Create a Tarot Card - Giacinto Gaudenzi Workshop 
Report by Paula Gibby

The third ITS World Conference started out on an artistic note on Friday, May 10, when it featured Giacinto Gaudenzi as the guest artist for the first presentation.

The name Giacinto Gaudenzi is a familiar one to tarot readers and collectors alike. He is the artistic creator of quite a few tarot works, which include the following:

Celtic Tarot (Tarocchi Celtici)

Tarocchi di Decamarone

Enchanted Tarot (Tarots of the Golden Dawn/I Tarocchi del’Alba)

Tarocchi Durer

And lastly, the quite rare, splendidly rendered and highly erotic:

I Tarocchi delle Mille e una Notte

To anyone who has this last portfolio, let me say right now, I am filled with tarot envy because again, it is truly splendid.

Special portfolios such as those listed above are unique items and offer a rare opportunity to get a better idea of the artist’s vision in a much larger and finely illustrated format. In the case of the I Tarocchi delle Mille e una Notte (A Thousand and One Nights), it is the only way in which you can view the powerful, breathtaking art.

Alas, if you are like me, you do not own any of Giacinto’s wonderful portfolios and must instead view his sensuous artwork through the smaller, but excellently produced, card formats.

However, if you were fortunate enough to attend his demonstration at the ITS Conference, you were treated to a visual feast when Giacinto, with his considerable artistic gifts, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how a tarot card image is conceptualized and translated to paper.

The session began when the tall and courtly Giacinto Gaudenzi entered the room, seated himself at his worktable and cast a twinkling, intelligent gaze over his audience. Mr. Gaudenzi does not speak English, but this was hardly noticeable as Riccardo Minetti, representative of Lo Scarabeo gave smooth assist in translating the dialogue between artist and audience.

What are the intrinsic ingredients in creating a tarot image? Well, it begins as all such artistic endeavors begin…with a blank sheet of paper. Which is exactly what was placed upon Giacinto’s worktable, in addition to other, very simple implements…a bowl of water, sketching pencils and a small set of watercolor paints. Simple tools, yes, but in the hands of a gifted artist, those simple tools can perform wonders.

After Giacinto gathered his tools together and made himself comfortable he then told us that we (yes that’s right, "we") were going to create a Queen. Notice that he did not specify which Queen or which suit. Indeed, he did not discuss the idea in terms of a tarot card at all. For him, the seed idea was to create a Queen. All the other details would be born and blossom later on in the process. As we all know on some level, in order for the beauty and purity of an idea to grow and expand, we must not over-complicate its initial beginnings.

Next, Giacinto selected Barbara Moore, representative of Llewellyn, as the model for our Queen and arranged to have her seated directly facing his table. Then he asked those of us in the audience what characteristics and attributes we considered to be part of a queen. At first, the audience was a bit shy and I think it was because of that blank sheet of paper sitting on Giacinto’s table and his attentive and expectant expression as he waited for us to be creative. Creative…us? For it is one thing to view and critique a finished piece of work (which many of us do), but quite another to be faced with that expanse of empty white and the artist waiting for us to start the visionary process.

But gradually, one by one, conference participants began to call out their ideas. At first, too many specifics were mentioned, in particular, the question asked most often was "what tarot Queen are we creating"? But again, Giacinto gently guided us away from becoming mired in too many details and encouraged us instead to focus upon the "essence" of a Queen.

As the discussion continued, Giacinto started to sketch, using his pencil to create a rough outline of his lovely model, Barbara. And let me just say, as he sketched, he continued to talk and joke easily with the audience. I can’t imagine being able to talk, laugh and create art all at the same time, but that is exactly what took place.

As he drew, Giacinto invited the audience to come forward to see the progress of the sketch. He did this continually throughout the demonstration since the audience members always seemed to return to their seats, no doubt with the intention of not disturbing the artist at work. I, on the other hand, glued myself to the table, fascinated by the forms taking shape.

With the outline completed, Giacinto began to fill in rough details with tiny strokes of his pencil. A hint of a nose, the soft curvature of a mouth, delicate strokes capturing the faintest outlines of two eyes, the graceful curve of a neck and a froth of elegantly –coiffured hair.

The pencil was laid down and the artist’s hand reached for his paintbrush. Before our eyes, delicate, broad washes of color were applied and we could see the beginnings of Barbara’s sculptured cheekbones appear on the paper. The hair became a soft brown, the color replicated in equally soft lines of eyebrows, framing the faintly-tinted facial complexion.

All the while, Giacinto continued to engage the audience in exploring the essence of the Queen now being brought to life on the page. As I listened, I was fascinated to notice changes taking place in Barbara. As we discussed the regal bearing and elegant posture that we envision all Queens to have, Barbara’s posture also changed. She straightened her torso and seemed to become taller. Her shoulders settled into a regal position, thus elongating her neck. Her chin raised and brought her cheekbones into more prominence. It was interesting to witness not only the creation of a Queen upon the paper, but also the simultaneous transformation of the model.

At last, to the reassurance of the audience, it was now time to regard the work-in-progress and determine which tarot Queen we were viewing. The viewers decided that, although initially the expression of the Queen reflected many attributes of the Queen of Swords, the form was beginning to evolve into the Queen of Pentacles. Giacinto then asked us what kinds of symbols we envisioned when thinking of this particular Queen. In response to feedback, grapes magically began to appear in the hands of the Queen. Raiment was then discussed…the cut of the gown, the jewels bedecking the tiara…all of which became a reality with strokes of pen, pencil and paintbrush.

Almost magically, the finer details came to life…blue eyes with long eyelashes, graceful, curved fingers, an elegant gown with an elaborate collar and, best of all, an alive, intense expression upon her face – a face that had seen much, suffered much…but also a face that reflected a strength of will more than capable of assuming the awesome responsibilities of a leader of an entire kingdom.

The session at an end, Giacinto gracefully offered the portrait to Barbara "after he had a chance to really finish it". To me, it looked perfect already, but not to the discerning eye of the artist himself.

For the rest of us who were privileged enough to watch a beautiful piece of art take shape, it was an unforgettable experience. It was a great way to begin what was to become a weekend swirl of art, history, revisioning and sheer fun.

Paula Gibby first began to study the tarot in the summer of 1996, as a result of studying Kabbalah and the Tree of Life.  She completed two B.O.T.A. tarot courses and is an active member of Tarot-l and Comparative Tarot.  She has contributed tarot reviews to Wicce's Tarot Page and is a major tarot collector--at present, she owns over 400 decks.  Her spiritual studies continue to widen; she has completed several Reiki courses and has received the Reiki II attunements.  Inspired by the work of Arnell Ando and Michele Jackson, she has created the Blue Rose Tarot and the Animal Tarot, and is presently quite busy as a Finance Manager in the Washington, D.C. area.

Article © 2002 Paula Gibby
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes