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Thursday, April 26, 2012

REVIEW: Art of Life Tarot Deck


Art of Life Tarot Deck
by Charlene Livingstone
78 oversized cards
32-page instruction booklet
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN 13: 978-1-57281-715-9
ISBN 10: 1-57281-715-1

Art of Life Tarot by Charlene Livingstone (U.S. Games)



"ART OF LIFE TAROT presents a 78-card deck of oversized tarot cards. Each card features a treasured work of art paired with an insightful quotation. The cards in this unique deck may be used for traditional tarot readings or individually for daily inspiration."

Art of Life Tarot by Charlene Livingstone (U.S. Games)

Charlene Livingstone, creator of Art of Life Tarot, has earned credentials in the study of both Art and Life. She studied design and architecture at the University of Michigan, and taught Visual Arts and English to gifted students in Toronto, Ontario.

The Little White Book that accompanies Art of Life Tarot is indeed "little" and thin (not a complaint, just an observation). For each card we are given two to four keywords or phrases. At the end of the booklet, in a section called "Using the Cards," is a five-card Creativity Spread with positional definitions, layout, and a Sample Reading using the spread.

In the Introduction to the booklet, Livingstone describes her journey into the heart of the Tarot, which began when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2005. Inspired by a vivid dream about the Knight of Wands card, she realized that her unconscious was guiding her to take some sort of action related to Tarot. Drawing on her background in art history and her lifelong passion for quotations, she created Art of Life Tarot "to empower the reader. . . to give the reader a sense of strength, possibility and optimism. . . to encourage contemplation, and for the reader to discover that the answers to life questions lie within."

Art of Life Tarot by Charlene Livingstone (U.S. Games)
Following her moving and inspiring Introduction, Livingstone gives us a brief paragraph about "Tarot Card Meanings," noting that "though there are traditional meanings associated with each tarot card, this guide is intended to help you bring your own emotional perspectives into focus."

In addition to choosing a work of art for each card, Livingstone also selected a quotation that relates to the meaning of the card. Quotation sources include a wide variety of well-known ladies and gentlemen from all walks of life, for example: Lao Tzu, Benjamin Disraeli, Euripides, Christina Rossetti, Shao Lin, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Proverbs from various cultures are also used (Seven of Pentacles: "With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown." ~ Chinese Proverb.)

I was disappointed when I saw that The Emperor was left out of the Major Arcana list in the guidebook. The card is included in the deck, so I suppose it's not a big deal, but omitting the keywords seems a bit careless. 


The box that contains this deck is something of a "work of art" itself. Not only is it made of high-quality laminated cardboard, it unfolds to create a stand-up display. You can slip any card into the frame. This is the perfect way to display a "card of the day" so that you can look at it or meditate on it anytime you like.

Art of Life Tarot by Charlene Livingstone (U.S. Games)
The illustration on the front of the box is a detail from Still Life with Apples by Paul Cezanne. Along the sides of the box we have details from two Gustav Klimt paintings: The Kiss and The Three Ages of Woman.

The sturdy, laminated 3-1/2 x 5 inch cards are described as "oversized." I have fairly small hands, and I did struggle a bit to do my push-pull shuffle without dropping any cards. The problem was solved by slowing down, which is certainly not a bad thing!

For each card, the traditional title of the card is at the top, with all words except "of" in all-capital letters.  Directly beneath the name is a reproduction of a detail from a work of art.  Below the art, in very small type, is the name of the work (in italics), the artist, the date, and the museum or location where that work of art may be found.  In the lower third of the card, in italic type, is a quotation.


Ah yes, the Art (with a capital A)! Who among the Great Painters is your favorite? Degas? Wyeth? Monet? Renoir? I have a soft spot in my heart for Rembrandt -- only because he was the first artist I ever learned much about. I researched him for a report for Art class when I was around thirteen years old.

Alas, Rembrandt is not included in the Art of Life Tarot Deck, but many equally amazing artists are. You could actually use these as flash cards while learning to identify the styles of these artists. I readily confess that I'm not any sort of expert on art, but I am pleased with the reproductions of the details from these famous paintings. Someone who is familiar with the works of these artists will no doubt enjoy recognizing scenes from favorite paintings.

On the backs of the cards we see a detail from The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt.


When I received this deck I was immediately reminded of James Ricklef's Tarot of the Masters.  The decks are very different in a number of ways, but both use classic works of art to convey the spirit and messages of Tarot. It's fascinating see how the archetypes found in Tarot are expressed in creations by the world's most revered artists.

I am truly impressed and delighted with the choices of art and quotations chosen by Charlene Livingstone for the cards in Art of Life Tarot. My favorite quotation-card matches include:

Five of Swords
"Sometimes I go about pitying myself,
and all the time I am being carried
on great winds across the sky."
~ Ojibway Saying

Seven of Wands
"Life is not a matter of holding good cards,
but of playing a poor hand well."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

The Chariot
"Do not go where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Art of Life Tarot by Charlene Livingstone (U.S. Games)

Each of these cards can serve as a valuable focus for meditation, as each provides the mind with a rich blend of art and words worthy of contemplation. For a Daily Card today, I drew The Hanged Man, which features a detail from Two Acrobats by Ernst Kirchner, and the quotation: "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." I am placing the card in the Art of Tarot box-frame, so that I can visit and learn from it throughout the day.

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.


  1. For me this deck strikes me as more of an inspirational deck rather than a tarot deck, it lacks that symbolism I look for within a tarot deck.

    Yes, the artwork is great, but it is like going into a picture gallery and being inspired by the visual, contemplation, meditation but not symbolic enough for me for tarot readings.

  2. Hi Helen! I think you have a good point, although I can tell that Charlene worked diligently to align the art and quotations with the traditional Tarot card meanings. When I look at most of the cards in this deck, I do see (and enjoy discovering) the connection to the traditional card. I can see using this deck as a supplement with a traditional Tarot deck.

  3. pretty!!!!! I love new decks for inspiration... was just perusing my undersea deck for that very reason earlier today!

    1. It is a pretty deck, that's for sure. Thanks for stopping by, Violet!

  4. How do I get this deck? I clicked on the link to US Games, but I can't find it anywhere on their site. Can someone help me please?

    1. Hi Opal - it should be available soon from U.S. Games.

  5. It was on their website today.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the deck.

  6. I drew The Emperor card for my result. Since the Charlene omitted the meaning in her booklet. I contacted US Games directly. They agreed The Emperor card meaning was omitted. My question is since the author of this review was in contact with Charlene, did she provide the meaning for the reviewer. If so, what is the meaning. Thank you. I look forward to your reply. Katerina@katerinastclaire.com

    1. Hello Katerina, I was not in contact with the artist. I did a quick Google search just now and didn't see a way to contact her directly, but I'm sure U.S. Games could pass along your question to her.


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~ Zanna