The Hermit

2015 watercolor and pen

I conceived the basic concepts of what would become my Hermit illustration long before I began the tarot project. I assume the Hermit is an immediately identifiable aspect of each person, not so much mired in symbolism and cryptic mythology as so many of the other cards. We've all felt the pull of self-reflection, the loneliness of quarantine, the self-preservation in exile. I felt it quite a bit in my youth but I attached a melodramatic importance to it.

Often when I'd feel a teenage romance was unrequited, I'd reach a point of acceptance and then a strange sort of sexless arrogance, like I was some earthbound angel or spaceman meant to only appreciate the beauties of the human race from afar but never to actually touch it.

I feel like a lot of teenagers rationalize rejection in similar ways to keep from looking in the mirror and feeling the naked accusation that they just aren't good enough in someone else's standards. But as I'd imagine myself walking isolated shores on distant planets, a lone cold figure in a sprawling glittering universe of wonders, I felt special for not being chosen. 


As I got older I would experience a similar feeling, though far less valiant, in times of deep overwhelm. When daily life avalanched around me, I wanted to pull leaves, bushes, grass and twigs over myself like a blanket, hiding from boogie man banks and the looming haunted house of adult responsibilities. In my adult life, when faced with romantic rejections or responsibilities I didn't want to accept, I found myself identifying with bog men.

Bog men, darling National Geographic centerfolds, are people whose corpses were mummified by the peaty swamps, preserved in a mixture of water and earth matter. I no longer saw myself as the charming angel or sexless alien but as the insulated bog man, a decaying wonder preserved by the natural world against the rotting laws of men. I would close my eyes and imagine sinking into hundreds of years of hibernation in that cool, all-encompassing mud. 


I explored themes of isolation in a more romantic aspect of my life as I began to write lyrics for music. In the early 2000s, I flirted with the idea of calling my band (which had more names than songs) Mannequin On Moon, the symbol for isolation in its purest form. Imagining a mute, plastic motionless effigy on the moon's surface encapsulated the romantic feelings of isolation I harbored.

I'd even fantasize about myself on a space station, visible to the voyeuristic eyes of planet earth through a one way camera. I'd leave video messages to earth updating the world on my life on the moon but I'd never hear a word back. Eventually, the moon seemed too populated in my head and the concept of the mannequin on the moon became Mannequin On Mars, a much colder atmosphere.

My illustration of the Hermit depicts this beacon of pure isolation, the plastic Mannequin on Mars. She is positioned with one hand pointing down to the concealed, potentially prehistoric bog man astronaut beneath the Martian soil. Her other hand points skyward to the stars somewhere beyond the cocoon of red sky. This speaks of the optimistic focus of the Hermit, almost a blind faith in the greatness beyond the world seen with our eyes.

This is paralleled in the hermit's catatonic eyes - his right eye lights up with the clearly visible star that the mannequin points to beyond the red skies. The mannequin serves to further divorce the prehistoric astronaut from human connection, instead offering painted-on eyes, cold plastic skin, synthetic hair, and a half-hearted gesture of anatomy. 

The traditional Hermit depicts a gray old man while my hermit is actually a prehistoric time travelling astronaut, literally frozen in a catatonic trance. Of course my hermit needed to be an astronaut to continue my romance with feelings of isolation and my honoring of the heroic qualities offered in those times in our life when we are lucky enough to get to know ourselves.

I believe that this astronaut is beneath the Martian soil voluntarily. The space is less his tomb and more his womb, evidenced by his fetal position. Eventually, my hermit will reach the understanding that he needs and his story will continue beyond the confines of the red soil. But it is through silence and self-imposed isolation that the hermit learns the valuable lessons he needs to continue on his path.

To further indicate this, I depicted the hermit with bare feet, easing his connection to the source. He is plugged directly into the matter around him though he remains disconnected from the world that we know. Such achievements are similarly possibly through quiet meditation and self-reflection. 

