At Toy Fair 2015, this past February, DC Collectibles showed off an unusual, but very interesting new item: A deck of Justice League inspired Tarot cards. Loosely based on the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, artist Sara Richard provided the illustrations for all 78 cards in the deck. I recently sat down with her to discuss her work, her influences and the Tarot card that gave her the most trouble.
An Eisner nominated artist, Sara Richard was first approached by DC Collectibles at San Diego Comic Con 2013. Having a booth in artist alley, the representatives at DC Collectibles loved her work…and wanted to work with her, but just didn’t have a project for her at the time. “Comic-con is a great place to network,” Sara offered up, “You just never know who’s going to ask you what.”
Fast forward to 2014, DC Collectibles came knocking at her SDCC booth again. But this time, they had a project in mind that suited her unique style.
A graduate of Columbus College of Art and Design, Sara Richard began drawing at a young age, feeling most comfortable with pencil in hand. Her style, a combination of Art Deco and Art Nouveau (with Sumi-E thrown in there for good measure), she draws influence from turn of the century artists like Margaret MacDonald and Tamara De Lempicka.
Sara’s process is as “old school” as her style; drawing her images in pencil then transferring them to her paper of choice via graphite paper. Yes…graphite paper. Sara’s use of the computer in the creative process is minimal, only turning to it to scan and re-size her images. And to print them out to further work on them, if need be. “Don’t get me wrong. I have a very deep respect for artists that use a computer.” Sara thoughtfully replied. “Just for me, it doesn’t work too well. You know what I mean? It doesn’t feel real to me.”
Our conversation turning toward the Justice League Tarot card set, I asked her about her experience with Tarot cards.
“I had them when I was a teenager so I think I just wanted something a little New-Agey to go with my book of spells for teens and all that.” Sara offered. “I’d always had an interest in the cards though, and very much drawn to sets with really different artwork.”
Not only would she have to delve deeper into the cards, but DC Comic’s mythology, as well. Becoming familiar with lesser known villains like Captain Boomerang. “I’m most familiar with the Batman family…but, I got to know most of the other characters really well. Really well.”
With a total of 78 cards per deck, Sara had her work cut out for her. Working closely with DC Collectibles, she would provide them with thumbnail sketches for an entire suite of cards (the “standard” tarot card deck having 4 suites total). Once approved, she would start the process of working on each individual illustration. Taking her anywhere from an hour to half a day, the 6 x 11 images were done in Sara’s medium of choice, acrylics.
“Oh…yea. I do everything in acrylic. I use some gel pens, at times. And watercolor, too. But, mostly everything is done in acrylic.”
With so many cards to do, I asked her where she drew her inspiration. “Definitely the Rider-Waite set,” Sara replied, “like the Two of Swords card. I took some of the imagery right from the card…crossing her arms like the swords on the card. Some of the symbols had to be included from the cards…like the crescent moon…although I made it more dreamy working the moon into her hair.”
When asked which card gave her the most trouble, Sara quickly replied “the Four of Wands”. The card, having the highest number of characters on it, gave her the most grief. “I arranged the card into four separate interactions. Power Girl, Wonder Woman and Zatanna having a girl’s moment in the front. Shazam and Martian Manhunter…who looks really uncomfortable. Stargirl, the Flash and Plastic Man in the background. And Doctor Fate and Batman all broody back there with them. Having all those characters in that one card…was challenging.”
Then there’s the Tower card. The image on Rider-Waite card is by no means a “happy” one. Filled with lightning, smoke and fire, the card symbolizes disaster and sudden change. Sara’s interpretation of the card is equally sinister, if not more so. “I wanted to included the Joker.” when asked about the card. “I wanted something like…he snapped his fingers and destroyed part of Gotham city.”
With 78 cards to choose from, I asked her what her favorite cards were. Sara hesitated for a moment, so I gave the option of picking her top three cards. Am I not merciful? “Probably the Tower.” She replied after thinking for another moment. “And the Empress. I really like the colors in the Empress card.” The other card Sara mentioned was the Five of Cups, which DC Collectibles was cool enough to provide us a first look at here:
I wrapped up the interview asking Sara what card she feels most symbolizes her and her life right now, Sara quickly answers: “The Page of Cups. The pose I drew Stargirl in…just speaks to me. You can see her confidence. And the card represents creativity, new creativity…new directions. It feels like that’s where I am right now with my work. New creativity and new directions.
Many thanks to Sara Richard and DC Collectibles for the interview!