Why the Tools Don’t Make the Artist, Part 1

Why the Tools Don’t Make the Artist, Part 1

Today is Monday. Before COVID hit, every Monday at 5PM I volunteered at my public library for an open creative meetup called The Windmill. Anyone could come and draw or work on anything they pleased and if you had questions or wanted critique you could talk it out with anyone else there. We became a nice sized group of regular nerds who like to be creative and there was always room for a curious newbie to come hang out. My favorite part of volunteering was helping people discover that not only could they draw already, but that it wasn’t too hard to learn as long as you kept at it and embraced failure as your teacher. Watching people discover their style and try new things, shedding their ego and the “doing everything right” vibe has been a lasting inspiration to my own practice.

Two things I would hear at lot at the library were: “What did you use to draw that?” or “How long have you been drawing?” Today as I sit in my studio and reflect on the past 31 years of my drawing journey, I want to talk about what I think is behind those questions and how they set people who want to learn up for failure.

First, a little about me:

Hi, my name is Genevieve and I have been drawing since I was about 4 years old. I learned by watching VHS tapes that my grandparents shared with me (a Bob Ross style program that wasn’t Bob Ross) and by attending some community center programs. I was extremely lucky to have parents that fostered my creative interests. I parlayed my hobby into an acceptance to The Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, VA and eventually Carnegie Mellon University, School of Art where I focused on Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking (note: not digital art, that would come much later).

However, after I graduated, while I still made things and even did some half-assed freelancing, (I once got fired by psychic for a terrible drawing of a dog they wanted for a logo and I learned the importance of a kill fee but also couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t already know it wasn’t gonna work out) there came a time when I almost completely stopped drawing. This was a very unhappy time. It wasn’t until I met someone who helped me build a computer and install Adobe Creative Suite on it that I started the path to where I am now—drawing a ton of tarot decks, prints, and stickers for sale on this very website.

Genevieve playing with tarot cards

1. Learning anything means getting over yourself

I tell people that I learned how to draw twice. First as a kid and then again as a 20-something. This second time around is still an ongoing process. I have had to shed my "but I went to art school!" ego and rediscover my style and inspirations. I’ve had to embrace the idea that the perfect pencil or program is not going to make the drawing I want—I have to make the drawing I want. 

When I first got Photoshop and eventually Procreate, I used every resource under the sun learn how these programs could make great drawings. Online classes, in-person workshops, and even rewatching the same 30 second time-lapse video from a favorite IG artist a thousand times to catch what exactly they were doing—I did it all. I spent a lot of real money thinking that I would get the exact tutorial to show me how to make my own work. While I definitely picked up some tricks, I never made anything worth talking about until I stopped pumping money into new brush sets and focused on the WHY and not the HOW.

2. Discovering what motivates the work

The other misconception people have about a creative job is that because you draw means you can or want to draw anything and everything for anybody. This includes anything from logos, pet portraits, children's books, and wedding invitations. There is nothing wrong with making any of these things, but that's like thinking that every store has to be a WalMart (and not even they sell everything). 

For me, it is tarot and horror are my beloved niche. There's a cool community around it that I enjoy being a part of and find inspiring. It's an endless well that I can't stop returning to. Because of this, I always have something to make and making begets learning.

Today I use the same set of 15 basic brushes to achieve an oil like quality to my illustrations. I’ve learned that simpler is better and repetition is my friend.

 

If you own my first deck Bridge Witches, it looks completely different from what I am working on right now. When I look at the drawings I think of the hours and hours I spent experimenting on each card. That deck took me about 15 months to make. My latest deck CULT is on track to be finished in about 4 months. As I type this… I am flabbergasted by that information. My passion for the subject is instrumental in getting better at making it.

3. If you want to start, it's never been easier. Just do it.

I hope your takeaway here is this: it really doesn’t matter if you make your art in Procreate or with popsicle sticks. As long as you are passionate about it, enjoying the journey of discovery, and willing to put yourself out there for critique—you will get better and your work will find an audience.

If you are interested in experimenting with digital drawing, I cannot stress how amazing Procreate is and how it’s NEVER been cheaper to get an iPad (look at used or refurbished ones too) and start your journey immediately (#notsponsered).