The clocks in the borders simply reinforce a common theme of the Hermit card: the passage of time. Likewise, the astronaut helmets in the borders are supportive of the theme of isolation.


The Moon

My rendition of the Moon card grows from a happy coincidence, if you believe in coincidences. I had been wanting to do an illustration based on a dream that I had when I was in my early teens about a girl I simply referred to as the Lunar Witch.

The Lunar Witch was a strangely powerful figure in my dreamscapes, especially considering she was not part of a recurring dream but only visited me once. I awoke from the dream with an intense, burning passion for her which was confusing at that age as her actions in the dreams undoubtedly painted her as a villainous girl.

But despite her sinister actions, she showed a love for me that commanded my passions and I found myself blinded to her crimes, instead swooning at her mysterious beauty. Somewhere in Florida, I have a dream journal that tells the full detailed story of the Lunar Witch and all the ways she made my heart hurt so gloriously but for today I only have faded memories of the dream to draw connections to the Moon card.

From what little I can recall of the dream, I was waiting for a bus in the backyard of the home in which I grew up in Southwest Florida, in the darkness of the early morning. A glowing white fog was rolling in over the darkness soon illuminated by the hazy glow of the headlights of an ivory bus. The bus seemed to have been built from the bones of ancient creatures and was punctuated by futuristic round black windows that hid the passengers from sight.

I believe there may have been some controversy as to who was actually allowed to board the bus and a lot of this was orchestrated by a controlling force on the bus, a seductive girl from outer space who practiced black magic. I didn't approve of her actions that, at the very least, treated people unfairly but at the worst may have endangered their lives.

There was the sense in the dream that I knew the Lunar Witch well and that we were well known to be romantically involved despite our moral differences. When I'd voice disapproval of her villainous plans, she'd laugh me off as naive but regard it as cute. While she saw my attempts to dissuade her from evil as ridiculous, she also found it charming.

And though I recognized the deep darkness in her actions, her elitist acceptance of me seduced me. I felt special that someone as dark and lovely as the Lunar Witch found value in me and her rejection of the rest of humanity made her love so much more intoxicating. As I sat in the interior of the bus soon to depart for the moon, I kissed the Lunar Witch and felt the darkness in her cold lips that made my heart flutter. 


So how does the dream of the Lunar Witch parallel the messages of the Moon card? The Lunar Witch was as mysterious as she was powerful. The mechanics she'd set in motion in the dream always remained hidden from me but at face value exhibited supervillainous levels of ambition.

Though she seemed to be only a teenager herself, she already exhibited an advanced knowledge of magical arts but again her history with magic was unclear as was her strong connection to the moon. Her propensity for dark deeds also alludes, in fragment, to the moon's symbol as the unconscious manifested in an erratic, uncontrollable manner.

Though she was, for lack of a better term, my girlfriend in this dream, the Lunar Witch was wild and unrestrained and her love for me never tempered her teenage tyranny. The lunar bus itself stood as a artifact of the unknown in motion.

The driver was never revealed, the windows were opaque, and it appeared with the spectral smoothness of a ghost on clouds of fog that obscured visibility. Also, the Moon card often signifies a connection between the conscious and unconscious world and who better to usher in such a concept than a girl from my dreams who instilled in me a terrible pain of longing upon waking. 

There are further connections to the tarot's symbolism of the Moon and the Lunar Witch that, again, were not preconceived. Her body suit of pearl silk is reminiscent of a cocoon which obviously points to the change that so often accompanies stepping forward into the unknown. When I was trying to put together a Batcave goth band in Florida in the early 2000s, I'd contemplated dressing up as my rendition of the somnambulist Cesar in the classic silent German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

My rendition of Cesar was to wear a white bandage body stocking similar in appearance to that of the otherworldly clothing the Lunar Witch wore when she appeared to me in my dream many years before. Again, this draws parallels to dreams as Cesar committed all of his crimes in a state of sleepwalking. Also, the Lunar Witch is depicted looking back over her shoulder, leading us into the unknown with the finger-to-mouth gesture of secrecy. Like the moon, half of her face is illuminated while the other half is in shadow. 

