ILLUSTRATING HBO’S GAME OF THRONES TAROT | INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG COSS

© 2018 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc

In HBO’s Game of Thrones Tarot award-winning fine artist, illustrator and storyteller Craig Coss, alongside author and thirty-year tarot practitioner Liz Dean, brings the world of Westeros to life through the vivid and atmospheric depictions of recognisable characters and scenes on each card.

The beautifully rendered and wholly original set melds the tradition of the tarot with the deep archetypes of Game of Thrones. Each card, from the Major Arcana to the Cups, Coins, Spears and Swords of the Minor Arcana, offers a rich and meaningful experience. Fans of the hit HBO show can pore over a treasure trove of beloved characters, scenes and stories depict in a style both surprising and true to the world of Westeros. The deluxe box contains 78 cards and a hardcover guidebook which explains the symbolism of each card and how to use them in a tarot reading.

Are you interested in finding out more about the two worlds colliding? Read our interview with illustrator Craig Coss below…

Q. How did you get into art and illustration? 

A. I grew up in a family of artists, designers, and storytellers—three or four generations on both sides—so I was raised to develop an eye for proportion and beauty, pencils, paint, and narrative. I’ve done paid illustration work since I was a teenager, starting with watercolors for my little sister who had her own hand-painted earring business in high school. I studied art and philosophy in college, and you could say that my work for the past three decades has been about expressing philosophy through visual art. In the past few years, I’m folding my interest in narrative into the mix. Both stories and visual imagery have been used to teach recondite subjects for centuries, and the idea of telling such stories—visually—intrigues me.

Imagine a village elder has some sort of profound or mystical experience, but because it was too abstract or too weird, her immediate family or friends can’t grasp her meaning. So she encodes her teaching into the symbols of a myth or fairy tale, or weaves it into a carpet, or carves it into the legs of a table. Maybe she sings a nursery rhyme or develops a card game that, if interpreted in a certain way, might point someone who notices it back to her profound experience. In all of these examples, the thing she makes might survive her—and survive even her great-grandchildren. Eventually—perhaps generations later—someone in her village might notice the teaching encoded in her work, and catch her hidden meaning! And in the societies that believe in reincarnation, that person might even be the same soul who encoded the teaching in the artifact or tradition in the first place—so in effect, she sent a little reminder to her future self! (So you can see why, in those societies, it might be a good idea to make such a thing.) It is with this spirit that folk arts have been created since prehistoric times, all over the world, and the resulting artifacts and traditions are imbued not only with beauty, but with deep teachings that even transcend conceptual meanings; such teachings might find resonance with our hearts, but cannot be understood by our thinking minds, because they’re too profound—little Zen koans, woven into a children’s game! Knowing that visual art and story can be used in that way keeps me striving not only in my work as a fine artist and illustrator, but in my life.

Q. How did this project come to be? 

A. It was a true collaboration. Chronicle Books asked Liz Dean to author the book that will accompany the deck, and then asked me to illustrate the cards. I’d wanted to do a tarot deck since I was a kid, and I knew the TV show. My wife Michelle is a huge fan and encouraged me to go for it. Liz and the team at Chronicle had a good idea for which characters they wanted to see on the Major Arcana cards, but few ideas for the Minor Arcana. I suggested that we pair the traditional meanings of the Minor Arcana cards with a character, moment, or scene from GoT that best fit the meaning for each and every card. It required that I watch the first six seasons three times over to find the most ideal possible pairings. It seemed so crazy and I wasn’t even sure that it could be done well. But I had a hunch to try. It came together piece by piece—an elaborate puzzle of narrative. New puzzles and constraints came up along the way, and several times I thought that we might lose certain pieces that would compromise the whole. But with Liz, Michelle, and Chronicle’s help, we were able to bring together two narratives—GoT and the traditional tarot—so that they inform and build upon each other. If you know the series well, the divinatory meanings tap into the power of that mythology, and can bring a wellspring of meanings into any tarot reading. And if you come from a background in tarot, you might see the TV series with new eyes. I think we’re all very pleased with the result.

