Interview with Arnell Ando and Leslie Cochran
by Bonnie Cehovet
For the past three years artists Arnell Ando (creator of the Transformational Tarot, Storyteller Tarot with Diane Wilkes, and The Hero's Journey Tarot), and Leslie Cochran have gifted the Tarot world with stunning Tarot Art calendars. This year (2006) marks the final year that this joint calendar will be offered. Each artist has now illustrated each of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. This project has birthed a second project - the creation of two 23 card Major Arcana Tarot decks - Arnell's Lucky Pack Tarot (Arnell's Art), and Leslie's "Dreamythology Tarot" based on their art from the Tarot Art calendars.
I thought that it would be interesting to explore the paths that brought these ladies to these wonderful projects. Ladies - the floor is yours!
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BC: Would each of you please tell us a bit about what drew you to the Tarot?
AA: I was first drawn to the Tarot in my early 20's. I was living in Japan, raising a family and feeling quite cut off from my Western philosophical and religious background. A close friend of mine there, Teresa Taranto got me into studying and collecting Tarot. I’ve always been intrigued by mythology, symbology, and synchronicity, so I guess Tarot was a natural direction for me to explore.
LC: Jungian psychology and dream work have been interests of mine for many years. In 2001 I began experimenting with manual collage in my art, and started a series of small collages for a calendar. Around that same time I began searching for a context for what I was creating. The Tarot had always intrigued me, and through web site searches I stumbled upon Tarot artists. In particular I found Arnell’s site - her collaged decks were fascinating.
BC: Would each of you please share a bit about your artistic background?
AA: I don’t have much of a formal artistic background aside from the occasional art class, but I’ve found a need to be creative in some capacity all of my life. Studying expressive art therapy while pursuing my masters in psychology helped free me from fears of rejection, inadequacy or being misunderstood.
LC: My background in art is mostly informal as well. Classes yes, but also absorbing and learning on my own, since I was very small. Art has always been the common denominator in my life – I am happiest when left to my creative devices.
BC: What drew the two of you together in this project?
AA: Leslie and I became fast friends a few years ago and then when I saw a beautiful collage calendar she was making for friends and family I couldn’t help but notice many Tarot symbols and associations inherent in her lovely, intricate work. Soon afterwards we began taking Photoshop classes together at the local college and realized it could be great fun to make a series of Tarot art calendars together. We figured if we committed to 4 years of these collaborative calendars, making 6 images a piece each year, that we would both end up with a Major Arcana deck in the final year. We enjoyed adding other elements to the mix such as full sets of Major Arcana stamps inspired by the images in the calendars. We work very well together…Leslie is very open minded and encouraging, not to mention that her creative instincts inspire me to perceive new possibilities.
LC: I was surprised when I found Arnell on the web, that she was practically in my neighborhood. I contacted her and expressed my desire to learn more about the Tarot. Her perceptive recognition of a ‘fit’ with my art and the Tarot, and encouragement to do a Tarot calendar, was the seed for our collaborative Tarot Art Calendar series (2004-2007). Learning Photoshop opened up a whole new world. We eagerly pursued it and its still an ongoing process– there is always something new to learn. Working with Arnell has been a ‘dream’ partnership in all ways: stylistically, work ethic, personality. She is a great friend and talented artist; her energy is very motivating for me.
BC: Your Tarot Art calendars are very special, not only for their art, but for the interpretations that go with them. How did you decide to use this format?
AA: We attempted to match each card with the mood, holiday or astrological sign of any given month and wanted to share our personal take on the card created each month as an added point of reference or reflection.
LC: Arnell’s instinctive knowledge of the Tarot was invaluable in getting a good fit and interpretation for each design in the calendar year. Then creating our personal descriptions for each collage was a natural extension of the art; sending each out into the world with a little ’sketch’ or story.
BC: What made you decide to take the calendar art into deck format?
AA: Leslie and I had planned to do that from the start of this 4-year endeavor. We made the original images 6x10, which could easily be converted into the 3x5 handmade Tarot decks. Some of the images had to be pulled in closer or cropped so that the details would still be visible in the smaller format but working with Photoshop makes the transition seem effortless.