Typically, the Moon card features some sort of crustacean rising from the waters to indicate an ignored or repressed fear but I chose an animal I relate to more on a personal level in the gharial. Gharials are large, intimidating crocodiles with narrow snouts and needle-like teeth. But unlike most species of crocodiles, gharials are rarely dangerous to humans as their mouths are equipped for dealing with fish.

Since the gharial doesn't devour humans, it represents a baseless fear in the context of this card. The gharial's head is emerging from the black, murky waters of the river Styx where memories are lost. In this case, the gharial is a memory of unfounded fear that is re-emerging for potential confrontation although we can rest assured that its appearance is far more fearsome than its actions. 

The lunar bus is entering between two towers constructed from the fossilized remains of a variety of creatures. These towers represent illusions of security as they are built from bones, nature's biological structural supports. Yet, these are the bones of ancient animals who died due to unhealthy attachments to perishing worlds.

The towers stand as reminders of the casualties of an old world and cautions those of us who refuse to change. These creatures that relied on the security of old ways now decorate the gates to the land of the dead with their fossilized remains. The unobscured totem presents three dire wolf skulls in tribute to Cerberus, the three-headed canine guardian of the underworld. The dire wolves also reference pure natural lunacy in the wolf's attachment to the moon.

This too echoes a connection to the primal energy that permeates the shadows of the Moon card. Again, the movement of the bus between these markers symbolizes movement between the conscious and unconscious worlds. 

Finally, the borders of the card depict the cycles of the moon as well as keyholes that remind us of the locked doors of mystery. The locked door may seem cruel but this is another message to the Moon card; a sense of waiting as the mysteries beyond us work their magic.

In my dream, the lunar bus never departed. Though I boarded it, we continued waiting and there was never an explanation for this. But rather than try to figure it out, I lost myself in the moment with the Lunar Witch, kissing her icy lips while I patiently waited for the mystery to unfold. 



Strength is possibly my favorite illustration I've completed for the tarot series thus far, coming very close to the vision of my initial concept and delving heavily into my own mythology to convey both the cards meaning and its feeling for me personally. Though the card was orchestrated only somewhat directly in the concept stages, I later noticed a song I'd written several years earlier for my glam rock group Peppermint Pumpkin seemed to reference the events of my Strength illustration specifically. 


The card focuses on the mythological entity of the Cosmic Colossus wrestling a black lion, another creature with previous appearances within my mythology. The Strength card seemed to fill in the blanks between these two myths to something coherent and linear.

The black lions may have been referenced as early as the early 2000s when I was practicing weekly in my apartment in Florida with my girlfriend and friend in a band called Designer Genes. Some Designer Genes songs would drastically mutate into ideas that made it onto Peppermint Pumpkin's record including two twin songs called "Black Lions in the Court of King Nero" and "Black Lions on the Serengeti."

While the music of these tracks served as a loose basis for the Peppermint Pumpkin track "Mannequin Museum", lyrics in the song "A Safari Without Death" pointed much closer to the story presented in the "Black Lions…" tracks. The lyrics to "A Safari Without Death" seem to not only refer strongly to the black lion at the center of this illustration's conflict but also the hyenas in the borders as evidenced in the following excerpts:

"My hyenas laugh at their fears and comfort with leers"

"I see their silhouettes infecting the red light of the corridor and through laughter

The black lions have left their dens to rid the world of constellations

The titans have risen from the sea and hyena laughter brings you no elation"

"And we'll sleep in the ruins of the temple of stars"

From these lines, it may be deduced that the space hyenas in the border are a symbol of laughing off fears. The star at the center of their foreheads may indicate an overcoming of instinctual cowardice to a third eye path to the light of the astral plane. 

A slightly less cosmic colossus...