Q. Have you always been a Game of Thrones fan? 

A. I’m a bit of a Luddite and stopped watching TV entirely in 1988, when I went to college. But when I recently got my MFA in Visual Narrative at SVA, I had to facilitate an online conversation with my peers about unusual plot arcs in long-form stories. Right away, HBO’s Game of Thrones came up in the conversation, but because I was out of the loop, I had nothing to say and couldn’t facilitate. I turned to Michelle and asked her if she wanted to binge-watch five seasons with me, and she was thrilled. So Game of Thrones was literally the first TV show I’d seen in over twenty-five years! I thought it was very synchronistic that I was asked to illustrate this project. If it had been for any other TV show, I’d have had to turn it down.

Illustration by Craig Coss. © 2017 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc
Illustration by Craig Coss
© 2018 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc

Q. Which character or card was your favourite to illustrate and why? 

A. I have so many favorites that it’s hard to chose. Some cards paired up with traditional Tarot meanings so closely that at times it was uncanny. But I think The Fool was my favorite card to create. Peter Dinklage is a brilliant actor, and I love his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. Liz felt strongly that The Fool is a card about following intuition and taking tremendous risks— about trusting in the Grand Order of things that’s beyond the intellect’s understanding. It’s about stepping out of the world of the ego and into a world ordered by something greater. Accordingly, Liz wanted to depict Tyrion freeing a dragon in Meereen. I loved the idea! But she also wanted to include the number zero on the card—something I felt strongly not to do. The Fool has been my favorite card since I was ten years old, and I knew it was the keystone of the entire deck. We fought it out, and eventually I gave in and agreed to number it zero. And then it came to me: the number zero, historically, came from India. It was connected to the early Buddhist concept of the empty mind—a state of consciousness without an ego or identity called Dhyāna, the origin of the word Zen. The Hindus used that sign—the circle to indicate nothingness or emptiness—in a new method of mathematical notation, and thus Hindu-Arabic numerals were born. I wanted to show that history visually in the card, and it came to me to depict the zero as the reflection of Tyrion’s head in the eye of a dragon: a visual pun. In that way, the zero in the card hints that The Fool is connected with the dragon’s eye, but also with the state of surrender to that consciousness. And that’s the state of inspiration that seizes us from another world and allows us to think out of the box, to take risks, and bring something new into the world. Liz’s insistence on the inclusion of the zero sparked the inspiration for the composition of the whole card, and Tyrion—with Dinklage’s beautiful expression while holding aloft a flame in the middle of an Ouroboric dragon—brings a wealth of emotional and symbolic associations to the card. The Fool is a great example of how discussions between Liz and I gave birth to ideas that we could never have come up with alone.

Q. What was your process for creating the artwork? 

A. My original idea was to hand carve woodcuts for every card, to scale, just as all of the late medieval Marseilles tarot decks were created. The art director, Michael Morris, loved my coloured woodcut prints, but there just wasn’t time to cut the wood for seventy-eight cards, print them, hand watercolor them and make any revisions that might be needed. So I invented a way to create a woodcut look digitally and made an analogue/digital hybrid for each card. The technique was still labor-intensive, but it made revisions far easier than having to cut new woodblocks and re-paint them. That said, three of the cards in the final set are scans of those woodblock prints. If I did my job well, they won’t be easy to spot.

Q. Are you interested in the world of tarot itself?

A. My father gave me my first set of tarot cards when I was ten years old. He had no idea what they were but he saw them at a garage sale for a dollar and knew I’d love the artwork. I saw in those cards a world of symbolism, mythology, and magic the likes of which I’d never seen before. I read about their use as an oracle, which fascinated me as a kid. But the most powerful aspect of the tarot for me was the idea that archetypes were represented in the Major Arcana and narratives were represented in the Minor Arcana. That’s some heavy-duty mojo: Death, Angels, the Devil—they were all there on these cards. And I realised early on that they were nothing to take lightly. Later, I learned that they were the oldest playing cards in Europe, the progenitors of the playing cards we use today. When travelling in Romania, I saw a friend’s mother using cards to divine whether we should all travel to Istanbul on a certain day or not. Even though she was using ordinary playing cards, she was using them to help us, to make sure we travelled safely.

