The cards have been largely Neill-centric until now... that's because John R. Neill is hands-down my favorite Oz illustrator, although the quality and style of his work varied wildly from book to book. Sometimes he was too ornate for his own good... and sometimes you could tell he was just rushing through a job. But on the balance, his depictions of the Oz characters are the best, even though lots of illustrators have followed.
But the man who started it all was W.W. Denslow, and you'd be kooky not to like his stuff. He was as much a designer as an illustrator, and his work for the first book in the series is seamlessly woven into the text. His Wizard, when seen as he intended it to be seen, is a thing a beauty and a marvelous achievement.
This doesn't make me like his renderings of Dorothy any better. But here is a Denslow illustration that reflects his contribution to the series: without W.W. Denslow, it's likely that we would not be talking about The Wizard of Oz today.
The number on this card currently coincides with the ten of swords in a Tarot deck. On second thought, I should probably change that number to 15, which coincides with The Devil, which is more often associated with bondage and enslavement... to addictions and to the material world. There'll be time for revisions later on, and I expect to make a good few.
Though it's less cluttered than some of the other cards (and maybe bacause of that) I quite like the way this one turned out. While the Scarecrow and the crows exchange their mutual defiance, the rune Nauthiz has been pinned to the card with a vintage hatpin. The pressed leaves show that disputes can be preserved just like anything else, but it's better to let them go in the wind. The base illustration is by John R. Neill, from Little Wizard Stories of Oz.
I posted a photo of my work desk to Facebook just now, and though I'd share it here, too. You can click the image to enlarge it. I walked into the office this evening, saw this and thought to myself, This is my work! How lucky am I?
The Hungry Tiger is not actually one of my favorite citizens of the Emerald City, but he is a notable one nonetheless... and he is perfectly suited for the "Self-Restraint" card. He would like nothing better than to devour nice fat babies, but his conscience tells him that this is bad... and anyway, he would just be hungry again soon. If this card turns up during a reading, perhaps you should re-consider indulging yourself in... whatever it is that you're craving!
The Broadway stage play based upon the life of Mister Tik-Tok has apparently been a hit... and he is carrying the proceeds off to the Bank of Oz. But Fortune is not fortune if you don't take the time to smell the flowers, and Tik -Tok has throughtfully pressed some between the cards of this deck.
I had to do a little bit of color-correction on this one... to repair an inconsistency in the original books. Well, authors sometimes forget the details of their own creations. Heaven knows it happened to Stan Lee often enough, but it also happened to L. Frank Baum and his principle illustrator, John R. Neill.
As can plainly be seen in the original illustration, included below, Neill incorrectly colored Tik-Tok (here and elsewhere... even in his own book) as being made of galvanized steel:
... in fact, as any Historian of Oz knows, Tik-Tok is made of COPPER. COPPER, Mister Neill, NOT STEEL. So... I took the opportunity here to fix up our favorite mechanical man in his proper shades. You can thank me later.
Although this is one of the simplest designs I've done for the deck, I think it's one of my favorites, using as it does the front page of the actual Ozmapolitan "newspaper" that was used to advertise the publication of the second book in the series, The Marvelous Land of Oz. The resolution on the published card will be high enough that you'll be able to read the stories on the page. You can rest assured that clippings from this and other issues of the original Ozmapolitan will turn up on future card designs.
The base illustration for this card -- again by John R. Neill -- is again from the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman entry in Baum's Little Wizard Stories of Oz. The photograph underneath the passport is of Fred G. Stone, the original Scarecrow on the Broadway stage, in full make-up. Stone reprised the role in a couple of silent movies produced by Baum's own Oz Film Mfg. Co. None of Mr. Baum's Oz movies are great classics of the cinema, but they do capture an eerie side of Oz not realized in other, more sophisticated adaptations.
