The Faerie Queene Tarot Deck

Created by Michele Jackson from Illustrations and Ornamentation from The Faerie Queene drawn by William Crane

This is the fourth deck I have made, but it is my first experience using a Dover book. Dover books are books of images designed to be used for arts and crafts projects. The images are copyright free when used for this purpose within certain guidelines. I first became aware of the Tarot deck potential of these books when I saw the Sarah Ovenall's beautiful Victoria Regina Tarot deck. The Faerie Queene Tarot deck is a lot simpler, consisting of simple collages with no background imagery. . Actually, it is a stretch to call some of the cards collages, as they were not manipulated beyond cutting them from their original background and adding a nameI found the source book for the deck  few weeks ago while I was looking though the Dover book section at Border's. I came across Walter Crane: Illustrations and Ornamentation from The Faerie Queene. Flipping through the book I saw several Tarot-like images. I purchased it and took it with me on my last trip.  As previously mentioned, I was able to find about a dozen images that were so tarot-like that all I had to do was cut out the applicable portions of the images for use. Examples include the Magician, Emperor, Chariot and World cards. Some cards had several suitable images. The Empress was one and Justice was another. I picked my favorite Empress image right away and stuck with it, but I did two versions of Justice. 

This deck was made entirely at my computer desk. I did not have to resort to Kinko's for anything. To create the cards I scanned the images I wanted to use at 300 dpi. I scanned them as line drawings. It should be noted that line drawings do not look as good on the screen as they do when printed out. I then cut the images out and pasted them on either 4" X 6" or 5" X 8" index cards.  I used scissors to cut the images out from their original  backgrounds, but if you are adept at using graphics or photo-editing software, you can avoid scissors altogether.  The nice thing about using scanned images is that I could manipulate the sizes to make them match up if necessary before I printed them out. This book had images of all sizes, from tiny border decorations to full page images. I used images of all different sizes and used my photo software to manipulate them to make them work together. Once I had the images pasted on the cards the way I wanted them, I scanned them again, sized them to fit a 3" X 5" card and added a card name at the bottom.

The hardest part for me was getting them to print properly. When I started the deck I planned to have a black background. I did the first several cards this way and they looked great on the screen. However, when I printed them out they looked muddy. They had somehow lost a lot of definition and detail. I later discovered this came from rescanning them as line drawings. After I re-did the first cards with a white background I started experimenting with various combinations of scans and printing settings. I found that the second scan would be much clearer if I scanned the images using a color setting, even though they were black and white. Once I had scanned them in as color images, I did any necessary manipulations, added the titles, and then converted them to line drawings. I also discovered that my printer says it will not print on paper smaller than 3.5" X 5", but that it would, in fact, print on 3" X 5" cards if I positioned the images correctly. I won't go into detail because every printer is different, but don't give up on printing your own cards until you have exhausted the various combinations of settings.

I learned quite a bit working on this deck. It is easier to make cosmetic changes when working in black and white. All that is needed for most changes is a fine tip black marker or pen and a white graphite or chalk pencil. More extensive changes can be made by cutting out a piece of white paper and pasting it to the area you want to change. You can then use the pen to draw in the changes you want to make. I am not a good draftsman, but I was able to do things like make tree branches longer, or black out unwanted portions of an image. An example is Temperance. Originally there was a woman in the water. I blacked her out, added a piece of white paper, and drew in the left side of the pool edge.

Some cards were done more than once. There are at least four versions of the Sun. I found that I often had to touch up edges. It is difficult to see small portions of the outline that are missing until you scan the image. Careful cutting will avoid most of this, but no matter how carefully you cut, you will still probably have small areas that need to be re-outlined. One way to correct this is to turn the image over and go over the edge of the image with a felt tipped marker. Usually enough will seep into the edge to close any white spaces. You can also just run the tip of the marker along the outside edge, but do it slowly and carefully, as it is easy to slip and mark areas you didn't intend to mark. I printed the deck on index cards, but they are very flimsy. I don't think the deck would hold up well to frequent use. I thought about laminating the cards for durability, but many of the people I give copies to are deck creators or collectors. The deck creators have lamination machines and can laminate them if they so desire. The collectors will most likely not use the deck very often. I also like the idea that the deck can be colored if one likes. Once the deck is laminated that is no longer an option.

I am finding that a halfway decent printer can do a lot. If I were to have these cards done at my local Kinko's, the ten decks I printed tonight would have cost me over $40.00 (0.18 per card on card stock and trimmed to 3" X 5"). I used about 1/2 of a black ink cartridge and less than $1.50 in index cards. I had total control over the quality and could make changes or adjustments as needed without having to go home and then go back to Kinko's. I was also amazed that I was able to get all of the Major Arcana images from this one book. Some took a bit of imagination - there were no whole Suns in the book - I took a rising half sun, printed it twice and glued the two halves together. It was not quite round but I was able to manipulate the size to round it out a bit. Most of the cards were very easy to make. I enjoyed working with the black and white images and will be looking at the Dover section in book stores again in the future. The entire deck took three days to put together, plus the time I took on my trip to identify the images I wanted to use for each card. I did not always use the images I initially identified as I sometimes found better images later. I also made a cover card and an image for the envelopes.

Anyone can make their own tarot deck. You don't have to be able to draw - Dover books alone can furnish thousands of images. You do not have to have any experience with collage either. This deck did not require a lot of complicated collage work. Most of the images were either ready to go or were composed of just two or three pieces. I will probably try a black background version again or I may add some other type of background. I will most likely color it as well. Take a few minutes to look through some Dover books next time you are in a book store. You can also buy sets of some Dover images on CDROM, eliminating the need for scanning. 

See more cards from The Faerie Queene Tarot Deck

Walter Crane Illustrations and Ornamentation from The Faerie Queene
Arranged by Carol Belanger Grafton
ISBN: 0-486-40274
Publisher: Dover Publications

Text and images 2001 Michele Jackson unless otherwise stated