New Year’s Blog 2018-2019: Glancing Back, Gazing Forward

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
― Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

2018 was far and away the best year of my life thus far, and I’m not afraid to say that. (After all, the year is over, I can’t jinx it now.) It brought into my life hope, empowerment, courage, confidence, and a level of creativity that I had not experienced ever before. I don’t just mean that I got better at drawing, at anatomy or perspective or style; I mean I got better at art, the War of Art, the Art-Life, the Artist’s Way, whatever you want to call it – the very process of being creative grew in my life far more than it ever has before.

I made and published comics and zines, designed and inked an entire tarot deck (and have painted half the cards!), honed my skills, developed a paper planning system that works for me, and generally got better at being an artist. Morning Pages and a regular meditation practice have helped me to calm my mind on a daily basis, enough that I can concentrate much better and just generally get a lot more done. Having my mind clear is like having my paints well-organized: it doesn’t make the art happen, but it makes the process far more streamlined and eliminates some of the delays involved with disarray.

My online presence went from occasional blog posts, even-more-occasional videos, and a tiny, quiet Instagram, to…well, perhaps not massive success, but certainly enough popularity that my Etsy shop was able to grow by 900% (that is, making nearly 10x as much revenue as the previous year). It’s still not a huge amount – not nearly enough to quit my day job – but enough that I managed to invest in some supplies I needed, and enough that my shop has become a profitable side gig rather than a

I also grew spiritually, becoming more secure in my identity (nonidentity?) as a “spiritual seeker not otherwise specified.” I don’t identify as Pagan or Christian or New Age (though all those apply in their own ways) – I just identify as a spiritual seeker who loves Tarot and oracle cards, is fascinated by angels, and may very well be an old soul, but doesn’t claim to be any kind of guru.

I started offering card readings on my Etsy shop, something I’d wanted to do for years upon years, and am still offering about a dozen different spreads at reasonable rates. (If you’d like a reading with me, please click here to browse them.) I am thrilled to be able to offer these readings. I didn’t do it lightly: I’ve been considering for about a year and practicing and preparing, and have been reading for over 15 years, but didn’t list them until near the New Year…and I’m glad I waited until it was truly the right time.

I also started working in the conventional workplace this year, first as a receptionist, and then shifting into the world of 3D models and virtual reality design, with a focus on artistic environment creation and model texturing. My journey there has been wild. As someone who was on disability and did not work in a conventional workplace (even part-time) for 5 years, going from no job to dream job in under 12 months is nothing short of miraculous. I worked hard for it, yes, but I am very fortunate to be where I am today, in such a short period of time.

Of course, there have been challenges. Depression and anxiety plagued me for months at a time, and nearly drove me into the hospital in August. I managed to pull through without needing hospitalization, though, and other than that, I haven’t had many mental health “blips.” Most of my real struggles have centered around money management (difficult thing, when shifting from fully on disability to working part time) and time management. However, having a paper planning system that really works for me has been an absolute lifesaver: I got into bullet journaling this year, and while I do not do the incredibly elaborate beautiful stuff you see on Instagram, my bullet journal has been very helpful.

Before I close, I do want to take a moment to thank all of YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for being with me on this journey, for following my work, for clicking all those Like and Subscribe and Favorite buttons, and for allowing me to do what I do and share my interests with you. You have my eternal gratitude, and I wish you all an incredible, nurturing, creative 2019.

All the best,

Taylor

Weekly Update 2/20/18 | Completing My Life On The Sidelines Prologue, Designing an Oracle Deck, and Balancing Projects

[Image: The Wishing Well card, #1, from my upcoming Starcatcher Oracle deck.]

Hey y’all!

My gosh, I have been BUSY. Life…work…conventions…and art and cards…*zones out more*

So. First off: Yes, I missed had to reschedule my deadline for My Life On The Sidelines. It’s unfortunate, but I had to – I just could not work last week, and that was the last week I had to work. Fortunately, I’m very nearly done, so that should be done by the next time I update. This particular comic has gone much more smoothly than my previous projects, and I think I’ve worked in a balanced way – or, at least, a more balanced way than I have done past projects.

I’ve already jumped into the next project, though, which is typical of me. I’m now working on…the Starcatcher Oracle! It’s a deck of oracle cards (similar to to tarot but without the typical Tarot system) and it is inspired by my own spiritual/mental landscape and language of symbols.