As the Strength card progressed and I started noticing the similarities between my lyrics and the images in the illustration, I determined that black lions are incarnations of nightmares at war with the light of the astral plane. As the lyrics to "A Safari Without Death" indicate (and the lyrics to another song "The Degenerate" echo) they kill the stars which they see as related to dreams. The black lions can be viewed as representative of ego-based fears, using ego resistance to actually strengthen the ego and further their reflexively dark designs. 

The Cosmic Colossus in the illustration is one of a race of guardians of the astral plane (a realm of dreams and higher light frequencies) created from the energy of constellations. The stars connecting the joints of the Cosmic Colossus aren't just an allusion to the constellation but also represent the Cosmic Colossus' attunement with the astral plane. As a guardian of the astral plane, the Cosmic Colossus exists at a higher frequency than those who dwell in the egoic 3rd dimension.

The black lions are able to access the 4th dimension (the astral plane) but their actions (or more specifically the reactions to them) can viciously drag beings back into the 3rd dimension. The message as portrayed by the image of the Cosmic Colossus successfully wrestling the furious black lion is one of overcoming fear as well and likewise stunting the strengthening of ego through fear. The Cosmic Colossus gazes past the struggling lion, focusing on something we can't see, symbolic of putting faith in something beyond the physical illusions of ego. 

The Cosmic Colossus wrestles the black lion at the edge of a black hole which could easily be interpreted as a tragic end to the Cosmic Colossus but this wasn't my intention. Rather I wanted the black hole to represent a potent form of ego death as well as the Cosmic Colossus' conscious acceptance of ego death. 

The reasoning behind the pink lipstick on the Cosmic Colossus wasn't immediately clear to me but I came to the conclusion that it represents the brute strength of the primitive ego being pulled into the feminine through the higher mind.


The Lovers

Choice is the main theme of the Lovers card and while that's often seen in a purely romantic context, the choices represented by this card actually stretch out much further. I tried to keep the spirit of romance in my rendition of the Lovers while at the same time hinting at the manifold choices that fall outside of relationships or, at the very least, exist as peripheral factors influencing our choices in those relationships.

Often, the story of Adam and Eve is used to convey the choices insinuated by the Lovers and though I didn't feel that particular story captured the feeling of this card for me, I did pay homage by using apples in the border to display the card number. 

The Lovers - prior to phantasy coloring

I wanted to present several choices to the space cadet in the middle so she's walking between male and female, city and country, music and sport, night and day. The girl with the tennis racket represents this sort of '60s/'70s sweet (candy necklace) yet sexual in a not-so-obvious way nostalgic teen fantasy.

She's a camp counselor in a sort of teen horror fantasy as indicated by the hockey mask on her uniform. Though she pretty much exhales the hot breath of a '70s Indian summer, I wanted her to look like she was in the same future as the space cadet, hence the futuristic tennis racket. She's meant to represent the crossroads of the seasons between summer and autumn as evidenced by the leaves.

Some people may mistake the white orbs of fluff floating around as snowflakes but they were actually inspired by the wisps of pollen in the air in the movie Legend. They're basically like whole dandelion tufts coasting on the torrid breeze. 

The Lovers in full phantasy colour


To the cadet's right we have a different side of the nostalgic coin - a '70s glam rocker in a bubbly pink and violet disco with full on Farrah Fawcett mall hair and shark's tooth necklace. This is an archetype I can connect with for reasons beyond words. His shirt, his make-up, all of it has appeared to me in visions for several years.

But I really can't explain him beyond this. The same goes for the space cadet. Perhaps it ties into some personal mythology for me; the sexually ambiguous girl from outer space with the world at her feet, the sunshine and warmth of the Indian summer girl, the nocturnal allure and plasticity of the disco glam guitarist. There is so much that this rendition of the Lovers says to me but so few words that I can think to convey the meaning. 


