Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cringe-Worthy Preparation of Mystical Cats Tarot Cover Art

As I finish up the art for Mystical Cats Tarot, the talented folks in the Llewellyn Art Department are working on starting their end of the process.

I got an email from the art director from Llewellyn shortly before my move to let me know that while I'm still finishing up the art for Mystical Cats Tarot, they would like the two cards that the committee chose for the cover art for the box and accompanying book for this deck.  They want to get started on the design for the packaging, and since I worked for several years as a designer for print, I totally was happy to get them whatever they needed.  I love to work on heavy illustration board, it's about a thick as a mat board if you've ever seen that.  Llewellyn prefers to scan the art themselves from the originals, and since they use a drum scanner which is curved, they prefer it if I peel the art from the illustration board that I prefer to work on. I know about drum scanners because we used to used them back when I worked at Network Color, they scanned the original art from the comic book pages so that we could digitally add color.   It's like a big thick tube that the art kind of wraps around as it scans.

Peeling the boards is a slightly daunting process, more so for my husband who hates to watch me do this, even though I've never torn one yet.(knocking very vigorously on the old wooden art table)

I went though and located the two pieces they are using for the covers, the orange cat, King of Earth will be the cover for the book Lunaea Weatherstone is writing and the grey cat in the tree, the Stars card will be the cover of the box, so watch for that on bookstore shelves this coming spring!
Everyone must thank my husband Dan, he photographed the peeling process for me, and it really makes him freaked out to watch it, he's so scared the art will get torn, so hats off to Dan for cringing while photographing!  FYI, I do 600 DPI scans of the art before I peel the boards..just in case.  Yikes!

So first I find a sweet spot with my fingernail where I can separate the thick board from the finished surface.

Then as carefully as I possibly can, and being careful not to bend the art at all, I peel the art from the board...oh Dan is totally loosing it now, he says it's very hard to watch.

Ta-da!! Now the art is peeled.  Instead of being on a thick piece of board, it's now more like a heavy piece of cardstock, exactly what Llewellyn needs to put through the curved drum scanner.

Ok, the second one gave me a bit of trouble, so Dan had to help hold it, but it turned out fine, here's the pic! (Poor guy, the things we do for love!)

Here they are, all ready to send off via FedEx.  At this writing, Llewellyn probably has the scans back and are working on creating our cool cover art from these images!  I'm so excited to see what they come up with!

For more updates and news about Mystical Cats Tarot, be sure to pop over and "like" our Facebook Page!

Brightest Blessings!

Mickie Mueller

Monday, August 12, 2013

How a Mystical Cat Becomes a Card

I've had many people curious about the process of creating tarot cards for a deck.  It's actually a very interesting process.  

To show you the steps, I'll take you through step by step of the Queen of the Sea Cats card from my upcoming deck Mystical Cats Tarot.  The first step is to determine the vision for the card.  On this project, I'm working with author Lunaea Weatherstone, so I get my initial direction from her.  Usually we have a phone discussion about the card and I get a written description for how she wants the card to look, the feel she wants to convey, and any specific elements she wants to be included in the card.  We modeled the cat for the "Sea Queen" after a beautiful real life cat as well, a cat that Lunaea knows, so she sent me several photos of the cat so I could see the markings, eye color, body type etc.  

I take all of the information and visualize it in my head, and then I draw a rough sketch.  
This is the very rough sketch, mostly to show placement and visual concept of everything
to Lunaea in case any changes need to be made, this is a very small sized sketch.
This brings all those ideas floating around into sharp focus.  For this card I found lots of inspiration looking at classic fountains, especially ones with mermaids on them.  Since this is the world of Mystical Cats however, it seemed obvious to me that it should be a mer-cat instead!  Once the sketch was complete, I emailed it off to Lunaea to make sure it fit her vision.  Then upon approval, I was ready to start creating the finished piece.

The next step is to transfer the sketch onto a sheet of smooth hot press illustration board.  Once I have all the details I need in place, I use a liquid frisked to cover up all of the areas of the art that I wish to remain totally white.  These are the areas that I will be working in colored pencil. Right now I'm using Art Masking Fluid by Windsor & Newton, although Grumbacher makes a good one as well.  It's kind of like a very thin rubber cement.  I recommend using a very cheap brush to paint it on, I use kids throw-away brushes with brightly colored plastic handles and trim the bristles as needed.  This stuff will ruin your good brushes, so don't go there!

Next  I mix up my special herbal wash.  I've chosen herbs for each card to correspond with the suit, card, and general feeling of the card.  This is how I add magic to every piece of art that I create.  It helps me to raise the appropriate energies of the piece so that I can make it vibrate with the correct intention and purpose.  In this case I used catnip, lady's mantle, kelp and a drop of water from the chalice well at Glastonbury that was given to me by my friend Shea, who traveled there.  This magical infusion is the water that I use for my watercolor wash, allowing the herbs I've chosen to work their magic and get the creative juices flowing. 
The finished sketch covered with liquid frisket after I've painted it.

 As I work with the paint, the frisket repels the paint from the areas to remain white, so I paint right over he top of it.  
The reveal: peeling the frisket from the painting, all those white areas will be layered with colored pencil.

