Interview With Artist of the Sakki-Sakki Tarot
So let's start at the beginning with a bit of background on you. Where do you come from originally? I mean, where in the world?
I'm glad you are specific, meaning "where in the world", because many people ask me where I am from, expecting the answer to be as simple as the question, but with me it never is, and I start by making all sorts of excuses and faces...
So, originally, I was born in Athens, Greece. Not an exotic island or anything, but also not far from the Parthenon. Greece is really nice: warm people and climate, strong roots.
For how long have you been calling yourself an artist?
This is an excellent question... I used to have big issues with that name and that image. I grew up hearing that all artists are hungry losers. Till winter 2002, when I decided to participate in a holiday market in New York, selling my art. People thought that I was just working at the booth, and they were asking me who is the artist. So, every morning, I would prepare myself a new fresh sticker, that said "I'm the Artist", and from then on, I'm an Artist. I think that was one of the most important moments of my personal evolution: to really embrace who I am, and to grasp what that really means...
Your style is so unique. How did you develop into this style of yours?
Thanks for finding my style unique. A long way lead to it. I used to work in publishing in New York for some years, and this is when I first learned all about "style guides". These are collections of "property" art pieces, given together with a color palette and design parameters. All the famous brands work this way, and this enables other designers to create under that particular "brand". The best thing about it was the structure. I love order and structure, I think they are the foundations of freedom and creative freedom in particular. Limitations create the need for creative solutions. So, in the spring of 2001, I found myself creating my own style-guide, what I call now my "Visual Library". I had scanned in hundreds of my sketches found in all sort of notebooks, address books and sketchbooks over the years. I was glad I never throw out anything... That is the foundation of my art, and putting these together, is how my style developed.
Did you ever get a lot of flack for not drawing 'properly', so to speak? Are you implying that I don't draw properly? Really? What is properly? Can you please define that? Do you mean realistically? I actually can draw anyway you wish, but I prefer drawing the ways I enjoy it most. And my best drawings are the ones I do when I talk on the phone, or listening to a lecture. Then I just draw without trying, just accepting what comes. And I like these findings, I find them amusing. I like to amuse myself with my art. I like coming up with a drawing I never thought of, and that it makes me smile too. I have come to accept that as very proper. You can see it as primitive art, in a way, with a designer's touch. I love primitive art: it has something so raw and direct, it can kick straight to your belly.
How have your family reacted to your involvement with Tarot, especially now, considering you've created your own Tarot deck?
In my family I have always been the "odd" one that is "out there", although I see myself as a very conservative, realistic, down to earth person. One part of my family is very supportive of me as an artist, and they see my consistency and determination, and I don't think it would matter whether it's Tarot or darts.
Another part of my family are very afraid of this word "Tarot", they don't think it's for realists, and even though I made everyone buy at least one deck, I don't think they ever opened it since.
The other problem with Tarot, besides being "that", is that it requires so much work, and to publish your own requires a lot of money as well, that unless I prove that it is a worthwhile business, everyone will be a skeptic about it. But this is true also if you are an actor, or a singer.
I try to define success differently: keep doing what I love and what I'm good at, is the ultimate success for me. As long as things are rolling, I'll be fine - and fulfilled.
How long did it take from the conception of the idea to the first person receiving their deck?
I started collecting the images of my visual library in the spring of 2001, but the first Tarot card, The Magician, was created on August 1st, 2001. The final touch on any of the cards was done June 2004, last minute before printing. I always wanted to change things in "The Magician", but I never dare touch him, wanting to show respect to that first moment of existence, to accept it as perfect. So, altogether cooking time is about 3 years.
Do you think that the process of creating your own Tarot deck has changed you?