Not sure what the hell to draw? Well, next week I'm gonna share how I collect ideas to create from.

August 31, 2020 — Genevieve Barbee-Turner
CULT Tarot Update & the Anxiety of Being Halfway Done

CULT Tarot Update & the Anxiety of Being Halfway Done

CULT is officially halfway done (give or take a card of two) and it's shaping up to be the most personal tarot deck I've created to date. I can only hope you trust me enough to wander down this new weird path I am creating. 

The impetus for this deck was born from the overwhelmingly positive feedback to Bridge Witches. The response to the representation I attempted in those cards was so warm and heartfelt—it was shocking and I cannot be more grateful. It taught me that while I struggle to open up about the things that matter to me, there is in fact a place for those thoughts in this world. 

Since childhood, I have worked diligently to build a world inside myself in which to escape. You can never be bored when your mind is filled with different places to wander around and ideas to pour over. Over time, I began to see the risks in being honest about my feelings and I built a barrier between my inner thoughts and the rest of the world. That has extended to becoming rather private and even hiding entirelyan example: with the exception of one year, I'm not in my high school year books, anywhere; I think one year I even went entirely unmentioned. In adulthood, while I think I'm pretty friendly, I don't open up to people easily outside of a basic script. Instead, who I am comes out in the work.

CULT is a horror themed deck about gender and queerness. Cups are vampire themed, sword are ghosts/possessions, coins are witches, and wands are devils. Since always, we have used horror to talk about the things that scare us. Well, talking about myself scares me, so I'm doing it with horror references.

Defining myself has always felt like picking a team. Well, I went to art school and most of us are not "team players". Instead, I am defined by my lack of definition. I'm attracted to people and the contents of their mind, not a gender. While I would classify myself as a woman, someone once called me "Sir" on accident and I really liked it. The beauty of gender fluidity has always been a topic I live to explore in my figurative work. 

A cult is a group of people with beliefs that seem strange to the status quo. I'm taking the word and twisting it for my own purpose. What if it's the status quo that holds the strange beliefs and upholds a dangerous obsession with unattainable standards? Instead, the group of "misfits" in these cards are examples of living life beyond the invisible barriers of society.

Thirty-five "completed" cards were sent off to the printer for a proof and will be ready for sharing in 11 days time. I say "completed" because there is a chance I will get the cards back and decide to make changes or find errors that need adjusting.

Below are the images for the 35 cards. Notice they have a signature in most of them—that won't be in the final deck but for now, consider it a watermark. 

While you're waiting for the deck to be completed you can pre-order this deck and get some 12x18 prints of the finished cards. $3 from every CULT print goes to the Sunrise Movement.

Leave a comment with your thoughts :) 

(NSFW images below)

Updates about Tarot Guide Availability

Updates about Tarot Guide Availability

Yesterday brought some news about the availability of guide books for Bridge Witches decks that is important to share.

From the Drive-Thru Cards Website

Book Printing & Shipping Update (August 6, 2020)

Printed books can currently take as long as four weeks to be printed:
* U.S. orders for paperback books are estimated to print in 22 business days
* U.S. orders for hardcover books are estimated to print in 24 business days

In addition, note that the current USPS (United States Postal Service) shipping policies have changed: Because they are not insurable, media mail shipments will not be replaced if lost or damaged by USPS while in transit. Otherwise, per an agreement with our printer, we will still replace books that are damaged due to insufficient packing materials or those that have manufacturing errors.

UPS orders remain insurable. We can also provide reliable tracking information with UPS shipments. If orders are lost by UPS, we will replace them. 

What does this mean for Bridge Witches?

As of August 7th 2020, there are 32 copies of Bridge Witches, volume 2 available and 4 copies of Bridge Witches, volume 3 available for purchase. These editions come with a 6x9 inch paperback guidebook.

