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The Urban Tarot Deck is an illustration series that is nearly 10 years in the making. It is about magic, truth and the city.
Created by

Robin Scott

346 backers pledged $33,595 to help bring this project to life.

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Composition and Balance

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Hello, Urban Tarot followers, I hope your new year is looking up so far. Thank you for sticking with me as the project continues to develop. It's been while since the last update, but we're on the move once more. Holiday travels, combined with some major shifts around our household have interrupted my progress, but I'm setting into a new office now and looking forward to tearing into the last ten images still remaining in the set. 

Since my last update, our roommates of 8 years, Jessica (who modeled for Jusice and Strength) and Chris (The Hermit), have moved out to a new house of their own in Pittsburgh. Soon after, following a lot of uncertainty and worry, my wife and I were delighted to welcome a new couple into our home. Sarah has already been a model for me recently (The Nine of Disks) but you'll be seeing both her and her wife Jen in one of the remaining cards.

The Prince of Cups: The Filmmaker

Representing the calm air over the sea of troubled water, the Prince of Cups approaches the world of emotions with a careful, sometimes cold, distance. While he may contain a deep sea of emotional complexity himself, he tends to be guarded about letting others see his vulnerability. Instead, he externalizes that conflict, and looks for ways to evoke those emotions in others. 

The Prince of Cups: The Filmmaker
The Prince of Cups: The Filmmaker

Will this scene make his audience understand real pain? Will this particular phrasing convey the full force of love? Can this photograph evoke profound loneliness and despair? Each move is measured, calculated to produce a specific effect. The Prince is a master of the emotional sea, but appears to walk above it, keeping a careful and professional distance. Sometimes there can be a kind of cruelty there - is it art, or cunning manipulation? Are his emotions ever genuine, or simply perfectly designed to look genuine? 

The Queen of Swords: The Painter
The Queen of Swords: The Painter

Compare our Prince of Cups to his twin, the Queen of Swords (actually the second image I created for this set back in 2003, with Ms. Debbie Trencher sitting for me as model). Both are the combination of Air and Water, and I've portrayed both as artists of a sort. Our Queen of Swords is a Painter, and her work requires the skill, patience and forethought of Air, but she is fueled by Water in all she does. When she paints, it is because she feels and the work follows her feeling. Perhaps it conveys those feelings well, perhaps it is incomprehensible to others, but what always comes across is the emotion she puts into it. The Prince of Cups, by contrast, works for his audience. His work is driven by the need to evoke, to beguile and to charm. He is happiest when people see themselves in his work and he, the creator, is completely forgotten. Not satisfied with simply portaying personal truths, the Prince strives to touch something universal.

I won't hide the fact that I associate pretty strongly with the Prince of Cups myself. If I were to pick one of the 16 court cards to most often represent myself, it would be this one. But the obvious question is, how do I want you to feel about that statement? :)

Many thanks to backer Rob Burke who flew out to me and modeled for this card back in July of '12. I know it was a long time coming, but I hope you're happy with how the final piece came out.

Getting Comfy

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A Happy Thanksgivnukkah week to the American Jews on the list. My wife and are looking forward to a fun hybrid feast this Thursday. I'll be attempting a batch of apple cider sufganiyot with cranberry jelly filling, accompanied by some Manischewitz Ice Cream. Should be interesting.

The Four of Cups: Luxury

With each of the fours, we reach a place of stability and of security. In the realm of emotions represented by the suit of cups, stability is both highly prized and a bit worrying. We all want to know where we stand, to have someone else that we know can rely on for support and let our guard down around. But when our relationships become too comfortable, they can also become suffocatingly stale. 

The Four of Cups: Luxury
The Four of Cups: Luxury

The relationship that began at first sight in the Two of Cups has lasted past the honeymoon phase of the Three and has entered that space where you and your partner can enjoy comfortable silences, where you can watch tv together, enjoy cookies and milk in your underwear, and simply relax in each other's presence without even interacting directly. We have a life of luxury - not a luxury borne from material wealth but from having all we need emotionally within easy reach. We can rest, knowing that we are supported and loved by someone who has known us at both our best and our worst. There is still a richness of love here, but it's lost the sense of exciting newness it once had. My wife put it exactly right when she told me this card represents a relationship where people are no longer afraid to fart in front of each other.

Comfort and stability is an essential part of any healthy long term relationship, but if you get caught up in it, it can become the start of a long downward slope towards the end. Without risk and excitement, without romance, it's easy to fall into a rut that you never pull yourselves out of.

A big thank you again to Eblyn Felix and Shawn Roberts for posing as my couch-surfing couple for this card. 

The Cups Runneth Over

The suit of cups continues, with the three complete, and a photoshoot for the four. 

The Three of Cups: Abundance

We will pass through every stage of a relationship as we tell the story of the suit of cups. Still early, here in the three, we have entered what has sometimes been called the "honeymoon period." We have found joy, and pleasure and fulfillment without limit. Life is a celebration, and every song is sung for you. This is the time we wish could last forever, although we know of course it can't. 

The Three of Cups: Abundance
The Three of Cups: Abundance

This card represents the feeling of joy that comes from knowing that you are surrounded by those who love you, who support you, and who want only the best for you. It's a birthday party on New Year's Eve, and a toast in your honor. It's a kiss at midnight, while the sky explodes, all for just the two of you. It is an abundance of joy, of love, of camaraderie and warmth.

Thank you to my friends Anthony Bamonte and Ilan Norwoord, and my wife Amy, for lending their hands for this image.

