“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The overall execution of the art in this deck is very intentional. Here is a bit of the backstory on why I illustrated the cards as I have and what it took to get there.
Most oracle decks lean heavily on their art. I would suspect that the majority of oracle decks out there began as an artist’s body of work, to which someone said, after the fact, “hey, these paintings would make a great oracle deck.” While this has produced some beautiful and even powerful decks, it seems rare that the art in oracle decks is explicitly created for the deck and specifically for oracular purposes.
I intend that the art of the Wild Harmonic Oracle serve as an oracular commentary to the same degree that the concepts, words and symbolic structure (elements and chakras) do. I did not simply have a bunch of art sitting around and then retasked it as a deck. All of the art in this deck was created only for this deck, after the conception of each card itself.
It took me about nine years of working on the deck before I could get anywhere with the art on the cards. But not for lack of trying. About a year into the deck’s creation, I came up with some art. I completed about 20 cards worth of art and realized this art was not a good fit for the deck. This communication seemed to come from the deck itself. Clearly, I had more to learn about the deck before I could ground the art into existence.
At two other points in the process, I set out to put art to cards, and the same thing resulted from each time. At about five years in, I got as far as illustrating 14 cards, with an entirely new direction than my first attempt, and then was informed this was not the direction for the art of this deck. Around seven years in, I went at it again, getting nine cards illustrated, and again was stymied. Between these attempts, I had a giant process of giving up on the deck as a deck and returning to using it purely as the magical language from which it originated.
It wasn’t until the 9th year of working on the deck’s purpose and structure that things came together. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but looking back, it went something like this. First, the notion of expanding the deck from 25 cards to 49 cards suddenly unfolded before me. Something in this formula caused the concepts for each card to come rushing to me. I could barely keep up each day as the card ideas and their correspondences flooded in. As this happened, I saw vivid images and an overwhelming impulse to illustrate these ideas.
The first card I experimented with, using the new art direction I was inspired by, was “Ground of Being.” I was happy enough with the results, so I took a stab at a few more. I went in order from there, illustrating the following four cards in the Earth suit. A couple of weeks later, Nourishing Roots, Primal Pulse, Shared Breath and Visceral Listening sat before me with the first card and seemed to be saying, “yes, this way.” I ordered a sample deck with the five cards to see how it felt to hold and read them. When the sample arrived and was in my hands, I knew this was it immediately.
The basic idea of the art style I took was to keep things as simple as I could. The quote from Antoine above was my guiding light in the process. Each piece started with a basic idea, upon which I would layer many possible other ideas (seeking the wild harmonics in the art) to see how they might integrate. From there, it became more like sculpting, where I removed as much as possible until it felt like the image held just the vibe that would clearly transmit the energy behind the card.
I also did not want to hit the diviner over the head with my symbolic choices. I am not sure how successful I have been in this intent, but I aimed for an understated result. The reason for this is twofold. First, I wanted the let the user sit before the art as they might in a gallery and just let it speak to them. I did not want to give them an instant answer visually. I wanted them to make an effort to let the answers in. A truly lofty agenda for a foolish artist like myself to have, but I held it anyway.
The second reason is similar, but I feel it is also quite different. While I wanted the images to be a specific symbolic commentary on the card’s meaning, I also wanted the shapes and colors in the cards to allow the viewer to see things beyond the symbols I put there. I wanted the images to be conducive to, or even to inspire one into, the dreaming awareness that is at the heart of the deck’s purpose.
I love hearing stories from people using the deck of how they didn’t see a symbol in a card until suddenly it jumped out at them and how that experience was meaningful and useful in the moment. I love it just as much when I ask someone what they see in a card’s art, and they describe something I neither intended nor saw myself. Both of these kinds of experiences reflect important ways in which I learned to read cards for myself and others, and it was my aim to create a deck that was synergistic with this.