  • After Bridge Witches, volume 2 is sold out, it will not be reprinted
  • After Bridge Witches, volume 3 is sold out, it will be produced by a different printer and the included guidebook will be a digital pdf emailed at purchase. This is happening for several reasons:
    1. The guides and decks were always produced separately in different facilities and had to be bundled by hand and then shipped to the fulfillment center. The monetary cost and time commitment is too great to do this as the shop continues to scale up.
    2. The smallest available option for the guide was 6x9 inches which made the packaging and shipping costs more than if the deck came without a guide. 
    3. The options for printing the guide in a different size require a new printer and fulfillment strategy that's just too much to handle at this time.
    4. Not printing a guide for every deck is more eco-friendly. The production, triple shipping of each product, and size of the guide all add to its carbon footprint. Other strategies to improve eco-friendiness are shipping future decks from the printer directly to the fulfillment warehouse to cut down its time in the mail to only 2 trips on its way to you.

The future of the guide

For those that still want to purchase a physical guide book after all the current copies of Bridge Witches are gone, a link will be provided to the Killerpancake store on Drive-Thru cards so you can order it directly from the printer. It's unclear how long their fulfillment times will be so extensively delayed due to COVID but if you choose UPS shipping it will come with tracking. 

What are the differences between Volume 2 and Volume 3 of Bridge Witches?

Besides the outside packaging, the Suit of Cicadas has been replaced in BW3 with all new cards. The stories have been changed to feature the rise of the tech industry and hustle culture in Pittsburgh. All the other cards are the same. If you have a teal deck (volume 2) and want a booster pack with just the new cicada cards, go here!

TLDR

If you want a deck with a guide for Halloween / Sanheim Day or Christmas / Hanukkah / Yule please consider ordering it early. Like... nowish.

If you have any questions please email hello@ki11erpancake.com

<
A Tarot Tour

A Tarot Tour

In 2016,

when I first started researching tarot decks, artist-made decks were well on the scene. I however, wasn't really aware of any until after I started making my own. Instead, my dear friend Erin showed me some of her decks and I did a little shopping in different stores around Pittsburgh and any occult shops and book stores where ever I was traveling at the time.

These decks taught me a lot about how to make tarot. Borders or no? How to establish a suit theme but unify the deck as a whole, and what symbols people looked for in the cards to read them. I'm still learning and my collection is expanding.

Here is a little trip through my current decks. I'm not going to share a lot about the creators or deck history and instead link you to Aeclectic Tarot for that (they do a better job). Instead I want to talk about each deck's influence on my own work and share some thoughts about how I think tarot decks are changing.

I am showcasing the deck cover (if I have it), the back of the card, Judgement, Ace of Cups, The Fool, Eight of Swords, and The Devil from each deck to compare them.

Tarot of the Cat People

cat people tarot deck

Legitimately the most amazing tarot deck, Cat People tells the story of an alternate cat universe with the cards. It was originally published in 1985 and you can tell. I freaking LOVE this deck as it tells the most unique story using the tarot format. This copy is on a longterm loan from my friend Erin but going through these cards for this piece encouraged me to buy a copy for myself on Etsy. It's pretty reasonable and widely available. 

This deck has a distinct style that's carried throughout all 78 cards. It empowered me to create whatever the fuck I wanted and really go for it. Tarot of the Cat People rules.

AIGA Dallas-Fort Worth Community Project

AIGA Dallas-Fort Worth Community Project

My friend John supports my love of card decks. As a member of the DFW chapter of AIGA he shared with me this community project they did in 2018. Every card is designed by a different person and the company that printed the deck is local to Dallas. More information here. I don't use this deck ever but it's interesting! I am not much for a deck that is illustrated by multiple people but I do enjoy flipping through it and seeing the different takes on the cards.

Art Nouveau Tarot

Art Nouveau Tarot Deck by Matt Myers

I came across this deck in a (clean) garbage bag filled with occult books that smelled intensely of incense. My friend was moving and asked if I wanted some of his old occult materials from the '90s and of course I said yes. This deck was made in 1989 and is no longer in print (and is now actually worth a bit of coin). Thing is, I'm not that kind of collector. For me, it's all about the art.

Art Nouveau reminds me of how goddamn hard it used to be to make something like this. These illustrations took Matt Myers three years to complete and you can tell. The cards are smaller than normal yet rich with detail. I have not had this deck for very long but I appreciate it as someone who tried to achieve a similar level of detail. He also has a self-portrait card in there that serves no other purpose than to say "I was here, I made this" and it reminded me of how I make myself The Fool in every deck.