Once the paint is completely dry, I peel off the frisket and the tape that marks the edges and I get to work with the colored pencils.  I work each section, usually adding the shadows first and working out towards the highlights.  I use Berol Prismacolor pencils, I love the variety and blend-ability  of them, I've been working with them for over 25 years.  As I work, I sometimes use a colorless blender, which is like a pencil that has no pigment, that helps blend multiple odors together and fill in darker areas so that less of the white paper shows through while it bumps up the color.  I work across the board bit by bit creating an entire world from the tips of very sharp pencils.  
A long way to go...

Really getting into the mosaic!

When I'm totally done with the colored pencil step which can take several days to complete, I look over the area and sometimes layer more watercolor over the top of the colored pencil.  I do this in order to fill in any areas where white shows through due to the texture or "tooth" of the illustration board and to make the colors "pop" a bit more.  
The Queen of the Sea Cats, complete!

Then I carefully add highlights to the cats eyes and whiskers, and the card is complete!  I scan it and email it off to Lunaea and then on to the next!  This is the process by which all 78 cards for Mystical Cats Tarot are (and will be) completed.  Then the original art for the cards will be whisked away to Llewellyns art department where they will do their magic to design how the finished cards and packaging will look.  This spring watch your local bookstore and you can pick up your very own copy of Mystical Cats Tarot.  I the mean time, why not pop over to the Mystical Cats Tarot Facebook Page and hit the "like" button so that you can see all the sneak peeks as they are released!

Brightest Blessings,

Mickie Mueller

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saint Expedite, Candles, Cake and Making it Happen

When my friend Shea gave me a beautiful Saint Expedite candle as a thank you gift for helping her out, I was positively delighted!  She told me that the candle had been made by Judika Illes, as it happens, one of my favorite go-to magical authors which made it even cooler!  I hadn't worked with Saint Expedite before, but I felt that this candle came to me for a reason, so before using it, I set out to learn more about this handsome Roman soldier that had made his way across the ages to land on my old wooden art table.

My Saint Expedite burning happily on my old wooden art table
working on, well, expediting!

Saint Expedite is not a judgy saint, he is happy to help out people of any faith at all, so long as you offer him the proper respect and payment, he is a soldier after all, and you must pay your dues.  So what does this guy specialize in?  Well, he makes things happen, comes to the rescue, rocks out quick solutions.  He's your magical fireman who will rescue you from the metaphorical burning building.  The song, "I Need a Hero" comes to mind.  He's the patron saint of emergency situations, sailors, students, and shopkeepers.  Consider asking him for assistance when you need a quick solution to a problem.

Almost nothing is known about the life of St. Expedite, according to the various legends surrounding him, a crate arrived having been shipped from one location in the church to another containing a statue and relics of a Roman soldier, but the crate had been marked "spedito" or "Expedite" meant to be shipping instructions, but someone upon receipt mistook this instruction for his name.  Although he's not officially recognized on the  Roman Catholic Church's roster of Saints, he has become very popular and venerated all over the world among devotees who ask him for quick favors.

The symbolism behind his traditional images are fascinating to me.  The cross he holds has the word "hodie" on it which is Latin for "today."  His foot is on a crow which has the word "cras" which is how the Romans pronounced the sound of a crows caw, caw, caw sound. Cras, means CRAS tinate!  So this symbolism is perfect for getting things moving and quickly too.  Don't worry it's just a metaphorical crow, not a real one! No crows were harmed in the making of this spell candle!

How to Work With Saint Expedite

Wednesday is the best day to work with Saint Expedite.  The first rule when working with Saint Expedite is don't bother asking him to harm another, this soldier will take none of that nonsense, and you'll probably face a backfire you don't want.  Always be respectful when asking for his help, he doesn't have to help if he doesn't want to, so be sure to be polite when you ask.  To that end, he likes offerings made to him.  Choose one favor, don't overload him.

 In general, a red candle is used when asking this Saint for assistance.  He also likes offerings of flowers,  red flowers are his favorite.  I read that some cultures offer marigolds at the time of the request and then offer red flowers upon receiving the favor or help to thank this Saint.  Use a statue, picture, or holy card of Saint Expedite when calling upon him.  If you're using a 7 day candle like mine (pictured) put a glass of water on the altar as you burn the candle.  When it burns out, fill the jar candle with the water and red flowers to thank him for his help.  Pound cake is the traditional offering to thank Saint Expedite.  Be sure to buy or make a nice fresh one, and give him the first slice from the loaf, I sliced a good piece from the middle.  When the flowers and cake are no longer fresh and nice, you may put them outside, leave the remains of the cake for passing critters and compost the flowers or allow them to return to the earth. Do not place offerings in the trash, it would be disrespectful.  

The other thing that Saint Expedite appreciates in return for his quick favors is a public thank you.  You can post a thanks on social media, take out an ad in the newspaper, that kind of thing.  Whatever you do, make sure that you let the Saint know what you plan to do in thanks for his favor at the time you ask, and then be sure to follow through with your end of the bargain.  If you don't, you can loose all you gained and then some.  Roman soldiers must be payed their due.

I decided to create an oil to use for my candle when I requested his help, and I wanted to share the recipe with you.

I looked up several recipes online and came up with this version based upon several versions I found and what I happened to have in my magical cabinet.  I put it in an old oil bottle I cleaned out and made a label using an image of Saint Expedite. This oil smells wonderful!

Saint Expedite Oil 

olive oil

honeysuckle oil
allspice, just a pinch
high john the conqueror root, a couple bits shaved off
sandalwood oil
amber oil

To learn more about Saint Expedite, here's a couple of great links:

Brightest Blessings!