Artistic conception, "artwork" - imagination and/or creativity - which matters more?


Artistic conception, "artwork" - imagination and/or creativity - which matters more?

Well, have to admit I think they both matter (Diana, if you are reading this, I would never win the Turner prize!) but I thought I'd pick up from the thread going on over on "decks" and continue the conversation about the importance (or lack of importance) of artwork here instead.

The term "artwork" is a bit vague. I suppose what I mean is technique. When you are doing your design, do you think the concept matters more than the technique?(I would call this the "Shining Tribe" approach - which is not meant to be critical, I think it simply was a decision on that deck that the technical quality of the drawing did not matter - a perfectly valid decision). Or do you think technique matters more than concept? I suppose some "Art Decks" might fall into this category. Or do you think both are equally important?

I don't mean this to be a terribly heavy or serious question, just something to chat around. But it is interesting. In much modern art, technique seems to have been thrown away completely - maybe tarot is different? If so, why?


Well let's look at two decks, The Shining Tribe, as you have mentioned, and the Rohrig. While I greatly admire the latter, and love to pull it out and look at it, it does not inspire and for me is useless as a reading deck. The Shining Tribe on the other hand, when I first saw pictures of it while reading Forest of Souls, I thought yuk!, why couldn't Ms. Pollack have used another deck for her Wisdom readings, why does she have to foist this deck upon us? But then I took a course where it was used extensively, and the artwork started to resonate with me. I bought the deck. I find it a very difficult deck to read with, but the fact is, I want to try because the deck compels me to try. So I guess concept over technique, because while Rohrig is an outstanding collection of artwork, conceptually, it has a certain conceit that annoys me. Shining Tribe is now beautiful to me, like the person you didn't notice for a while, then as you grew to know them, became beautiful in your eyes.



Concept is very important. With no dearth of decks on the market at the moment, it is arguable that 'tis nigh essential to present a new, fresh way of looking at the Tarot, or at least a twist on tradition (that is, if one is not publishing an entirely historical deck.)

However, I think technique is even MORE important. Even if the concept is amazingly original, I wouldn't go near a deck with substandard artwork with a ten-foot pole. (Shining Tribe! eewww! ;) ) There are far too many ugly decks whose artists seemingly utilised the technique of ten-year olds. If I wanted an ugly deck, I'd blindfold myself and create my own. ;)

Of course, readability is also important! Boo, Lo Scarabeo (though things seem to be getting better)!


Demonesse said:
Perhaps it is my partly Taurean love of beauty....
Hmmm, what's my excuse, then? :confused:


I think I may be going off at a tangent here.....

But what matters to me is the use of image. I get greatly irritated by the use of restricting images - airbrushed, vapid, barbie-like pubescent females, in particular. I want to see images that celebrate all aspects of the feminine - and the masculine for that matter. I want to see images that relate to the human condition.

This of course means that very few decks appeal to me.

As for how those images are rendered.... technique, well executed, matters muchly.


Interesting you bring up the Rohrig Lawguy. I have the same problems with it. I look and see that the technique is pretty good - skillful Photoshop of course, but more than that - it in some ways is a well-thought through set of images. But read with it? No way. It seems to be a deck that is saying "Look at me" rather than "Use me". But - people use it successfully, so this feeling can't be general.

I have a lot of problems with decks that go too much one way or the other. I am really glad I have Lo Scarabeo's Millenium and Imagination tarots - but I can't do much with them (but then again, I like looking at them). On the other hand, Shining Tribe? Well, maybe I have to just buy it and get over my initial feeling of "yuk" when I see the crude drawing. People seem to love working with it. But then again, when I read I read mostly for artists and designers - who would rear back in horror if I used something like Shining Tribe with them.

I think what I maybe like least of all though is those tarots that seem to me to have "just good enough" concept and technique - the kind of churned out workaday stuff done for a specific market (I don't want to name any in case I really offend someone, but you probably know the sort of thing I mean). That's just bland. At least tarots at either extreme are thought-provoking.


I'm new here but I thought I would jump in on this conversation. Sometimes I am drawn to a deck because of its artwork and sometimes because of the concept. I think that, for reading, the concept is more important. When I first came across the Motherpeace deck in the early 80's, I wouldn't touch it because I couldn't stand the artwork. But as I proceeded in my Goddess studies I picked it up again, and then used it as my primary reading deck for years because it came the closest to my own values and worldview (at the time).

