Here’s a Magdalena Tarot Special treat for all you readers out there! If you’re a Magdalena Tarot regular, you’ve become familiar with the art of the Fall 2017 Magdalena Tarot Partner, Tony DiMauro, the creator the Darkness of Light Tarot. Tony took some time to answer some questions for me about the deck and also give us a little information about where he’s been and where he’s going both magically and artistically! And if you love fine art like I do, you’re in for a double treat because Tony also talks a little about the creative process of painting.
Magdalena Tarot: Everyone has a unique story about how they discovered Tarot. What’s yours?
Tony DiMauro: I first discovered the tarot when I noticed the illustrations in a store when I was young. They were haunting and exciting and mysterious all at the same time. I didn’t really have an opportunity to learn then, but those images always stuck with me. Years later, when I was searching for a project to paint, those images kind of came rushing back. I decided to explore the tarot for real and I’m glad I did!
MT: Creating a Tarot deck is a time-consuming endeavor. How long did it take you to complete the project from start to finish?
TD: It took about 2 years from start to finish on the paintings. At first, the goal was to simply create the Major Arcana to use for an art exhibition in New York City. Once I had about 8-9 cards created, I decided to just go for it and make the entire thing. It was the longest piece of artwork I’ve ever undertaken, and was a test of creative endurance. I’m glad I did it though, and would like to do it again someday.
MT: What was the biggest challenge you faced creating this deck?
TD: The biggest challenge was probably keeping everything consistent. As an artist, I generally try to make artwork that I feel is unique, or at least influenced, by my feelings at the time as I grow as a person. Creating 78 consistent paintings that all look and feel like they belong together was a big task. In order to do it, I had to stick to a very structured process that didn’t deviate much creatively. Instead, I tried to put the creativity into the content and symbolism rather than the technique used to create each card.
Of course, I’d also say it was pretty stressful getting everything printed and ready to ship, etc. I’m primarily an artist, and I had to learn the business side of things as I went. And I’m Still learning!
MT: You said that this deck is supposed to explore the light in the darkness and the darkness in the light. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
TD: I like to think of it as part of the balance found in nature: there is nothing purely positive or negative, only relative views which depends on the context. If there is something universally agreed to be purely positive or negative, nature brings symmetry to the equation by balancing it out on the other side.
I find that many decks sometimes ignore the harsh realities of nature, and instead focus on one side, or the opposite. I tried my best to create a deck that was honest and un-apologetic, but at the same time, represented both sides.
MT: Your art is amazing. I love the movement in the lines and the fine art feel to the cards. Tell me a little bit about your art training and background.
Thanks! I went to a university and studied Fine Art Painting and graphic design. When I graduated, I went to New York City where I worked in a design agency. Having this experience helped me come to terms with the commercial art world, and imbued my work with design sensibilities not common with many painters.
After spending some years at the design agency, I moved on to graduate school, where I studied illustration at the esteemed School of Visual Arts. Illustration was a perfect blend of the Fine Arts and graphic design, and where I found myself really excelling.
It wasn’t long after that I began teaching and creating my own work. The Darkness of Light Tarot was one of my self-initiated projects after teaching.
MT: In my experience using the deck, the deepest hidden symbols of the Tarot are expressed through the use of lines and brush strokes, not with concrete illustration. What inspired this approach, if anything, to illustrating the cards?
TD: For me, the painting style was less a matter of tarot and more a matter of style, technique, and self-expression. What I mean by this is that I didn’t choose the style or use certain brush strokes because of their meanings, I chose them because of the expressive aesthetic qualities they contained. That said, one of the fantastic side effects to this approach is that many symbols were created that really helped give the deck much deeper and richer meaning. I believe that was a result of me unconsciously “connecting the dots” while I painted.
MT: You said that the cards are designed with “historical significance”. What historical elements did you use when capturing the meaning of the cards?
TD: I tried to include aspects of art history (particular cards were based off of famous paintings), the history of the tarot itself (hence the Italian majors), and as many archetypal symbols I could find throughout various time and cultures.
MT: Story telling is an integral part of tarot reading. Which Tarot card do you think has the richest story contained within it?
TD: Oh wow, tough question since I’m partial to the artwork. I think cards containing action always have a greater sense of narrative: the Six of Wands, Five of Coins, Six of Coins, or Five of Blades, for example.
That said, I tend to prefer artwork with a greater sense of mood and ambiance that hints at narrative. For those reasons, I personally really like the Two of Coins. It gives the sense that the girl exists in her environment and is connected to all of the elements in the picture: maybe she lives in the lighthouse? Maybe she is leaving the lighthouse to meet a ship? While there are a number of stories and outcomes, a strong sense of time and space is created.
MT: Which card or cards meant the most to you when creating them and why?
Well, the cards with the dog are important to me, as I know and love the dog in the deck. He is one of the sweetest and nicest dogs I’ve ever met, the kind who won’t break the rules even when you ask him to.
Otherwise, Death was the first card I created, and looms large as an omen for the rest of my career so far: it brought about a massive change in the way I work and think about art.
On a personal level, I like the Four of Wands due to its outcome and the feeling associated with it, as well as the time period it was created within (Ostara to Easter).
I like the look and feel of power associated with the Queen of Blades, who looks like she doesn’t fool around or take any BS from anyone, and I like the Two of Coins as well for is narrative qualities and sense of mood. The Five of Wands is up there for that reason as well, as is the Five of Cups.
MT: Do you have any more projects coming soon that we should be on the lookout for?
TD: Definitely! I’m in the early stages of planning/working on an art book that will contain a story of sigil and sex magic, recounted through a series of dream sequences and then painted. It’ll be different than the tarot in that the symbolism won’t be as heavy or as “traditional,” but it’ll be similar in that it will appeal to much of the same audience and draw on many of the same themes of the unconscious mind and nature. If I do my job right, hopefully it’ll also feel a bit more modern as well… but we’ll see, I’ve still got a long way to go.
MT: Anybody you’d like to thank who was involved in the creation of the deck?
TD: Of course! There were many folks who helped me along the way, from planning to photography to reference to inspiration. Everyone’s name and website is listed on my website, so I won’t bore you by going through them again here, but I can say that my girlfriend has been extremely helpful in helping me pack and ship orders, and my dog has been a wonderful creature that has helped keep me sane throughout the entire process. And finally, special thanks to everyone who believed in me and supported me!