As positive as this card is, it has a warning as well. Midnight is only here for a moment, and the fireworks will be gone as suddenly as they appeared. We cannot sustain a relationship on that initial, honeymoon energy, any more than we can live on champagne and cake alone. Trying to live only in this moment of pleasure and celebration will lead you to selfishness, hedonism and eventually disaster.

Shooting the Four

The next card in the set will show us some ways that a relationship can suffer from an over-abundance of comfort and ease. Shawn Roberts and Eblyn Felix agreed to be my model relationship for this card. They managed to capture the pose of lazily lounging around on the sofa with such grace that I suspect they may have practiced it before.

Click to see the rest of the photo shoot on G+
Click to see the rest of the photo shoot on G+

At First Sight

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We return this week to the suit of Cups, our last suit, with Love.

The Two of Cups: Love

In each of the aces, we saw the element that they represented expressed in its purest, most abstract form. The Ace of Cups represented a singular, pure idea of love that had no specific object. With the twos, we see that idea in its simplest concrete expression. Love here has a focus - it becomes more real by being shared. 

The Two of Cups: Love
The Two of Cups: Love

http://www.robertscottart.com/tarot-files/two-of-cups.jpg

The Love this card represents is a young love, a newborn love that hasn't yet been tested by hardship or struggle. It's that immediate, overwhelming infatuation or crush. It's Romeo and Juliet. Of course, we know that in the long run Romeo and Juliet don't do so well (spoilers), but that's all still ahead of them. While there are darker cards to come in the story of the cups, right now, in this moment, it's all pink clouds and warm feelings.

I imagined this scene being about two strangers meeting one morning at a coffee shop (my "Green Lotus Coffee" logo is meant to suggest a more well-known and ubiquitous brand). While checking their respective emails, they reach for their mugs at the same moment and happen to touch, and notice each other. Thanks again to Dev and Laura for modeling this moment for me.

A note on the pips, and how I'm planning to handle the suit of cups: In the rest of the set, I've stuck with a consistent pip design (the disks, wands and swords) which appear on each of the numbered cards. I had originally planned to use the same crystal goblet across all ten cards of the suit, but I decided to break with my previous style a bit and use a different kind of cup for each card, returning to the crystal goblet one last time with the ten. 

The Princess' Story

I finally got an opportunity to meet and then photograph backer Susan Goodell recently. She flew into New York to take in some Broadway shows and pose for me as the Princess of Cups. You may recall that I began taking some reference shots for this card over a year ago, when my mother-in-law helped set up a scene with a dressmaker's dummy and sewing machine. It was delightful to meet Susan after all this time, and thank her for being the backer who pushed this project over the initial goal. 

Susan Goodell as The Princess of Cups
Susan Goodell as The Princess of Cups

http://www.robertscottart.com/tarot-files/DSC04994.jpg

With Susan's photo shoot complete, I have only one more photoshoot to schedule for backers at the "Join the Cast" level, which we'll hopefully complete by the end of this month.

Of Storms and Soverigns

A lot of work since my last update - I'm finally at the point at which I've got a pretty solid plan for the remaining cards in the set. With the completion of the Emperor, I have only 14 cards still to complete out of the 78-card set, and I've already done photo shoots for four of them. I have the last two photo shoots for my top-tier backers coming up in October, and I'm excited to get to them. As I walk around NY now, it is with a little bit of regret, because now that I know everything that I'm planning to depict with the remaining cards, I also am aware of all of the cool buildings and neighborhoods and statues around the city that won't ultimately make it onto a card. 

The Emperor

This is among the most straightforward of the trumps when it comes to meaning. The Emperor represents law and order, the safety of social structure and the power of government. He can be good or bad, a tyrant or a noble guardian, depending on the circumstances. But ultimately, the emperor is Father, and has all of the associations with the paternal role just as the Empress is Mother and the representation of maternal power. In the context of the city and my tarot, the Emperor is the mayor of New York.

I had my father pose for this card, in what I imagined as a combination of our mayor Michael Bloomberg, Winston Churchill, and Balon Greyjoy (a reference that only fans of Game of Thrones are going to understand). I see him standing proudly on the East River, giving a speech under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge in the midst of Hurricane Sandy's pummeling stormfront, refusing resolutely to surrender to mother nature's fury.

http://www.robertscottart.com/tarot-files/The-Emperor.jpg

My father, Elliot Grossman, is in reality pretty far from the stone-faced lord of the city I portrayed him as here - the hardest part of the photo shoot was getting him to stop being goofy long enough to get a serious expression. I asked him to read sections of Churchill's speeches from 1940 while gesturing forcefully to get him in the right frame of mind:

https://plus.google.com/photos/113639566912606521037/albums/5923913464242705617?authkey=CLmQnNijs_nxZA

Shooting the Cups

I've done a couple of photo shoots this past week for the minor cards of the suit of cups. The next card I'll be working on will be the two, subtitled "Love". Adorable married friends Dev Purkayastha and Laura Simpson posed on request for me at the local Starbucks:

https://plus.google.com/photos/113639566912606521037/albums/5926515235638033089?authkey=CP2w3ZuCrabMcg

Assembling the Spreadcloths

A large box has recently arrived to my apartment from Spoonflower, containing 100 yards of printed cotton silk fabric, with my subway-inspired spreadcloth design printed 300 times across it. My amazing wife Amy (who you can see being an invaluable assistance in both of the above photo shoots; not to mention every other part of this project) has taken on the task of turning that into 300 finished spreadcloths, stitched around all four edges and attached to a purple fabric backing. Expect some progress shots of that as we get underway on that soon.

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