I think that since the birth of Sakki-Sakki, and yes, of course the deck is included, my life has changed completely. For starters, I have accepted uncertainty as the default of the day (and was totally the opposite till then). I have connected with my Artist, and now I try to please that part as much as I can, rather than please society or family. Being an artist is a process, not a state, and I'm looking in each day for the thing that will excite me, and remind me that the little things are those that hold the big things. I also feel that the various aspects of the cards themselves taught me that there are no bad cards, so every time things are not that great, I try to see this as an experience, or at least to identify it with one card. Naming situations helps me deal with them, and accept them. This process has been the most valuable gift ever...
Many people think the motif on the back of the cards is a flower. What exactly is it?
I don't mind that people think that. Isn't it true that the truth is in the eyes of the beholder? It might indeed be a flower, by the way, I really don't know. I call it "ameba", or "amoeba", which means a single cell organism, although the complexity of this image clearly does not imply "singleness".
Even though we think that we are alone sometimes, just like a single cell, we are not, we'll always be a part of something bigger. That shape, which is the Sakki-Sakki logo, is like a mandala, the psyche of everyone, and the connection to the whole.
Once someone told me that it looked like a birth tunnel from the eyes of a baby looking at twelve doctors waiting for him to get out. Looking at it, I actually agree. I always call it ameba though, this is the name it asked for and I'm comfortable with. But it can also be a flower, if you wish...
I understand that most of the images were taken from your own 'stock' of images. How much of the art was created specifically for the Sakki-Sakki Tarot, if any?
Well, yes, I must confess that there were a few things done especially, after all. These would be mainly all the swords (because I never drew a sword while talking on the phone). Then some of the Cups maybe too (but not all), and Rods and Pentacles. There you are, you made me say that! P.S. The Devil was NOT done especially!
If you had to choose only one, which is your favorite character in the deck?
You are really putting me here between the hard rock and the hammer. This is a very uncomfortable feeling. So, I'll just pick a card (I'm shuffling...) and tell you why I like it: Ok, we've got The Queen of Swords here! Now look at her. Look at her spectacles, her no-smile. She even has a stripe of white hair among the blond, a result of her sufferings. Wouldn't you like to invite her for tea?
(I love the King of Swords too, the Queen of Rods, the Knight of Swords, the Knight of Cups, the hairdo in Five of Cups, everything about the Girls in 3 of Cups, The Star and Death!)
Oh, sorry! Did you say just ONE card?
I love your use of black and white in such a colourful deck. You've called it 'sensitive inks'. What is this? Did you come up with the concept?
Sensitive Inks started from 4 paintings of inks I did a couple of years before the Tarot creation days. I started with black and white out of laziness. I wanted something that is quick and mess-free. So ink it was. After a while, I made the connection, and thought they should be a part of the Sakki-Sakki style guide as well. And that was it. It just fitted like a glove, making the combination not so cartoony, giving it depth.
I think that ink works have a lot of sensitivity in them - every stroke, every drop of water is visible. They show crystal clear what's happening beneath. There is a lot of truth in them, and there is no trying hard, or it's a disaster. So, since I was in the naming role already, "Sensitive Inks" was the perfect name for them...
If these parts are done in ink, how are the coloured pieces of artwork done?
The colored pieces are mainly done with a pilot pen, or simple ball-pen. They were created as one color sketches. After they became a part of my digital library, I prepared on the computer several color variations of them. Whenever I'm in the musing-mood, I create color groups - they become very handy later, especially when I'm rushing, trying to prepare files in hysteria, under unreal deadlines and conditions!!!
Finally, tell me about the shoes. Are you obsessed with shoes?
Heh heh ... this is a part I wanted to keep a little mystery, have you guessing... Since the deck came out, many people have referred to me as "a shoe-girl", identifying of course, totally... so many women are shoe-oriented these days... Shoes are the little personalities that carry big personalities...
All in all, I believe that one needs only one pair of shoes. Now, how to go about finding that pair, is a whole other story... :-)
The only thing I can say, is that a) I have way more many shoes than I actually wear, b) I usually have no shoes to wear.
Does that sound familiar?