I would be remiss in saying that from my 2020 perspective, this deck doesn't do it for me conceptually. This was made in the era of tarot looking a certain way and meaning certain things. I can still appreciate the craftsmanship.

Interview with the artist Matt Myers on New Age Hipster

The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot 

The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot

This is probably the closest to perfection when it comes to execution of style in tarot, for me. I'm obsessed with the art style in this deck. It honestly breaks my heart that it's not being published anymore and is stupid expensive to buy second-hand. I currently posses it on loan from my afore mentioned friend Erin—so I am very careful with it. Read Aeclectic Tarot's write up about the creators of this deck

Fantastic Menagerie is the most charming collection illustrations I have ever seen. While it's not a style that I myself can execute, it became a goal to capture not just the right meaning for each card—but to convey my own attitude and essence, (still working on it). 

Tarot Apokalypsis

My first tarot deck ever was the Tarot Apokalypsis. I found it at The Controversial Bookstore in San Diego (now B-Intuitive) while wandering around the North Park neighborhood in 2016.

Yes, I bought my first tarot deck for myself. You can too.

This is probably the most influential deck (structurally speaking) on my own work. The borderless style, the digitally illustrated / photobashed artwork, the intensely saturated colors, and its use of the seasons and different cardinal directions for each suit were all very influential to Bridge Witches.

This homage to Pamela Coleman-Smith illustrations features myths, legends, and deities from Egypt, Ancient Greece and Rome, Scandianvia, and the Khmer culture. I'll be honest though, when I bought this deck, I didn't know much at all about it or about tarot in general. I chose it based on the cover (featuring Pandora and her box) and the price point.

While the huge hardcover guide is filled with extensive card meaning breakdowns and includes cited sources from various texts, I'm not able to speak to how accurately it portrays the different ancient cultures that it depicts. What I have come to understand however, is that tarot decks are rife with references to myriad cultures that are repurposed for their own use in occult tools. That never sits well with me and that aspect of this deck makes me uncomfortable. Read more about this deck on Aeclectic Tarot.

Tarot Apolaypsis reminded me that I need to be aware of my bias and how that effects the art I produce. I can't just pick symbols willy-nilly and say "this is mine now!" It was important to me to represent the real world around me but also acknowledge that is through my own lens warped but its own baggage. It's my responsibility to continually educate myself and chip away at this bias where ever possible.

I believe that now more than ever, we are beginning to question where our tarot comes from and what stories it is telling. Now that artist decks are widely available on Etsy and elsewhere, we can support a diverse array of creators and learn more about their worlds.

Tarot and Astrology 

Funny story: While making my deck I was worried that tarot people would clock me for the meanings and astrological associations. My friend was getting really tired explaining it all to me and recommended I check out Tarot and Astrology: Enhance Your Readings with the Wisdom of the Zodiac as a resource. It was wild to open the book and see that I knew the illustrator John Blumen and could just call him and ask how he made this deck.

Chatting with John about the technical aspects of drawing digitally (something that was very new to me at that time) was invaluable.

Sacred Rose

I haven't spend a ton of time with this deck. I found it at Corner of the Sky Books & Beyond, a used bookstore in Cleveland and when I unwrapped it, the smell of cigarette smoke on it was so strong I had to air it out for a few weeks. Regardless, I've enjoyed flipping through it. They style is very late-70s and reminds me a bit of the Hobbit animated cartoon.

Medival Scapini Tarot

I have used this deck to read for myself and it's not for beginners. That being said, I get lost in these images. The vaguely creepy aesthetic has influenced my current more horror focused deck. It's full of color and even a metallic gold finish but has a quintessentially medieval brutality to it. Most people when they create a scary deck relay on the color scheme of red, white, and black. I'm not that kind of goth! 

Luigi Scapini plumbed that medieval aesthetic to recreate decks reminiscent of that era. The illustrations are languid and densely packed. I believe I acquired these at an occult shop here in Pittsburgh called Hocus Pocus in the Oakland neighborhood. 

Rider-Waite auf Deutche!

Of course I have a Rider-Waite deck. I never read with it but use it as a resource. I purchased this in Switzerland at Orell Füssli—the oldest continually running publicly traded business in the country. Opening as a book publisher in 1519, they also run a gorgeous bookstore in Zürich. 

