I think I will enjoy the headspace that the suit of cups takes me to. Since I embarked on this kickstarter, I've passed through the realm of passion and idealism, and then into materiality (the suit of pure reason having been completed back when I was an undergrad, years ago). But now I'm entering into the world of reflection, insight, emotional intelligence, and pure love. I like it here. I'd never considered it to this very moment, but I may have left for last the suit where I feel most at home. And on we go.
The Ace of Cups
This is the card of pure, elemental water. It is the root of everything that water reflects and embodies, the eternal wellspring, the calm pool, the cool rain. I like to think of the aces are each a beginning to a different kind of story. If the ace of swords is the beginning of a theory, ace of wands the beginning of a movement and the ace of disks the beginning of a company, then the ace of cups is clearly the beginning of a relationship. So imagine this card as that chance romantic encounter, an unexpected meeting that seems full of promise. To drag up a well-worn romantic cliche (which I'm sure will not be the last we'll see in this suit) this card is love at first sight, or rather, it is that first sight which holds the infinite potential of love.
Since I now have all four aces complete, I thought it might also be fun to see them all side by side for the first time. There's a pretty startling evolution in style from where I started, but I hope in the end they all still feel like a natural part of the same set.
As each of my four aces centers around a different piece of New York public art/architecture, I've chosen here to depict the famous Bethesda fountain in Central Park, on the shore of The Pond. The fountain, I'm sure, has been the location of many first meetings, and on any nice day in the summer you're find at least one couple decked out in their wedding attire, taking photos by the water. But in addition to it's romantic atmosphere, the location also has an important connection to the history of water in New York.
By the early 19th century, New York was already a growing metropolis, and it was struggling to provide clean drinking water to a growing population. The fountain was constructed to commemorate the 1842 opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which brought unpolluted water into the city from Westchester. Emma Stebbins sculpted the fountain, which she titled Angel of the Waters, making her the first woman to be commissioned for a major piece of public art in the city. At the dedication ceremony, Stebbins drew a connection from between the new aqueduct and a biblical pool, quoting John 5:2-4:
Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of invalid folk — blind, halt, withered — waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water. Whosoever then first stepped in, after the troubling of the water, was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
There is a tradition in the tarot of placing a dove above the cup on this card, to indicate the sanctification of the Holy Ghost. As I'm inclined not to use specifically Christian symbols in my own thinking, let us say that my angel simply represents Pure Love. I hope that many of my Christian friends would agree that this is a difference that makes no difference. The towers in the background are the lovely and much sought-after San Remo apartments, which are indeed overlooking Central Park West, but are not directly visible behind the angel as I've placed them here.
Minor note on technique: in order to get all the detailed shapes of the trees and falling water, I've used my wacom tablet much more here than I usually do. For the most part, I draw every shape in my art with a mouse and a polygonal selection tool, click to click to click. I tend not to like the shape that digital brushstrokes have, and being a bit of a perfectionist about these things, I prefer to draw my own shapes rather meticulously. In this case though, outlining each droplet and leaf seemed like an endless and unrewarding task, and the digital brush allowed me to create some lovely stippling marks.