I love the Shining Tribe deck today for the same reason - I love the concepts and the wisdom, and the worldview is close to my own. I love the Tarot of the Crone for the same reason (although I've only had the deck a short time and am still getting to know it).

Even though the art on the Shining Tribe deck could be called "primitive" or "childlike", I think that several of the pieces are quite effective and very powerful as pieces of art -- I'm thinking specifically of the High Priestess and Death cards. Perhaps because they are so bold and stark. I feel the same way about the High Priestess from the Tarot of the Crone.

On the other hand - my own art couldn't be more different - I tend to do very realistic art - or maybe it's "magical realism" - but I really admire and even envy artists whose work is more stylized. I'm trying my best with my own deck-in-progress to have a good marriage of concept and artwork -- although I've been a professional artist and designer long enough to know that some people will love my artwork and it leaves other people cold. Same with concepts and worldviews. I don't take it personally anymore. Thank Goddess for diversity! :)


baba-prague said:
At least tarots at either extreme are thought-provoking.
Not to be a total suckup but what I love about your deck as well as my other favourite collage deck, the Victoria Regina, is adherence to a very particular creative impulse. With both decks, you get the sense that the creators had an inspired conceptual vision and both of you, I think, executed that vision (technique) fabulously. And somehow, for me, when a concept that resonates with me meets technique and the two flow together harmoniously, I tend to find myself with a deck that 'speaks' to me. It's weird. When I got the Prague deck this week, I did my new deck spread. Made total sense. Did a Celtic Cross and Umbrae Horseshoe spread, could see natural stories developing immediately, the cards interplaying with each other. On the other hand, I remember trying to use the Rohrig over and over again (and I'm not picking on that deck, same thing happened to me with the Haindl), and I couldn't see any connections, nothing made sense. So, for me at least, when concept and technique are married harmoniously, the deck becomes more than just a series of pretty pictures, it becomes a favoured tool.



I've been dithering in my mind about how to reply to this thread, because although I can look at my deck and see some overall concepts and structures now that it's done, I have to admit that I did the deck in essentially the same way I started reading the Tarot - by diving in and seeing what came up at the moment, and stopping when the card said "done". Every once in a while I started worrying about what the "correct" symbols or images were, and each time I got stopped in my tracks.

When people start to talk about concept, I wonder whether I should be feeling apologetic - and then decide I shouldn't. In any event, it leaves me with not very much to say in that area that isn't pure puffery.

Artistically - well, I was aiming for the mainstream market, and I wanted graphics that would grab the eye and mind and draw them in without the need for concentrated study of the traditions or symbolism behind the cards (okay, for readers who might start out the way I did). Whether I was correct in the approach will have to wait on publication (probably self-publication, given the general response to new "mainstream" decks).

Is it good art? I'm not sure. It's good graphics work, by my standards, although that seems to be a secondary consideration in most of the discussions here. I think this is coming out sounding like sour grapes, and maybe it is - not directed at anybody in particular, but more at what I perceive is a general distinction between commercial and fine or "real" art - as if, if it's one, it can't be the other. I have nothing but respect for the artists who can explain the steps by which they developed a concept into a finished piece of artwork, and as much for people who create each piece stroke by careful stroke - but neither fits me.

Do I have an answer for the original question? Possibly. I think what makes a deck effective is the people who pick it up and read from it. If it's bad art, and it's the only game in town, they'll manage anyway. Any deck that makes it easier to do readings, for whatever reason, is a better deck. What is better for an individual reader is going to vary all over the map - and thank heaven there are so many, many variations available (although it makes it harder for new ones to get a foothold).


joanna-gaian said:
I'm new here but I thought I would jump in on this conversation.
Even though the art on the Shining Tribe deck could be called "primitive" or "childlike", I think that several of the pieces are quite effective and very powerful as pieces of art
First of all, welcome and there need be no 'buts' about it. All opinions are welcome.
I couldn't agree more Joanna, in fact, I have a lithograph of The World-Shining Woman hanging in my office and my eyes are constantly drawn to it. And isn't that the purpose of art, to connect us with vision of the artist.