This Might Hurt 

Last but not least, my most recent acquisition: This Might Hurt! This is a queer and diverse deck that is one of the most well made products I own—down to the holographic edges. I keep it on my desk and read with it, study it.

You might be asking, with your focus on queer representation and diversity why do you not have more of these decks? Well, I didn't want to be be influenced by what other people were making. I wanted to study what came before me so I could understand it and twist it. 

I'm at the point now where I want to buy all of these and support the amazing artists. Check out thismighthurttarot.com and get one!! The feel is incredible and it's fun to read with. 

 

And that's it!

I hope you enjoyed this tour. It was longer than I realized! Once I gathered my decks I saw... wow I have gotten a few over the years. I can't wait to acquire more!

Tarot Reading for Atheists

Tarot Reading for Atheists

What do you mean "Atheist"?

Well, I mean that I don't believe in any kind of god, spirit, or omnipresent anything. Instead I'm a big fan of quantum physics and firmly believe that when I die I'm dead and there's no afterlife. 

What I don't believe in however is arguing or attempting to disprove other people's beliefs. That's pretty rude in my opinion. Faith in anything (or lack there of) is a personal choice. Once your personal choice infringes on someone else making that same choice—that's pretty lame. This is a two way street. If your beliefs excuse bad behavior, I'm not here to defend that either.

But you use tarot?

Yes! I read for myself regularly. Tarot cards are little stories that react to each other—changing the narrative depending on which cards are laid out together. I use self-readings to ask myself questions and look at problems from a different perspective. 

Example time!

Using a three card draw, I look at:

1. The Situation: What's the thing that's bugging me the most.

2. The Action: What can I do (or not do) to address or accept the situation?

3. The Outcome: What is possible? This isn't reading the future. By the time I see the second card, I have a sense of where the reading is going. The third card is usually a confirmation of the Action card.

Let me show you what I mean:

Question: I'm frustrated and tired but I just started a big new project, am I burnt out before I even start? I feel defeated and worn out.

A turn of the cards reveal:

 

ace of cups knight of wands ten of cups

Ace of Cups: My cup do runneth over! Yes this new project is a lot but I am reminded how much I love this stage, when I have lots of drawing ahead of me. I'm also REALLY lucky to be in a place where I work on these things full time.

Knight of Wands (reversed): Yeah, you've got a lot of creative spirit, but you also know that a big project means you have to chip away at things a little bit at a time. Burn out is real. You also can't just work when the mood strikes, you have to show up to put in the time each day! You are lucky to even have the space to do it!

Ten of Cups: If you heed this, it's likely to result in a harmonious conclusion. You can never know what the future holds, but you have been at this long enough to realize that slow and steady wins the race. You also have an amazing support system of people you can rely on and relax with when not at your desk drawing.

 

I hope this was enlightening! How do you use tarot?!

What I Read When I Want to Draw

What I Read When I Want to Draw

 

I have always been inspired by books. There is something about reading that paints detailed pictures in my head and fuels my creativity. My preference is to mix it up between reference books and fun fiction. With COVID-19 still out there, I'm planning on sitting inside and reading as much as possible this summer. Have you read any of these?

June & July 2020

Find me on Goodreads and read along :D  

 

Become a Card in CULT

Become a Card in CULT

In the latest update of Bridge Witches: A Tarot Deck, I made a special pre-order option for people who wanted to become cards in the deck. For a cost, you could choose a card to be featured on in the deck. For those that would rather not have their own face on the card, they suggested a story or historical figure to feature. For a little bit more support, they got a card and an 8x10 framed print of the cards. Those that chose to pre-order also got their decks weeks before everyone else—getting one of the first decks to roll off the press.

I've just started work on CULT: A Tarot Deck and would love to offer a pre-order option again. I'm changing the pricing structure and what comes with the pre-order.

  • Regular Pre-Order: $60.00 for a deck
  • Build a Card: $70.00 to help design a card and get your deck even before pre-orders.

The Regular option is to receive a deck when it's ready. The price includes free shipping in the United States and to Canada, (everyone else see here for shipping rates). 

The Build a Card option is to be a model for a card yourself or, if you want, to help design the card. 

