Saturday, November 22, 2014

Making Connections

In the end I couldn't resist quoting the Tarot for this one; I thought the connection was pretty obvious, anyway... The base illustration is John R. Neill's frontispiece for The Scarecrow of Oz.

-- Freder.

The Hammerheads

As far as I know, The Hammerheads only appeared in the first of the Oz books, but they remain one of my favorites among the antagonistic types that live in the darker regions of the Land of Oz; specifically, the southern Gillikin country. You don't want to butt heads with these guys... because they will literally shoot their heads at you if you get in their way. 

The Roly Rogues were a different breed of monster, but they do look sort of similar in real life, don't they? Originally appearing in the book Queen Zixi of Ix, Baum moved them to Oz for the movie version of The Patchwork Girl of Oz

The movie version? Yup. Baum was a lousy businessman and this didn't change when he got rich. A great hunk of his earnings from the Oz books were sunk into The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, which made -- I think -- three films based on the Oz books. Unfortunately, they were primitive even by the standards of the time, and did not catch on with the viewing public. The Oz Film Mfg. Co went bust after a very short time. I put the company logo on the bottom corner basically as a way of crediting the movie still above it.

The deck is now definitely into the back stretch... it's reached the point where I have to be aware of things like balance and structure. The turn into the home stretch is still ahead of me, but I'm getting there. With more than fifty potential base images to chose from, it's time to start getting particular and judgmental. 

-- Freder.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

That Wiley Woozy

Oh, this one fought me like a sunuvabitch. Which is appropriate, I guess, considering the theme of the card... still, as a designer I'm a bit like a Bad Cop (are there any good ones?) who just wants my design to shut up and come along quietly. 

Here for the first time we see The Woozy... a fairly minor but curious character who made his debut in Baum's The Patchwork Girl of Oz. His main personality traits were that he shot sparks when he got mad, and in the vein of Groucho Marx, no matter what it was or who presented it, he was against it. Ojo the munchkin boy and Scraps the patchwork girl are here shown "persuading" him to... you guessed it, come along quietly. The Glass Cat, per usual, is watching the whole affair in supreme boredom.

-- Freder.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fly Like An Eagle

The Flying Gump is certainly one of the more remarkable characters to make his home in the land of Oz. He was created out of a couple of old sofas and some palm leaves by Ozma (whilst in the skin of the boy Pip) with the aid of her friends Jack, The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman -- and especially with the aid of Mombi's Powder of Life. Like Tik-Tok and Jack Pumpkinhead, he was realized beautifully in Walter Murch's Return to Oz

The art for this card has a pretty remarkable pedigree, too. I paired a base illustration by Neill with the sky from a painting by Winslow Homer. Sitting in for the Emerald City are a couple of buildings from Chicago's World Columbian Exhibition, The White City, a place known to have inspired L. Frank Baum in the creation of The Emerald City.

-- Freder

Miles and Miles and Miles of Heart

It's been a horrible week, and making this card hasn't helped. Really, who doesn't go through life without earning a Purple Heart at some point?

-- Freder.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chaos Reigns

The recent prevalence of cards starring the Scarecrow have nothing to do with character preference on my part, although I did have a wonderful Scarecrow Halloween costume from F.A.O. Schwartz when I was a little boy that I wore and wore until I wore it out... I just simply made a run through Baum's The Scarecrow of Oz and found several pictures that I knew I wanted to use. Fear not, fans of the other Oz characters! I hope to be working with the Tin Man and others very soon. 

-- Freder.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Scarecrow as Zen Hero

One of the interesting things about the Oz books is that L. Frank Baum didn't particularly want to be writing them. He was much more interested in writing books in other genres, and much more attached to some of his other characters, some of whom he dragged kicking and screaming across the Deadly Desert into Oz proper. In his book The Scarecrow of Oz, the title character does not even appear until almost halfway through the book... and he spends a significant portion of the book's final third immobilized and without a body with which to actually do anything.

Ironically, this makes him a perfect role model for Zen thinking, yes? For this card, I have corresponded him to the King of Swords in a tarot deck... literally thought in thought, head in the air. 

There's more than one way to get ahead, after all...

-- Freder.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"I am, however, a very Bad Wizard..."

Of course I started this card with "HUMBUG" as the keyword, even though I knew that it would have to go. "Humbug," IMHO, is not a useful word for an oracle deck. On the other hand, Oz's faux wizard is a character who has some lessons to teach -- and "AFFECTATION" is the word that I finally settled on. As you can see, our Wizard is well-traveled, and has been known to deal in products that are a little less savory than Honorary Diplomas, Testimonials, and what have you...

-- Freder.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


The Tin (now nickel-plated) Woodman has his tin castle, the Scarecrow has his corncob house, and Jack Pumpkinhead has his pumpkin house. L. Frank Baum obviously believed that everyone should have a house that's suited just for them, and who can argue with that?

This one went through about five different names before I finally settled on "Contentment." With oracle decks the names are all-important, and if you don't have the right ones, the deck won't work. I hope I've finally got this one right at last.


Learn As You Go

The base image is one of my favorite drawings that John R. Neill did for the series, the cover to one of Ruth Plumley Thompson's Oz books, Ozoplaning with The Wizard of Oz. Still, I had no idea what I was going to do with it, what keyword it could possibly fit with. Since the characters are clearly looking at something way up in the sky, I decided to go with a vintage celestial theme... and "Apprehension" was the best I could do for the keyword (if any of you have a better idea, please let me know!!). A vintage celestial map and a vintage smiley moon turned out to work nicely, I think... but then came the challenge of taking a full-size golden sextant and turning it into a small silver charm sextant -- and attaching it to a real charm bracelet. This was interesting to say the least and for a while I was confounded by it. But in the end... I think it's close to being right. I decided against any further ornamentation, which I figured would just clutter up an already busy image. Hope you like it.

-- Freder.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Watch Out for The Flowers...!

The deadly poppy field conjured up by the Witch of the West is not the only instance of beauty masking danger in the Land of Oz. In Book 2 of the series, Pip/Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, The Saw Horse, The Scarecrow and the recently nickel-plated Tin Woodman were surrounded by a menacing patch of Sunflowers. The Woodman was not in the mood to take any more guff from a bunch of plants.

-- Freder.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Working in Concert

The element and numerical correspondences are finally starting to come into focus in my mind; this may mean having to change them on previous designs. This card corresponds to the three of cups in a tarot deck, which is why it's been given the number 43 and the Munchkin element of water. The base illustration is by Denslow. 

-- Freder.