Dreaming in Color Tarot by Mindy Sommers
Review by Judith A. Johnston
I immediately liked the online scans I saw of this deck because of the rich, saturated colors and the inventive way the artist, Mindy Sommers, used digital fractals in her artwork. People often assume that because a deck is created digitally, it is a quick, easy project, produced by machines and human automatons with no artistic ability, but my experience with computers is the antithesis of that throwaway opinion. Years went into the creation of this deck and the professional resolution, printing and post-production work. In the same way as conventional art, composition and balance in color and design is crucial to the success of computer-generated art, and this deck is successful in that respect.
The cards are pared down from extraneous detail to swirling, color dreamscapes that allow the individual to reflect and respond with their own imagination and intuition. There are keywords on each card done in an attractive font that enhances the art. I have heard people complain about keywords, but I enjoy the dichotomy a word can bring to the visual cue, and find that a keyword will catch my attention and draw my mind into the graphic, where I might not have noticed the card without the word. The cardstock is light with a beautiful matte finish, and the card backs are a reversible rectangular kaleidoscopic design that is fresh and bold. The 60 borderless cards come with a booklet that contains meanings for each card in alphabetical order, and I found the writing to have a depth of interpretation missing from the canned meaning contained in some little white booklets. Mindy Sommers thought this out carefully and refused to dumb it down into a set of pithy divinatory sayings, and her attention to that shows. She called it a tarot deck, although it does not coincide with tarot in card numbers or arcana, but it is not quite an oracle either. Maybe it is a deck that can be whatever you want it to be? I prefer the freedom of that approach rather than trying to pin it down to an existing pattern.
There are no spreads in the current booklet, but Mindy has an interesting two-card Combination Mini-Spread on her web site and plans to add more to the site, and then print them in the booklet for the second edition of the deck. I liked the simplicity of the dual comparison of this spread; it is rather like creating your own story, which was the intention. My focus on cards of any kind is generally based on the precepts of lateral thinking and freeing your mind to associate random, disparate meanings and come up with new ideas and results. The graphics in this deck excel at encouraging such a path and liberation of the mind.
Instead of dismissing this as a pretty art deck or a deck which seems exclusively feminine, take a closer look. Color is for everyone, and when I asked Mindy about this seeming focus on feminine energies, she said that enjoyment of nature is not exclusive to women. Nor, I would add, is the desire to understand emotions that threaten to overwhelm our intellect and interfere with our ability to live and work capably and joyfully. Both men and women can relish actively working with color and graphics to release themselves from distasteful habits and enhance awareness. We are so eager to respond and label things into extremes of polarity. Look closer, think about it a different way, surprise yourself.
The deck comes in the order the sheets were printed and separated, so a great exercise when you first receive the cards is to put them in alphabetical order and then browse through the alphabetical listings in the booklet. One thing that struck me during that exercise was the red cards in this deck, or the Dark Quartet as I call them. I once read a book on the Brontė siblings called Dark Quartet, and the sensibility of these red cards reminds me of wild moors and heated, out-of-control emotions straight out of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontė. The cards express the danger of thoughts that can overcome you and cause damage, and a comparison of the Passion card with the Hate card defines that for me. Passion is red hot but can be pleasant if controlled, and Hate is passion overwhelmed with blackness and death; the sickly spread of churning emotion that eats all the positive things in your life and can actually hurt you physically. The other two in the Dark Quartet are Anger and Avarice, and I can almost see the brooding face of Heathcliff in the black/red rose of anger. The Avarice card is a violent orange/red and seems to burn with a similar sickly energy, like bright red lobsters boiled alive for the sake of a fancy meal by cruelly avaricious status seekers.

There are so many of these cards that startled me with their color and words. I found myself categorizing them into somber, grey cards and bright yellow cards and fuchsia or lilac cards. That was my first response, to sort them by color family. On looking carefully, they can also be sorted by graphical theme. There are several beautiful cards with water or water and rain; water revealed under a canopy or drape of foliage, like a secret garden you can enter. Or you can sort by different types of flowers, some tulip-shaped, some like daisies, some like lilies. Several cards depict a moon in them, variously shadowed and mysterious as you would expect in dreams and stories. I also became fascinated comparing the cards to the gorgeous screensaver that Mindy Sommers has designed with this deck. You can spot the details and get a sense of losing yourself in the dreamscape by focusing on the screensaver while browsing through the cards.
Mindy mentions on her web site that these cards are ". . .being formally tested in a controlled scientific setting at Vermont University in Burlington, VT, to assist emotionally and/or communication-challenged children in expressing their emotions."  I can see where the inherent shapes and colors in this deck would be something that children would respond to and want to play with, and like all patterns that are intriguing to sort and separate into groups, this deck can be used in that manner by any person, young or old, regardless of gender.
One card I liked was the Guilt card (at top). It is pleasantly colored and has some foliage and floral shapes, but it is overlaid with a ghost-like image of something else. It reminds me very strongly of how guilt overrides our lives and positive feelings with a ghostly inner feeling of lack of peace, and I thought the artist effectively conveyed that with this card. The Loss card is one of the darkest and captured my attention right away for its starkness. It depicts a moon over a landscape of sand which has been blown into peaks by the wind. It seems so empty and bereft and yet has a beauty to it if you linger over the picture. A bright, deep yellow sun burns near the centre of the Completion card, and off to the right is a lighter colored fractal shape. I found it rather compelling, almost as if Mathematics is a part of completion but we never notice that under our burning sun. It speaks of awareness and mystery, and a segment of completion that we lack comprehension of.
As another exercise, I scanned a random card into my computer and used it as a jumping-off point for color in a program I use regularly called Gliftic. I wanted to see what random patterns I could generate using the appealing colors from this deck. I like to do different things for card study as a way of cementing the ideas and the imagery in my mind, and simply enjoying my decks and messing around with concepts and color. I chose the Patience card because sometimes it requires patience to further explore decks like the Dreaming in Color Tarot beyond a cursory shuffle, but I have found it worthwhile to nudge yourself into the extra effort. It's amazing what can blossom from such an application of the cards, and this time I ended up with a bookmark that I am going to laminate. Perhaps part of the joy of digital graphics is the patience we need to get things tweaked just right? This prints nicely and really complements the card and gives me a better feel for the colors, as it has a soft, dreamy look to it with subtle gradations like the card. Patience is about gradation, calmness, and gradual change, so I liked the vibe of this random exploration.
I also decided to pull a colorful rune and pair it with a card to enhance my understanding in the same way that Mindy's two-card comparison does this. I prefer to mix things up a bit to startle my perception and get ideas fermenting. For this exercise, I browsed through the deck without regard to words or meaning, I just searched for a card that went well with the colors of my vibrant, hand-dyed rune set, which turned out to be the equally vibrant Exploration card funnily enough! The rune I picked randomly from my bag was Sowulo, which means Sol or Sun and is all about luck and successful achievement and good fortune and health, and when I look at these colors I feel that warmth and glow and the fire of incremental imagination spreading. There is even a sun on the card, which delighted me. The little white booklet describes the card as one of adventure and undertaking new challenges and risks and the part that really, really hit me in the booklet was this line: "Could denote unhealthy escapism, daydreaming, avoidance." Those of us who are creative often encounter the dark side of exploration, the loss of reality and groundedness. Just so, what a fine card.
The deck can be ordered at the Dreaming in Color web site. Mindy is also a web designer and this site is appealing visually, just like the deck. She is continually adding new things to enhance the experience of using the deck, so keep that in mind as you explore and challenge yourself to work with color and envision wondrous dreams of possibilities.  
Judy Johnston is an artistic eccentric living in Canada, surrounded by books, cats, tarot cards, John Scofield CDs, computer software, and fabric. When not working in a library, she makes and sells tarot bags with random designs. Green is her favorite color.

Images © 2004 Mindy Sommers
Review © 2004 Judy Johnston
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes