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New Painting in Progress for a Collective Tarot Deck Project

January was a difficult month for me to find creative momentum.  Last year, I vowed to myself that I would use the slow months leading up to Megacon (March 22-24) to create new Sci-Fi/Fantasy themed artwork specifically for the show, as well as build up my current inventory so that I wouldn’t rush around like a headless chicken in mid-March.

But while I’ve been making good progress on prep work for Megacon, I’ve been dragging my heels with regards to creating anything new, and feeling depressed and/or anxious nearly every day.

Perhaps it’s the monstrous amount of snow that is piling up outside our door, and the time our kitchen pipes froze, forcing me to wash several loads of dishes in our bathroom upstairs.

The pets and children are suffering from cabin-fever, and in Mia’s case, an actual fever accompanying a stomach bug that lasted one miserable weekend. We were blessed with one really nice warm spell for two whole days, enabling us to visit the park without turning into human Popsicles.

It could be the fact that the bathroom scale is starting to drop hints that I need to limit my sugar indulgences, and I get really crabby when I’m sugar deprived. I’ve never dieted – in my life – and self-control is not my strong suit.

Our front lawn buried in snow

Five months after quitting my day job, with our reserve funds spent buying our home, I am starting to feel performance pressure. I need to paint! It is no longer about “building my portfolio” and creative exploration… I need to create new pieces and continue adding items for sale, in order to keep our fridge stocked and gas in our car.

My husband, who is ever supportive, has been sweating, too. His anxiety manifests itself in ideas for subjects I could paint (he really wants to see a collection of Walking Dead Cats… bleh! Zombies aren’t my thing.) He is nagging me to start another mini ACEO series, because the Flower Cats did so well on eBay last summer.

I started working on six miniature portraits of Harry Potter cat characters, and halfway through painting the first set, I had a panic attack ~ absolutely certain that J.K.Rowling would sue me. I immediately tore them up. =P

I’ve taken to lying awake in bed past 3am, watching old movies on Netflix. After re-watching “The Great Gatsby” (the original, starring Robert Redford. I haven’t bothered with the DiCaprio version) I had a vision of Art Deco-inspired portraits of Daisy in a white dress, surrounded by a floral border, and Gatsby in his tuxedo, with a grape arbor.

So I started sketching them out… but the inspiration died, and I couldn’t complete the drawings.
And of course, I feel guilty for abandoning a project ~ when I know that I need to finish … something.

The problem is that whenever I feel anxious, guilty, or depressed, I crawl inside myself and do nothing at all. I become trapped by the paralysis of my own procrastination.

Initial sketch for 5 of Pentacles

Such was my emotional state of mind when Carrie Hawks, of TigerPixieArt, contacted me one evening, asking me whether I’d like to join a group of artists putting together a Tarot deck. 78Tarot as they collectively call themselves; 78 artists each designing one card in the deck. 78 different pieces of art, in 78 styles, all tied together by a central theme.

I was intrigued, and she encouraged me to “act fast” because spaces were filling up quickly! By the time I joined, only 11 cards were left to choose from!

I have little experience with tarot decks, and couldn’t tell you the meanings of any of the minor cards… so I did a quick Google search for the remaining cards to identify their themes.

At first, when I Googled “5 of Coins”, I figured that any card dealing with materialism or wealth wouldn’t interest me at all… But then I discovered the card’s true meaning, and it seemed drawn to me.

“Often, the Five of Pentacles [also known as Coins] tells of feelings of helplessness, defeat and despair. Unemployment, financial difficulties and the inability to find material and emotional security are indicated by the Five of Pentacles.
~ Tarot – TheRoyalRoad

From studying variations of the card, I learned that the figure represented is struggling with personal hardship and loss, and is feeling trapped and “stuck” in a bad place with seemingly no way to escape.
But, in fact, there is hope for improvement, and a place of refuge (usually depicted as a church or stained glass windows)… and the implication is that if she were to take notice of her surroundings, and stop focusing solely on her problem, she would recognize the people and institutions who could ease her troubles and set her back on the right path.

She is holding onto her struggles and internalizing her misfortune, almost stubbornly refusing to seek help.

You can see why this card seemed to speak directly to me. ;)

Designing 5 of Pentacles for 78Tarot

It was profound and almost spooky how much I identified with this character in rags, face to the wind, shuffling through the snow, barefoot even! (Everyone knows I wear sandals in the snow, but I’d go barefoot if my toes wouldn’t get frostbitten).

I am the person who can’t see the forest for the trees. I tend to imagine the worst when finances are tight, or feel like a utter failure when a project didn’t go quite as planned.

And all around me… are the faces and outstretched hands of concerned family members and friends. I have such an amazing network of support, and my people have never let me down, and yet my pride prevents me from knocking on doors and taking advantage of their help. I insist on “going it alone” and “doing it my way”… and suffering in silence.

I felt so keenly about this project that an image immediately came to me, and I began painting again.

Although she isn’t quite finished… this is where I’m heading with 5 of Pentacles.

Painting 5 of Pentacles Tarot Card

Originally, she was standing on the bridge. But I started unintentionally humming “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” while sketching it, and realized that The Bridge symbolized the offer of help. She wouldn’t be on the bridge, not if she were stubborn like me. She would insist on crossing the frigid waters by seeking out a path using the slippery wet river rocks.

The lamppost represents The Light pointing travelers toward The Bridge, and a safe passage over the river. She abandoned the path, she ignored the lamppost, and seems completely oblivious to the bridge… and now she is stranded in the middle of dark river, with currents rushing around her, and wondering where to take her next step.

Lastly, the five pentacles needed to be included somewhere in my design. I’ll confess, I felt a bit of the heebie-jeebies about adding pagan symbols in my art. Not that I have anything but respect for the religion and friends who practice it, but for some reason it’s easier for me to paint parodies of the Virgin Mary as a cat, than to invoke something seriously spiritual.

Though one of the reasons why this exercise appealed to me was because it encouraged me to explore “the meaning” behind my illustration, rather than simply painting a cute cat wearing a suit.

I decided to transform the pentacles into flowers (and they need a lot of work still!) ~ a vine-ish flowering plant, like morning glories, creeping up the lamppost. The presence of the flowers growing in the snow represents “hope” and the reminder that winter doesn’t last forever. Spring is coming!
(Ya hear that, Starks! SPRING IS COMING!)

Whatever anxiety and depression settles upon me during this season is not permanent, and this godforsaken snow will eventually melt away.
And I will do my best to remember, when I’m standing in flood-water up to my chin, to ask for help. ;)

Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady ... who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair. Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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