I’m intrigued by the use of tools that generate apparently random results  (e.g. dice, runes, tea leaves, cracks in tortoise shells, or cards) for oracular purposes by people all over the world, since prehistory. It’s our way of saying, “I don’t know what to do, which way to go, or what choice to make.” We’re asking for help, and letting a higher power or the Great Mystery that controls the so-called “random” events in the universe intercede and possibly help us. To me, there’s something beautiful in that trust that we can have, whether you call it faith or psychological projection. And in my experience with oracles such as the I Ching, the greater one’s trust that a useful response might come through such tools, the more accurate the results can be.

People can make an oracle out of almost anything that they don’t feel that they control, but the tarot is the most visually beautiful and evocative tradition of divination I’m aware of. Even if you think the whole oracular thing is hogwash, the images are undeniably beautiful and powerful; for that reason, I’ve collected tarot decks since I was a kid.


HBO’s Game of Thrones Tarot is out now, find out more here!

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Craig Coss is an award-winning San Francisco Bay Area fine artist, illustrator and storyteller with an MFA in Visual Narrative from the School of Visual Arts. He’s the author of The Goddess Coloring Book: Traditional Images to Contemplate & Color. When he was given his first tarot deck at age ten, he knew it would point him in the right direction.

Visit his website or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Liz Dean is a tarot practitioner of thirty years’ standing and the author of four tarot decks and ten books, including The Ultimate Guide to Tarot and The Art of Tarot. She reads and teaches tarot at Psychic Sisters within Selfridges, London, and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

BOOKS FOR PROGRESS | IWD & WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

It’s not long now until International Women’s Day (8th March) AND March is Women’s History Month, so we’ve been getting in the mood (are we ever not?) and have rounded up some recent books to empower, inspire and educate: books for progress!

Watch our video above and then scroll down for some inspiration… 


1. DRESS LIKE A WOMAN 

What does it mean to dress like a woman? This book turns that question on its head by sharing a myriad of interpretations throughout history. It’s a comprehensive look at the role of gender and dress in the workplace and contains essays by renowned fashion writer Vanessa Friedman and feminist writer Roxane Gay.

Find out more

2. BYGONE BADASS BROADS

It’s Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls for grown-ups, based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular Twitter series of forgotten trail-blazing women. There are witty bios and in-depth stories of women who dared to step outside of traditional gender roles for their times. With stylish and bold illustrations by Petra Eriksson.

Find out more

3. 200 WOMEN

This landmark book was published in October last year to rave reviews and proceeds go to organisations nominated by the women featured. Alongside photographic portraits by acclaimed photograph Kieran Scott, each of the 200 Women answer the same five questions and provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include Margaret Atwood, Jane Goodall, Roxane Gay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more from all walks of life.

Find out more

Visit the official 200 Women website

4. BAD GIRLS THROUGHOUT HISTORY & LEGENDARY LADIES

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Ann Shen’s brilliant Bad Girls Throughout History has been capturing hearts since 2016 but it never goes out of style and even has its own stationery range. Her next book comes out this April and looks set to do the same. Legendary Ladies is a lushly illustrated and empowering look at goddesses from around the world and an homage to the mighty women within us all.

Find out more 

5. YOUNGER READERS

There’s no shortage of inspiration on hand for younger readers – from toddlers to teen and beyond. This is just a small selection with some recent favourites.

Little Feminist Board Book Set – the Little Feminist range from Galison Mudpuppy includes a Board Book Set, a 500 Piece Family Puzzle and Playing Cards! All feature illustrations by Lydia Ortiz, and text by Emily Kleinman. These are bright, colourful and inspiring baby books featuring incredible women from history and from the modern day. Find out more

Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty (illus. David Roberts) – these two characters have earned their places among the most beloved children’s characters and have inspired countless kids and adults to follow their dreams. They are great for the classroom and downloadable teacher’s guides and activities are available. 2018 is also the UK Year of Engineering, which Rosie Revere is very excited about. These rhyming picture books are perfect for ages 4-8, and each also has a linked Project Book for Science and Engineering related activities. Find out more

