Encaustic Tarot Play

encaustic play

I left Maine a couple of days ago and flew to San Antonio for a self-designed art retreat with my friend Lyn Belisle. I’ve been playing with encaustic (beeswax and resin) collage for awhile now. I’m entranced by the tactile nature of the medium, and with the surprises and synchronicities that happen when you play with it. You do some planning, but not too much (just the opposite of the way I created the Gaian Tarot cards).


I took a couple of online classes in encaustic over the summer, but there is nothing like hands-on help. So I asked Lyn if I could come to her studio to play and learn from her, and she graciously said yes. Lucky me! We have had a grand time the last couple of days playing in her studio.

With her help, I’m refining my idea for a series of pieces that are an homage to historical tarot decks. These could turn into a majors-only deck. We’ll see!

Mary Greer - HP

I’m combining vintage photos with images from historical decks. In one of those bits of magical synchronicity, a photo of Mary Greer (tarot author and teacher extraordinaire) came through my Facebook feed. With her arms raised and her head bathed in light, it was a perfect photo for the High Priestess. I quickly emailed Mary to ask her permission to use the photo in a collage, and was thrilled when she said yes. This piece is one of my favorites, even though I plan to do a couple more versions of it. I’m still experimenting and learning!

Here’s a look at some of the steps involved in creating the homage to the High Priestess.

We are working at a 5″x7″ size on heavy watercolor board. The board is taped off, the key images torn or cut, and placed.


We antiqued the Rider Waite Smith image by spraying it with walnut ink and blotting.


I added pastel and colored pencil to the photo and placed the RWS image. We are gluing these down with a glue stick.


I added script with a rubber stamp and copper ink.


I brushed on the first layer of wax, let it cool, then incised lines and circles into the wax. Then I sprayed it with walnut ink, masking Mary’s face with tissue paper.


The walnut ink seeped into the paper in areas where the wax was thin, and also into the incised lines and circles.


I added a “2” on tissue paper, added another layer of wax, and incised a circle around Mary’s head.


Here’s a close-up of the finished piece, with gold foil and white encaustic spatter added. Lovely, yes?

If you want to learn more about this process, Lyn has a great ebook for sale with clear instructions (only $5.99!).  I’m grateful to have such generous, wonderful friends. Thank you Lyn and Mary!

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