LC: Yes, working on our own majors decks was always a goal and sizing them correctly made for an easier transition down the road. The calendars however had ‘center stage’, until we came to the end of our series. As we worked on this last calendar early in 2006, the decks became more of an exciting reality.
BC: What part does Tarot play in each of your lives?
AA: Maybe you can relate to this, but after studying and living with Tarot for so many years I tend to view reality, films, art, dreams, etc. through the prism of Tarot. It’s like a second language to me…a symbolic code that is longing to be interpretated while sharing a deeper layer of meaning to most things in life that move me to respond.
LC: Archetypes, the collective unconscious, dreams, and synchronicity are ways of looking at life that resonate deeply with me. The Tarot dovetails with these concepts in a vibrant and cohesive way.
BC: What would you like your decks to bring into people's lives? Speaking for myself, I see them as so much more than attractive art. I feel that they will make wonderful tools for journeying, meditation, ritual, and sparking ideas for my writing. How do you see people using these decks?
AA: I don’t know…I’m just an artist who loves sharing my work with others on a similar path of self-discovery, hoping that they will connect and find it meaningful…I put my heart and soul into what I do and am touched when others respond…
LC: The deck is a culmination of 4+ years of studying, conceptualizing, implementing, nurturing…… It’s like a little faceted jewel, not perfect mind you, but something I can hold in my hands and also let go. It’s done now, no longer changeable, so now it’s the receiver’s turn to see it with fresh eyes and hopefully find connection and meaning to their own circumstances.
BC: What upcoming projects can we look for from each of you?
AA: Right now I’m enjoying the process of making these handmade Tarot sets for folks and love sharing the experience with Leslie. I’m living in the moment and not sure what the future holds…but I hope Leslie and I will discover new ways to work together creatively when the opportunity arises.
LC: Yes, I agree, the focus is so much on the deck production right now. I share Arnell’s hope that there are other projects that may evolve for us in the future.
BC: What final words do each of you have about these two projects?
AA: I appreciate so much the interactions with wonderful, supportive people who have ordered the calendars over the years and who are now sharing their insights and feedback about these sister decks Leslie and I have created. It makes it all so worthwhile and is why I cherish spending my life in this creative realm. Thank you Bonnie for your continued encouragement and belief in our work over the years and for taking the time and trouble to write detailed reviews of our Tarot offerings…you’ve been so good to us and it is greatly appreciated.
LC: The calendars and the decks have opened up so much for me as an artist, and the connection and support from everyone has been a tremendous blessing. Creating our own decks with each other’s support has been unique, and an invaluable experience. I’d like to give a huge thanks to Bonnie too, for your interest in the projects, kind communication and helpful reviews.
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I would like to thank both Arnell and Leslie for taking the time to allow us a peek into their artist's world. They certainly have given us many pleasurable moments with their stunning calendar work, and I know that many of us look forward to working with these same images in card format.
Arnell Ando is a Jungian-based, Expressive Arts Therapist® and Certified Tarot Grandmaster. She has created 4 Tarot decks thus far including, Transformational Tarot published by U.S. Games, and Hero’s Journey, which she has been handcrafting since 1994. Her latest Tarot offering is the Lucky Pack Tarot. Arnell has combined her studies in the spiritual and psychological realms to create her unique interpretation of the Tarot. She conducts workshops at various symposiums. You can view Arnell’s art, decks, and a line of custom made miniature occult shops, or read her various articles at www.arnellart.com
Leslie Cochran is a collage and assemblage artist living and working in North San Diego County. Digital collage is her current medium of choice, translating multi-dimensional ideas to paper and screen. Leslie is also a web designer and graphic artist, with projects including illustrations for a book in progress and a series of magazine articles. With artist Arnell Ando, she has recently completed the four-year series of Limited Edition Tarot Art Calendars, and her own deck of Major Arcana, ‘The Dreamythology Tarot’. Leslie’s work can be seen on her self-published website at www.dreamythology.com/
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.