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki (illus. Brooklyn Allen) – the hit graphic novel series from BOOM! Studios now has whole new adventures in middle-grade novel format. Welcome to Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types! The series stars all types of girls: gay and straight, trans- and cisgendered and celebrates friendship, adventure and general hilarity! Book 2 is coming in May. Find out more


COMPETITION

Colour in a Bygone Badass Broads colouring sheet (download here) and email or tag us on Twitter or Instagram to be in with a chance of winning a book bundle of Bygone Badass Broads, 200 Women, Dress Like a Woman and Bad Girls Throughout History! (UK & Ireland Only) 

There’s also a downloadable Bygone Badass Broads protest sign here!  


Find all these books and many, many more on our website!

Star Wars | The Wish-List Awakens

The Last Jedi is now officially in cinemas, Christmas is around the corner and, if it hasn’t already, the force of the wish-list awakens… 

Here’s our guide to 5 of the galaxy’s greatest gifts for the Jedi/Sith/Droid/Porg in your life:  

1. For the fan who’s already booked repeat viewings:

The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Phil Szostak

Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered box-office records as one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and its eagerly awaited sequel, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is sure to do the same. Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom, Brick) and production designed by Rick Heinrichs (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Captain America: The First Avenger), this episode, like every episode before it, owes its visual language and fully imagined cinematic landscape to an incomparable art department: the Lucasfilm ‘visualists.’ The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi explores their vision and illuminates their creative process in stunning detail. Featuring concept art and costume sketches, storyboards, and blueprints, fans will take a deep dive into the development of the fantastic worlds, characters, and creatures—both old and new—of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Featuring unforgettable art and exclusive interviews with the filmmakers, this visual archive highlights moviemaking magic at its finest.

Find out more here


2. The (Star Wars) mindfulness convert

Darth Vader and Family Coloring Book
By Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown’s reimagining of the Star Wars universe has delighted adult fans and young Jedi alike. This new adult colouring book is equally fun to share, featuring a careful translation of artwork from the bestselling Darth Vader and Son™ series to a large-format collection on crisp white paper, plus nine new images to colour.

Find out more here


3. For the Star Wars crafter:

Star Wars Kirigami: 15 Cut and Fold Ships from Across the Galaxy
By Marc Hagan-Guirey

Celebrated paper artist and designer Marc Hagan-Guirey has applied his genius to the Star Wars galaxy in this book of 15 unique kirigami (cut-and-fold) ships featured in the saga’s films. Ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert, each beautifully detailed model features step-by-step instructions and a template printed on cardstock—all that’s needed are a utility knife, a cutting mat, and a ruler. Clear tips and guidance through the tricky stages help readers craft their own X-wing, Imperial Star Destroyer, Millennium Falcon, and a dozen more ships and vehicles, each accompanied by colourful and inspiring photographs of the final model on display (or ready for a jump to Hyperspace).

Find out more here


4. For the Star Wars collector: 

Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie (100 Postcards)

Ralph McQuarrie is the most iconic artist in the history of Star Wars. He worked hand-in- hand with George Lucas to help establish the saga’s visual aesthetic, its inimitable look and feel. Carefully selected from the definitive volume, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, these postcards are a celebration of Star Wars as a masterpiece of design and world-building. The deluxe keepsake package also functions as a display frame: the box features a die-cut window, so fans can rotate their favourite production design paintings into view.

Find out more here


5. For the joker: 

99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire by Greg Stones

Ninety-nine Stormtroopers join the Empire, and then their troubles begin. One takes a lunch break in the carbon freezing chamber. Two underestimate a princess. One picks the wrong time to ask for a promotion. Another fails to show Jabba the proper respect. And one interrupts Lord Vader’s private time, failing him for the last time. A lifelong Star Wars fan, Greg Stones brings a playful wit and sympathy for the plight of the troops as they meet their amusing ends, filling each colorfully painted scenario with fun Star Wars details and appearances by Han, Luke, Chewie, K-2SO, and many other characters. As the trooper count ticks down, how will the last one fare as he receives a very special assignment (on the Death Star)?