The Bouquet sketch

I believe that all tarot and oracle decks are languages of symbols, and different decks/systems just have different vocabulary in that same language. So this is a deck of MY symbolic vocabulary, the set of symbols that MY subconscious speaks and thinks in.

This particular copy – these physical cards – are MY copy of the Starcatcher Oracle, and depending, it may be the only version that ever exists. However, I’m hopeful that this will lead to me making actual illustrations and having them printed as a deck.

Why am I doing this? For the same reason that English students are encouraged to write and speak in English, and Spanish students are encouraged to write and speak in Spanish, as much as possible. In the same vein, I’m “speaking” in the language of symbols, specifically the ones that work for me, by making this deck.

The art isn’t actually the most important part, for me, and that’s been hard to accept. I always asked “why do deck ‘Authors’ get so much credit? Why is there not more credit for the people who actually made the cards? Why is Doreen’s name so big on this box??!” (I still wonder SOME of that.) But I never realized how much planning, thought, and research goes into just deciding on those symbolic images and the titles and the keywords and guidebook. It’s not as easy as one might guess; it’s not JUST drawing 78 (or 80, or 88) images. It’s designing everything from the color language to the density of symbols in each card. THAT is often what “deck creators” who don’t do the art, actually do. And it is valid, challenging work.

So yeah. I have a new appreciation for deck/guidebook authors. I do still think that the artists’ names should be much more prominent on packaging and advertisements for decks, but we can’t have everything right away.

I’ve illustrated one of the cards fully and have sketched several more. The one I’ve completed is the Wishing Well

The Shaman sketch

And my favorites that I’ve sketched are The Bouquet, The Drifting Ashes, and The Shaman. The Shaman illustrates beautifully how I’m going about my goal of creating a “naturally diverse” deck. What I mean by naturally diverse is, as opposed to “intentionally diverse.” In my humble opinion, intentionally diverse decks (and media) use tokens and try to check off every minority they can manage to include, as if we are but boxes to check on a list as “INCLUDED – NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN.” I don’t feel like the intentionally diverse decks are actually diverse because they’re trying SO HARD to be inclusive that they’re just a too-perfect rainbow of…tokens. Stereotypes. There are trans people other than middle-aged blonde trans women. There are LGBTQ+ people other than two white gay men. There are races other than the very few one might name off the top of their head.

 

What I’m doing is just going intuitively and trying my best to just allow my ideas to include people of different abilities, ages, races, genders, sexualities, sizes, and so on. When I was creating the Shaman card, I had an image in my head of an elderly, heavyset black woman knitting. I thought this was lovely. Not because it included a person of color, person of size, person of a different age, but because it just fit for the Shaman AND included some diversity!

That’s kind of where I’m going with this: incorporating diversity as PART of the deck and part of the meanings of each card, not just cramming diversity in wherever I can manage it and where it doesn’t actually make sense. I think that’s where a lot of modern “Diverse Decks” go wrong – they just cram in diversity for diversity’s sake. I’m trying to include diversity where diversity fits and suits the cards’ meanings and symbolism.

Will I be intentional about adding some diversity? Certainly – I’m going to make sure that I include at least one differently-abled person, even if it’s just a woman with a cane; I’m going to ensure that I include ethnicities other than black and white. Yes, I will have a checklist, in a way. But it’s not going to be the primary direction for my deck.

I am making an oracle deck that includes diversity. Not a Diverse Oracle Deck.

The Drifting Ashes sketch

Other than diversity, the Starcatcher Oracle will focus on sacred storytelling, universal myth symbols, Jungian archetypes, and Pagan/New-Age spirituality. All pretty standard for a modern divination deck. But I wanted to mention those factors, regardless.

I have NOT chosen a name for this deck officially yet – I’m torn between Starcatcher Oracle and Sacred Storytellers Oracle. Let me know what you like better!

And if anyone’s interested, the tools I’m using in creating this deck include:

  • 300gsm white card from Recollections (Michael’s) as the actual cards
  • Graphite mechanical pencils for sketching
  • Sakura Pigma Micron pens for inking
  • Crayola 100-colors colored pencils for coloring
  • Going to seal them with matte spray-on Mod Podge.

That’s all I’ve got for now; that’s the process (so far) of the oracle I’m making. I have a BUNCH more card-reading videos coming up, so stay tuned for that. And if you’d like, you can follow the Starcatcher Oracle’s Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/starcatcheroracle – to get notified when there’s anything new, or to see work-in-progress images!

I wish you abundant blessings, and I hope you’re having a great day.

~Julian