When I first spoke to Warren about the deck in London last year I still didn't know the direction of the deck. I just knew I wanted him in it. I even knew what card. He gave me a look. "Which card do you see me as?"
"The Emperor." I told him.
"I can live with that." He said.
And so the deal was made and I left England happy.
Now it took a while for the tarot to actually take shape. Warren let me guest post on his blog a while back to give the back story. You can find it here. Basically the deck to shape in the time it needed to.
A few days ago my aunt passed away. This aunt was incredibly special. Warren messaged me that morning. He was the first to message me actually. I walked around my neighborhood for a while and settled back into the house knowing I'd be fairly useless. About five minutes into my uselessness, I decided to paint. But the painting couldn't be just anything, it had to be something or someone special. "I just want to paint someone I really care about." I told my mom.
I pulled up my reference and started to paint. Now the original idea for the card was something Warren would have killed me for I'm sure. The layout was nice, it contained pretty purple flowers and a ram but as I started to paint it felt wrong, so I left it for 10 minutes and tried again. Still it didn't work. So I did what any artist would do when stuck on apiece that just isn't right. I ripped it into tiny pieces and threw it out the window.
I tried again, this time using a different picture for reference. One I wasn't attached to. This is the key in painting people you know. Sometimes you fall in love with an image, and the image is so wonderful and beautiful that you can't capture it again, even if it is a different medium. I tried a different angle and there before me the image started to come to life. I painted furiously, remembering wonderful conversations Warren and I had, had over the years, and being so grateful to have him in my life as he helped me through, terrible breakups, book troubles, and so much more. By the time I had finished I had created what I thought was a masterpiece. It was time to glaze.
The first coat of glaze went on smoothly, it dried fast and perfect, or so I thought. Funny thing happens when you have a terrible rainstorm and you leave all your doors and windows open. The place gets damp and even though your paint feels dry, it's actually still wet. I put on the next coat of glaze and watched in horror as the face I had so lovingly painted melted before my eyes. It was 3:35 a.m. and I was in tears.
Now of course I blamed Warren for this, as he once said he'd curse me. For what? I don't remember but he did and that very same day I got my heel stuck in my fishnets and toppled over the couch. The man is very talented with his internet cursing. So I shook my fist at the computer knowing he was sleeping soundly while his evil curses did their trickery. And I tried to fix it. No matter what I did it wouldn't work. So I left it alone.
Today I got the urge to finish the painting. I was done being frustrated and in a relatively good headspace. I quickly painted Warren's face onto a fresh piece of paper covering the mess that was there while waiting for my apprentice. As I was doing so, there was that familiar crack of thunder and the downpour began. This time tiny ice bullets pelted down onto the tin roof in the backyard. I finished and added the first coat of glaze praying it would dry right. I scanned it in and waited. The second coat is drying this second. The edges are taped and all is good in the world right now, my world at least.
So thank you Warren, from the bottom of my sewn tattered little heart. Thank you.
Jim Shirey's photograph of the Lily of the Valley are much lovelier than any I can paint. I used Lily of the Valley in this piece as they symbolize the return of happiness. Quite fitting for an emperor don't you think?