The Fool

I think I fashioned myself a romantic because I grew up in a Southwest Florida suburb looking out my bedroom window and never seeing what was there but rather seeing beyond it. Every new girl I met had a mystery, every mix tape had a secret message, every sunset was really mine whether anyone else knew it or not. I was the fool. Hell, I am the fool. And like the fool, I eventually left that suburb without much of a plan.

Recently, I was asked to take part in an art show inspired by the tarot (as an aside, the show opens on July 19th, at LAST Projects Gallery in Hollywood - Not only was I honored to be joining so many artists I respect but I was also genuinely interested in the theme after having just taken a course on reading tarot specifically in the hopes of finding some inspiration for my art and writing.

As soon as I was told about this show's theme, I immediately knew I'd have to do the Fool card, one of my favorites of the deck for many reasons; chiefly because he is the romantic.

The Fool illustration pre-colorization

I had a basic understanding of the Fool card but the tarot course went much more in-depth than what I'd read in passing. But as every human has his/her own mythology, I had a lot to draw on when adhering to the symbols of my Fool while honoring the universal symbols of the card.

The Fool in all his glory


In my rendition of the Fool, he is seen, as usual, prancing toward the edge of a cliff. His eyes are hopelessly focused on a blue moon that beckons him with a grin. Originally, the clownish mask that my Fool wears (somehow inspired by Punchinello and Pinocchio) was to be his true face, but as I worked on other cards in the series, this didn't seem to make sense. Something beyond me told me the Fool is wearing a mask.

Likewise, instead of a knap sack, he's carrying a scarecrow. The scarecrow is taken directly from a dream I had as a teenager in which I was trying to impress a girl I thought I was in love with; when I was rejected, I smashed myself up against a boulder repeatedly until my spine was snapped. At this point, I became the scarecrow.

Of course, art is always up for interpretation, but when I see the mask, I see a false smile, a nose that indicates lies, possibly even forced confidence. But that confidence, as porcelain and frail as it maybe, as fake as a mask, still gives my Fool the courage to soldier onward. After all, this is his unique mask and it fits him well.

The scarecrow ties into this somewhat, providing my Fool the same comfort as a cherished stuffed animal might, despite it being a man-made effigy. The scarecrow may also represent his past foolish behaviors and possibly displaced fear over the journey (as evidenced by the scarecrow's expression). You could also see him as half of a man or a burden of some sort that my Fool has carried, like a cross, through his travels. 

The dog in my Fool card was originally supposed to be a hyena but I felt the hyena expressed too much cowardice and pack mentality when my Fool's journey is primarily his own. Instead, my dog represents a combination of intelligence, faith, and loyalty to a cause, so I created a sort of hybrid fox/wolf that is pointing the way forward.

Some may see this card as a confirmed tragedy because of the shark marauding the waters directly below the cliff, but what risk could be worth taking that wasn't the slightest bit scary? I chose a light pink color for the shark to indicate that this is actually a benign event that can look scary from afar. I have full faith that my Fool will survive his fall and make it to the island in the distance.

And what about that island? The palm trees indicate the typical paradise island setting but they surround a pink Space Mountain-like structure. This is purely a personal reference; every time I go to Disneyland, I have a huge debate on whether I will ride Space Mountain. Typically I do and it terrifies me to the point of regret.

But there's also a lot of romance assigned to this ride for me, probably owing a lot of it to that same fear. How better to describe the journey of the Fool after his initial plunge? Honestly, do we have many occurrences in our lives where we take a leap of faith and that's all that is asked of us? That's often just the introduction to the adventure.

Instead of a rose, my Fool has picked a poppy. The Wizard of Oz reference wasn't intentional, but with the poppies and the scarecrow, it's not hard to see a subconscious influence from another great fool's journey. The poppies bring sleep and dreams and the Fool is a dreamer. He offers the poppy to the moon as a romantic tribute while losing himself in his dreams.

Again, this piece will be on display on July 19th, at LAST Projects Gallery in Hollywood - You can see the Facebook event page for it here: