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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview with the Artist of the Tea Leaf Fortune Deck - Shawna Alexander

(NOTE: This interview was originally posted by Helen Howell.)

The lovely Tea Leaf Fortune Deck is a deck I have always wanted and so was disappointed when it went out of print. However U.S. Games Systems.Inc re-released it this Autumn and I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this wonderful little deck from a very dear friend.  It will be a gift I always treasure.

Being a watercolor artist myself, I was attracted to the artwork of this deck, its simplicity of style and colours. Shawna Alexander is the talented artist who illustrated this deck and I am delighted that she agreed to be interviewed on Tarot Notes.

Tarot Notes (TN) Hullo Shawna and welcome to Tarot Notes.  I know that our readers would love to know how you got into art?

Shawna Alexander (SA) - I always have had an artistic nature that seemed to manifest in some form or another.  It's something you're born with, a creative nature, and you either enhance it by teaching and learning along the way, or just dabble in it.  I chose to make it my life's path.  My creativity enriches my life in many ways.

TN: When Rae Hepburn asked you to illustrate these cards, were the illustrations your own visualisation or was it more of a collaboration with Rae?

SA: Rae presented detailed descriptions for the images that she had envisioned for each symbol or card.  I just put down on paper what her mind saw, and tried to portray the images as best as possible.  They were mixed media drawings done with an extremely fine tip pen, then watercolors and colored pencils.  The style that Rae desired was reminiscent of old world Chinese paintings, so there was a lot of that influence in there too.

TN: The cards themselves - how did you decide on the colour palette and or the tone of the deck?

SA: The colour palette was just staying in the mood of each card's meaning.  If the card was a dark, ominous cloud, then the colours were dark and heavy.  If the card was a beautiful rose, then I chose to use brighter, lighter hues.  The overall 'tone' of the artwork was based on traditional Chinese art.  They were detailed in a style that was to encourage the 'reader' of the deck to embrace the history of tea leaf reading. 

TN: I read in the accompanying book to the deck that your interest lies in ceramics. How different did you find designing artwork for this oracle deck as opposed to designing for ceramics?

SA: Ceramics...mainly tile decoration, came to me by chance, and is now a full time career.  It is a completely different art form, however I use my love of drawing in my tile work.  I also use glazes like regular paint, but instead it's on bisque tiles.  So, I still incorporate drawing and painting on a daily basis.  The illustrations for Rae's cards were fun because we were collaborating on the artwork, yet she allowed me much freedom to bring my own personal style into them as well.

TN: Have you done any other deck illustrations or do you plan to do so in the future?

SA: I have kept mainly to ceramic design, trying to grow my talents as a tile artist.  Drawing and painting will always be my passion, so we'll see what comes in the future.  I've recently started designing jewelry as my newest artistic endeavor.  Its just another outlet for my creative mind....it keeps evolving and changing, bringing in something new, but always keeping the old techniques as the basis to it all.  Nothing is mightier then what you can create with basic tools, like a pen and a piece of paper.  Nothing can go wrong with them.  Nothing to fix, they don't break and they're always accessible.  Simple, yet wonderfully perfect, like Rae's Tarot deck...nothing hard to understand or realize, just pure.  They're based on history, enlightenment, culture, fun, knowledge, intrigue and spirit.  I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to illustrate for her!

TN: Thank you so much Shawna for taking part in this interview and giving us some insight into the artwork creation of this deck.

Tea leaf Fortune Cards by Rae Hepburn- Illustrated by Shawna Alexander
Published by U.S. Games Systems Inc.

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~ Zanna