot compatriots told me about this. She no longer speaks to me since assuming I’d said something in an e-mail I hadn’t. We could all ditch e-mail and get back to real communication.

However, she got me interested in this deck and she had great interest in art decks as she was training to be an art therapist and the illustrator of this deck is an art therapist. K. Frank Jensen gave this deck an awful review, and ripped into the art on this deck, and ridiculed it. Really, art is subjective and I rather like these cards and the women who created them. I also think art therapy is very important. Frank may be a tarot “expert” but he’s closed-minded in some ways.


The 90 x 90 mm cards have matte laminate and are of very high quality cardstock. The original art was done on 1 meter square canvases by Annelie, who was inspired by two books: Between Worlds and On the Path. The author, Karen Javanna Jordell, has been working with the tarot over 25 years.

The deck is unique because each card can be turned in four different directions. In this way the cards can show you “where you are in your inner landscape at this exact moment.” I actually never use the four directions but consider the four directional write-ups much like I do reversals, where it all can go into the interpretation.

My deck came in a dark green silk bag with leather cording and some glass beads on the ends. As understand it, at the time I ordered it each deck came in a unique bag with odd beads. I’ve seen others in red silk: another from of creativity in coloured silk and beads. These days they don’t come with a bag, I think they are packaged in a box.

It is still available at the website if you are interested. Make sure you order the English book. It is 365 Danish Krone (DKK) which converts to about $60 CAD or $55 USD plus shipping. That is a good price for a book and card set.

As in all decks, some cards are better than others but it’s a nice set and holds up for me. I find the art rather joyous and colourful and the book is well written and insightful.



Database Flies to the Birds Again

I already discussed the Bird Signs deck in Database Monday but I thought I’d give equal time to my other major bird oracle: Bird Cards – The Healing Power of the Bird Kingdom by Jane Toerien; Joyce Van Dobben (illustrator)

This was published in 2007 and I had trouble hunting a copy up. It has been republished and released in October 2014 by Connections so more widely available. I’m not sure how the book and card size is in the new edition but they are large in the first edition at 140 x 90 mm for the cards. The book has 159 pages. I love big cards, they are so worth doing larger, particularly with animal art.


Birds are not just beautiful according to the book, they can support us with healing powers. I’m not sure about that but I’ve enjoyed this deck. The book describes each of the 55 birds and their characteristic energies, and for each bird there is also a meditative affirmation.

I like Joyce’s illustrations and often just look at those and look up information on the particular bird. I seem to get enough out of it that way.


Another beautiful Raven in this deck, pulling back the curtain of the sky. Is that not gorgeous?

I don’t know, I tend to shy away from the sappier, feel-good aspects of this deck. Many oracles seem to embrace this attitude but it isn’t me, I’m not a lovey-dovey, healing power type of person.

I do however appreciate the artwork and depth of thought that went into this deck. It’s a big project to pull something like this together, and the fact that it has been republished is testament to the endurance of its good art and ideas.



Into the Pool with Eduardo

In this case, we are into the pool with the well-known Spanish fashion illustrator Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1981)

Vanity Fair, August 1929
Eduardo Garcia Benito


Condé Nast, a very famous publisher and the man who gave exposure (pardon the pun) to my favourite photographer Edward Steichen, met Benito and asked him to work for the company where he did many, many illustrations for Vogue and Vanity Fair depicting Art Deco sensibilities. Here he has drawn an image of the golden period a few months before the stock market crash of October which brought the long, long depression years.

Speaking of golden years, Benito was in Paris during the heyday of art there just before World War I, mixing it up with Picasso and Modigliani. You can see some of these influences in his work. This particular illustration is rather whimsical and cartoon-like, but some of his other covers were very artsy and stylized. His specialty was portraits, and he mingled in the high society and celebrity worlds, living between Paris and New York, painting Gloria Swanson and King Alfonso XIII of Spain for instance.

He left his home town of Valladolid at the age of twenty on a scholarship to train and study further in Paris, so he must have been noticeably talented even when young. Between the wars he continued working for the magazines, was interrupted by World War II, and after the war he did more work for them but gradually wanted to focus on his own work and choices and eventually moved back to Valladolid permanently in the early 1960s to concentrate on painting, portraits and even murals. He died in 1981 and would probably have been forgotten, at least outside of Spain, but for his magazine cover work.


This is his self-portrait, which I wasn’t able to find a date for although I would guess from the suit lapels and the hanky and his age that it was in the mid-1950s or early 1960s. There is scant information on him apart from the magazine covers. I would love to have seen one of his murals, which were probably painted in this style, which seems very conventional compared to his work for periodicals. It’s capable but nothing that leaps out at one and says “Wow!” the way his cover designs do.

So today it’s about style, finding your own style, and also I can see that as people age they change, their tastes and interests change and they move and start over and it’s the natural way of life, the flow, the way it should be. Yesterday I spent three hours cleaning out cupboards and drawers in the kitchen, getting rid of more bags of things, inevitably moving toward change too.

A little digression at the end here because I think it’s important. With all the economic upheavals around the world, but particularly some recent scares in Europe, I found this post poignant and it gave me some real insight into how we make assumptions about groups of people instead of actually learning about what life is like for individuals.