Lisa Hunt joins us to continue discussing her soon-to-be-released Ghosts and Spirits tarot.
USGS: What card was the most challenge to paint?
Lisa: There were several challenging entries that often took on lives of their own. For example, Jacob Marley representing card 15/Chains went through countless revisions--none of them capturing the emotional punch I was hoping for. So I put it away to be painted at a later time. When I revisited my sketches, lightening struck and I drew right on the watercolor paper without stopping. I just let Marley do his thing, materializing as I moved pencil across the surface. I could almost feel the tortured spirit floating in front of me!
Kuei as Four of Swords is an example of an artistic endeavor that held me spellbound for an inordinate amount of time (a challenge when under deadline). I did exhaustive sketches and ended up painting the card art three times! None of the works were "failures", in fact I think the final choice is one of the strongest images in the deck. I simply needed to explore all angles of these mysterious demon-ghosts. Perhaps it was a subconscious placation or maybe I'm working too hard! Ha ha.
USGS: What lessons did you learn along the way?
Lisa: For one thing, many of the paintings were not preplanned but evolved as I was painting. The spirits could not be forced! The result was unabashed rawness, emotional integrity and improvised creative energy. It was a stunning turn of events for me given that I had spent most of my professional life drafting meticulous drawings before tracing them onto expensive watercolor paper. With that said, I didn't miss a beat nor did I waste any paper. I've become a risk taker and I like it!
USGS: What card was the most challenging to write?
Some of the stories I chose to include are lengthy, requiring discipline and creative thinking. Every word counts, so I had to avoid verbosity and overloaded descriptions. Instead, I focused on salient points that served a divinatory purpose. Other stories were just plain difficult to transcribe. For me, The Ghost of Samuel from the First Book of Samuel was perplexing and required exhaustive study and rewrites (with an astute editor to pick up any inconsistencies). There was also a German story entitled Der Schimmelreiter available in German-only. Though I know basic German, I enlisted my mother's help (who is Native German) to help me identify the nuances of this poignant tale. I studied the German words before embarking on my own English translation. It is a complicated, tragic story full of human fallibility and sorrow. But it's an intriguing drama and one worth discovering and exploring in depth.
USGS: How do you deal with creative block issues? Any suggestions for those reading this?
Lisa: For me, creative block is NOT an issue and I'll tell you why:
First and foremost, I leave the ego at the door and enter the studio with a white belt mind (a martial arts reference). I feel there is power in mental insouciance and the more one is willing to "let go", the more one's mind is free to channel productive energy. I don't worry about how others think I should paint or how I think people will respond to my work, I just paint. If I didn't paint for myself then I feel I would be relinquishing emotional authenticity. I think the freeing of the mind also keeps the palette more edgy--that is where the white belt mind serves another function: You never know what's going to hit you! In my opinion, burn out and stagnation are misnomers. If you stop doing art and blame it on creative block, you're capitulating to fear (e.g. trying to be "perfect") and will run the risk of being paralyzed by inertia. Keep drawing, keep writing, keep it fresh and alive and embrace your inner perennial student. If you arrive at a point where you don't think you can get better, you’ll be stuck as sure as the Hanged Man. I've seen this happen to some artists/writers--his/her material becomes predictable and what was once fresh and exciting becomes boring and uninspired. My favorite artists push boundaries and purposely thrust themselves out of comfort zones. Regarding writing, a professor in grad school once offered me these wise words: "Follow your heart and write in your own voice." This is a simple truth that banishes blocks, at least for me!
I also think it is vital to pursue other passions outside of the studio. Live your life in creative ways and see how that nurturing philosophy will impact your work positively. As long as you keep the mental wheels oiled, you should never run out of ideas and inspiration.
USGS: What has been your greatest joy about the launch of your deck?
Lisa: Social media. It has been an integral part of my process and it has helped generate pre-publicity excitement in satisfying ways. This is the first project I have been able to share via the wonders of blogging, facebook, youtube and twitter. I have taken great joy in posting bi-weekly journals, sketches, drawings and paintings for anyone to see. It was a great way to get feedback and identify what images were resonating more than others. I was also able to involve my audience when choosing art for the deck’s cover art, as I was being too capricious for my own good. For those of you who don't know about how the box cover came to be, I had a vote on Facebook and let fans and friends decide. The old way of doing things are giving way to innovative new approaches that involve the community and bring a richness and depth to a product like never before. It felt great to have my audience participate in a web of collective insights. This type of exchange has been vivifying and I applaud (and appreciate) USG for working with me to make this happen! It's nice to know that thousands of people have been watching and waiting for Ghosts & Spirits Tarot, and can receive real-time information as it's made available. Things have really changed since the early days of pushing product postcards and not knowing who one's audience was.
Tune in for part three when Lisa discusses what surprised her the most about creating this deck.
Remember all comments on this series are entered into a contest! Wonder what that prize will be.