We can collaborate! All modeling for this option is clothed. We can discuss via email or Google Meet what you would like to do for the card and I will give some direction for taking a good reference photo. There are only 10 slots and I am making decisions about cards right now so if you want to do this I suggest getting in touch ASAP. People who purchase this option will be the first to get their decks when they are ready.

August 2020 Update

As of August 12th I am about half way done with the drawings! The next step will be to prepare the deck for printing and then create the guide. My hope was to have decks shipped before Halloween but right now the news is looking really grim for the US Postal Service and I am concerned this will delay the supply chain and getting the decks shipped out to customers. Therefore, I am pushing back my tentative shipping date to late November 2020 to ensure I have enough time to get things in the mail and on their way to customers. If you have further questions please email hello@ki11erpancake.com.

New Addition to KI11ERPANCAKE Tarot: CULT

New Addition to KI11ERPANCAKE Tarot: CULT

When I started making tarot cards about four years ago, I figured it would be a one and done thing. Well, all this time later and there's still a lot more that I want to explore through the cards. Tarot plays with narrative—employing nonlinear storytelling that the reader can revisit infinitely and get different perspectives. This deck looks at the societal construct that is gender and the beauty of the human figure through a horror lens.

Background

As a kid, I was entranced by the "bad guys". From Doctor Blight in Captain Planet and Natasha Fatale of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame, to Ursula the Sea Witch—the strongest female characters of my 90s childhood were evil women.

Being the good girl, in my little mind, seemed to always align with a compromise in freedom. You couldn't be single or chose to be child free without regret and loneliness. Instead, you had to settle for "Prince Charming" and ride off into the sunset. Being a girl meant something specific that never fit right.

At fifteen, I found art and the queer goth kids at the club. It changed everything. While not having the words for it—gender was clearly a social construct and cultural expectations were the oppressive tools of the patriarchy. I embraced Byronic heroes and gothic horror because I saw myself there. I didn't need a "happy ending". This however, came at a cost to my own self-esteem. You had to either be a "good girl" or a "bad" one and "bad girls" couldn't be happy. 

As an adult, I learned about the tropes that villianized not only white women, but queer people and people of color. As I waded into defining my own queer identity I still leaned on my gothy heroes.

This tarot deck is a negotiation. I want to embrace the devils, the witches, the ghosts, and the vampires who welcomed me. I want to celebrate their power and the beauty of gender fluidity. I want to remember my teachers and realize their humanity in the cards. Except, not every association is perfect. I'm choosing to burn the association of "failure" or even "damnation" with these "bad guys". You can be a weird, mysterious, and spooky kid and love your body and your life. 

My characters and the references I make in the deck are flawed—because I am. Because we all are. 

Introducing CULT: A Tarot Deck

I’m really excited to introduce the newest installment to the KI11ERPANCAKE tarot card collection, Cult: A Tarot Deck. This one dives into queer and feminist themes but is drenched in horror references—kinda like an episode of American Horror Story.

The Suits

Swords are ghosts

Wands are devils

Coins are witches

Cups are vampires

While I draw the deck

  • Prints are available of each card as it's completed for the deck. See available prints.
  • Regular blog posts sharing drawing tutorials and resources that I enjoy using (reference resources, brushes, etc.)
  • There will not be a printed guide for this deck to reduce the cost of production, shipping, and save some trees. Instead, I will have a digital resource through this website. It will be a mobile-ready PDF with bookmarks for easy reference. I am also creating a quick reference for people who want something to print out while they read cards.

Be a Card in the New Deck!

As a special pre-order option I have spots open in the deck for you to purchase. You can either become a card yourself or we can collaborate on designing a card! I have offered this in the past and y’all seemed to love it so I am excited to do this again. Learn more here.

When will it be done?

As of August 12th I am about half way done with the drawings! The next step will be to prepare the deck for printing and then create the guide. My hope was to have decks shipped before Halloween but right now the news is looking really grim for the US Postal Service and I am concerned this will delay the supply chain and getting the decks shipped out to customers. Therefore, I am pushing back my tentative shipping date to late November 2020 to ensure I have enough time to get things in the mail and on their way to customers. If you have further questions please email hello@ki11erpancake.com.

May 26, 2020 — Genevieve Barbee-Turner