Another of my favorite Oz characters is a true accident of birth, Mister Jack Pumpkinhead. He was created by Pip / Ozma as a prank to frighten nasty old Mombi the witch... and when sprinkled with the magical Powder of Life he sprang into consciousness as the most ungainly and innocent of characters. Although, like all the other inhabitants of Oz, he is technically immortal, his head does have a tendency to rot. For this reason he tends a large garden full of replacement heads, so that he's never at a loss when he needs a new outlook on life. However, the old ones never go to waste. With all their accumulated knowledge, they make an excellent mulch for his pumpkin patch. Yes, even knowledge and experience can be recycled and rejuvenated.
Debuting in the third book of the series, Ozma of Oz, the mechanical man Tik-Tok is one of my favorite Ozian personalities. After a sustained period of hibernation he returned to life when Dorothy wound up his two gears: one for action and one for thinking. He was realized beautifully in Walter Murch's wonderful and often overlooked film, Return to Oz, which derives its plot from the second and third Oz books. And so it was kind of a Peak Experienece for me when, during my one and only trip to England. I finally "met" Tik Tok in person at the Museum of the Moving image. In every way as marvelous a machine in real life as he is in the book and movie, I wanted so badly to wind him up once again.
The keyword for this one is giving me a little trouble. I started with "Mobility" and went through a couple more before settling on this one. But now as I'm getting ready to upload the preview, I'm suddenly thinking "Motivation." Eh, there's still plenty of time to make changes.
Scraps wasn't the only new character to debut in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. There was also The Woozy (coming soon) and The Glass Cat, who is perfectly suited to Transparency, although she is rather delicate.
The end of book #2 in the series, The Marvelous Land of Oz, sees the Scarecrow deposed in favor of the land's rightful ruler, Ozma. But never fear -- in Oz there is always a place for everyone, and so the Scarecrow winds up as secretary of the treasury, where he is literally stuffed with money. Of course there are other kinds of security, and the best things in life are free, but you can leave 'em for the birds and bees, just give me mooo-ho-hoooooneyyyyyyyyy......
L. Frank Baum had a habit of pulling fresh new characters out of his head just when the Oz series was starting to grow stale. One of the most popular of these made her debut in her very own book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz. It's one of my favorite books in the series, and one of the freshest. Baum had a history of creating strong female characters, and Scraps the Patchwork girl, with her stubborn refusal to settle for the status quo, was certainly one of these. Her motto is right there for all to see. Hope you like this new (at last!) card.
I never seem to get as much done in a day as I want to, and these "simple" revisions are taking more time than I had hoped. This one opens up a whole new can of worms, as I have now, it seems, given myself permission to change the "paper" or background image if I feel like it. Do I now go back and re-revise the ones I've just done with new backgrounds?
Maybe so and maybe no -- but not right now. I need to move forward and not second-guess myself any more on existing designs. There will be plenty of time to make even more changes before this thing goes to press.
One thing is for sure... you're getting a straight dose of my creative "process" such as it is... although calling it "creative" feels like I'm putting on airs, and calling it a "process" makes it sound as if I actually have a plan....
I didn't get as much done today as I'd hoped... much of my work time was taken up making postage stamps and cancellation marks for the Land of Oz... none of which actually got used on the two cards that I modified today! But anyway, they'll be there for future designs. For this one, I asked "What do we think of when we think of the Tin Woddman?" The answers -- of course, Oil and Heart.
Of the additions to this design, the barely-visible "PASSED BY CENSOR" stamp is probably the most sinister.
Here are two revised cards in the new style. Hope you like them. The original versions are still online, below, so you can compare them easily. I'm liking the way that they're shaping up. What do you think? Hopefully I'll squeeze at least one more revision out before close of play today. For now -- it's dinner time! Enjoy --
Well, the job just got more complicated, and is going to take longer than I wished. But -- I was not completely happy with the look of the first few cards and felt that they needed something more... and the word that I settled on was "tactile."
So now -- all the designs that you see below are going to change. They won't all have stamps, and even the stamped ones won't all have cancellation marks; they won't all have handwriting on them; perhaps they'll have clippings pinned onto them? Who knows? I'm going to have a little fun, and instead of just slapping illustrations onto cards, I'm going to "embroider," so to speak. I think the deck will benefit from all this... of course it means more work for me, I guess that's not a bad thing.
I feel much better now about the direction the deck is going in, and I hope you like the new look, too.