Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fool and Magician

Skipping a few years ahead to 1991, I had moved to the Washington DC area and acquired my first computer and color printer. The computer was cobbled together from various collected parts by a rather dodgy tech friend of mine. But it could run graphics software and that's what counted for me. When I saw what CorelDraw 2 could do, I was thrilled. I had been working with cut-paper designs for a while, and liked images made of flat or simply-blended color shapes. But the cut paper was difficult to work with, and was also fragile and easily marked and bent. CorelDraw could do these shapes electronically, with no razor cutting, glue, or frayed edges.

I needed to have a printer to bring these designs to the "real" world and make them show-able. I spent a lot of money looking for professional shops which would do the job. But in 1991 color laser printing was just at its beginning and the prints from my files were poorly colored and overly textured. The first color printer that I bought for my studio was an inkjet, an HP PaintJet. It delivered bright color prints which for their time were quite good, though they were not at all smooth color blends. The HP PaintJet mixed dots in patterns to get blends, and images came out looking like they had been woven on a loom. (See above images, click for larger image, for the textures.) Not only that, but the bright PaintJet colors, even on coated paper, faded very fast, so fast that even one hour of sun exposure would bleach it out. Therefore to get a durable print, I had to take the PaintJet prints to the laser copying station at Kinkos Copies, where the most advanced machines were installed. This was expensive, but it worked.

One of my first projects using CorelDraw 2 was the Major Arcana of the Tarot. This was to be tied in with what might be called "neo-Kabbalah," or the non-Jewish, 19th century re-interpretation of the Kabbalah. The symbolism came from the traditional Tarot, and the color scheme for the cards is based on the Neo-Kabbalistic idea that each card symbolically links together two stations on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (which resembles an esoteric flow-chart of the Universe.). Since each station has a color, each card features two colors (and only two) in combination. I had originally started this project using cut paper, but it was already falling apart.

The original name for my Tarot was the "Post-Modern Tarot" because I would be interpreting many of the Major Arcana for our modern age. For the other cards, I tried to make the symbol as simple as possible, as in these two.

I'm now scanning the last extant set of these cards printed on the ancient and long-gone PaintJet. These were kept away from light for all these years. The original CorelDraw files are unretrievable, as many of their symbols and shapes are from fonts which no longer exist. I will be leading you through the Post-Modern Major Arcana.

"Post-Modern Tarot" (later re-named the "CorelDraw Tarot"), Fool and Magician cards. Each 3 3/4" x 5 1/4", HP PaintJet prints, 1991-1992.

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