Find out more here


BONUS ROUND:

The Star Wars Cookbook: BB-Ate
Awaken to the Force of Breakfast and Brunch
By Lara Starr, photography by Matthew Carden

BB-Ate is rolling into shops in the New Year so store up any gift tokens or pre-order now for some delicious recipes from across the galaxy!

Fuel up with Hans Soloatmeal, battle hunger with Admiral Ackbars, and so much more!

These easy-to-make, mouth-watering recipes feature characters and scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as from the upcoming film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And photographs action figures Star Wars figurines re-creating epic moments from the films provide an extra helping of humour.

Find out more here


When it comes to Star Wars, there’s something for everyone. Now to watch The Last Jedi again

How to stay positive throughout 2017 – inspiration from Ups and Downs: A Journal for Good and Not-So-Good Days

Ups & Downs Journal

2016 was a tough year and 2017 is set to be full of it’s own challenges: with New Years Resolutions feeling like a distant memory, we are all in need of a little guidance for how to stay positive. The Ups and Downs Journal is the perfect place to let go of the bad and focus on the good.

Ups and Downs Journal

Give it a go today; jot down your answers to the following questions and feel your worries ebb out onto the page.

First the downs:

This rained on my parade: _______________________________________________

I view this as a problem/challenge, because…__________________________

The Future looks: _________________________________________________________

Would I rather be elsewhere right now? yes/no

If yes, where and why? __________________________________________________

The most annoying person I talked to: ________________________________

The biggest disappointment of the day: _______________________________

Ups and Downs Journal
Now the Ups:

This was quite good: ____________________________________________________

This unfortunately less so:_______________________________________________ , but it doesn’t matter.

Did I reward myself? yes/no

If yes, how and for what?_______________________________________________

If no, why not? __________________________________________________________

This made me laugh: __________________________________________________

I enjoyed this: __________________________________________________________

This day was my friend because ______________________________________

My resolution for tomorrow: _________________________________________

Ups and Downs Journal

With space to record the day’s low points followed by the day’s highlights, this journal encourages you to acknowledge the bad, let it go and embrace the good!

Eat Pretty, Live Well.

Eat pretty

Join the healthy eating revolution, nourish yourself inside out with Jolene Hart’s Eat Pretty, Live Well Guided Journal. 

Have you tried changing your diet but found yourself lacking motivation, encouragement and the knowledge to keep going? Well Jolene Hart is back to help you stay on track with the Eat Pretty, Live Well: A Guided Journal for Nourishing Beauty, Inside and Out.  This  companion to the best-selling Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out will help you discover a new, healthier, happier self.

Here is a shopping list to get you started:

For Head-to-toe antiaging benefits.

  • Turmeric
  • Pomegranate
  • Green Tea
  • Raw Cacao
  • Cinnamon
  • Wild Salmon
  • Blueberries
  • Asparagus

For a Blemish-Free Complexion

  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Oysters
  • Lemon
  • Turmeric
  • Fermented Foods
  • Greens

For Bright Under-Eyes

  • Escarole
  • Celery
  • Watermelon
  • Greens
  • Beets
  • Grapes
  • Asparagus

Eat Pretty, Live Well

Pick-up the Eat Pretty, Live Well Journal for more body boosting tips, inspiration and motivation including lively and informative overviews, fill-in trackers and checklists, thought-provoking Q&As, goal-setting guidance, prompts for self-reflection, and repeating spreads for monitoring 40 days of living and eating well.

The new happy, healthier you starts HERE.

99 Things That Bring Me Joy.

99 things

This month Abrams brought us this beautiful journal to collect some of our favourite things in.

*Breaks out into My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music*

And of course, we couldn’t wait to give it ago ourselves! Full of excitement we opened the beautiful foil embellished cover. squealed about the TWO ribbon markers, and got to work on our list of Favourite Books (predictable, we know).

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But with prompts like The Most Useful Thing You Own, Someone Who Makes You Laugh and A Piece of Wisdom Someone Gave You this little journal has us reflecting on the subtle little things that bring us joy. When completed this journal will be a physical reminder of life’s distinct little pleasures.

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Grab your copy now! And let us know your favourite prompt using #99Joys.