August 11, 11:11
August 11, 11:11
We spoke with artist Lauren Over about how she became an artist, what drives her, the materials she uses, what she hopes readers will gain from her tarot deck and book and how it all came to be.
So, Lauren, tell us a little bit about yourself!
I've been living in Los Angeles for twelve years. I was born and grew up in central Pennsylvania, and went to art school in Philly at Tyler School of Art/Temple University. After living there for a while and actually starting grad school there for Art Education, I transferred to California State University, Los Angeles, and finishing with my MFA in Studio Art. My mom and dad were both art majors, and my one younger sister is an artist, too. I have a pretty small family and we're very close. Being in a semi-rural area growing up, farms, gardening, forests, fields and nature were a backdrop and kind of given part of life.
I think with my parents as artists, even though they ended up having other jobs to pay the bills, their playful, creative, appreciative attitude toward life and open-mindedness toward me pursuing higher education in art, definitely paved the way for me to embrace being an artist as valuable and as an identity. I didn't consider myself as someone having any particular talent in the arts until I began taking elective classes in high school - "for fun."
At first, I never even considered art as a possible career path or subject to major in- it seemed too self-focused to me, like it wouldn't be of practical use to the world, or of service to other people. But I was blessed to have several really excellent, very smart and passionate art teachers at my high school who helped open my eyes to how important the arts are to people's quality of life and even as a tool for social change. My best friend had also decided to attend art school, and she strongly encouraged me, too- so that sealed the deal. I think one of my biggest lessons in life, that I'm continually learning, is that "for fun" is not only a valid reason to pursue something, but what you do out of the most love has the greatest capacity to be effective and important to others and to the wider world.
It's more than okay, and I think it's fairly natural to feel like you don't have everything figured out, don't know what the step beyond your very next is going to be. It's okay to be indecisive or to do more than one thing with your life other than being a professional artist.
— Lauren Over
My first exposure to art was, of course, through children's book illustrations, text book illustrations, and my parents' old art history books. This is probably true for most people, but for some reason book art has really stuck with me. To this day, children's book and reference book illustration is still my favorite kind of imagery, and the biggest influence on my own projects. I love the combo of images and text, and think it speaks to us most powerfully since it addresses the logical and abstract sides of our brains at the same time.
What most people don't know about me is that it took me until high school before I felt like I learned how to comfortably communicate with my peers. I was very shy and self-conscious, felt like something was 'wrong with me,' because I would get so anxious, and the social aspect of school was very challenging for me. But caring friends finally helped me come out of my shell- and learn that once I focused on my genuine interest in other people, and asking them questions about their lives rather than thinking about myself, that was the key that unlocked everything.
My typical day has involved some kind of day job (until recent events began playing out), ranging from working in libraries to school systems to nonprofits focused on art education. With my Gemini sun (!), I've been a jack of all trades and master of none. I've also worked in retail, production assistance, the restaurant world, in graphics and marketing, at a pinball machine repair shop, for the parks service...almost could say 'you name it!' However compatible my jobs have more or less felt, they have never felt fully like "me," and I'm in a life-long journey of someday getting to a point, maybe, of being self-employed. But there is a side of me that prefers not having to market myself, the security of a steady job, and the feeling of being part of a community there. So I just may always continue to work in addition to being an artist. It has it's obvious price, but it also buys you the freedom to be able to make what you want, instead of what someone else wants. Outside of working, I love to go on meandering walks or bike, cook, read, watch comedies, sci-fi, documentaries. I ravenously study Astrology. I start every morning with coffee and Tarot, and some additional form of meditation. I have to spend a little time each day working out to stay balanced and energized. I check my Astrology and Numerology forecasts, and usually have Youtube videos of other readers and Astrologers playing the background of whatever else I'm doing. It really helps me feel grounded, and like I have both insight and perspective on what's going on both in myself and the world. I almost always have a personal project underway which I spend a couple of hours on per day- Earthstar Tarot Book and Tarot Deck being the most recent long-term work.
The deck in book format is a way to meld the function of the cards with the kind of in-depth book that sometimes accompanies higher end deck publications. It's also a way to introduce the concept of 'bibliomancy' to participants, which uses the idea of synchronicity just like drawing a card does. Bibliomancy is simply focusing on an inquiry or topic, opening to a seemingly random page, and reflecting upon how the contents relate to your question or idea. It's a very old practice, but one I myself only heard of more recently. I think it's less familiar to many people. It's a little bit easier to carry and use a book in this way wherever you are- rather than pull out, shuffle and arrange a whole card spread- say if you're on an airplane or at a crowded cafe. And it's actually something you can do with any book, it doesn't have to be one related to metaphysics in any way! So, I hope this will expand peoples' awareness of books as additional tools to explore consciousness and the nature of our reality! Also, the book form allowed me to publish the images at a little bit larger of a scale, which I think gives them more presence.
I work by hand in traditional materials- pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, plant pigment. I also sometimes use printmaking and collage techniques. I've gone through times of doing a lot of photography/photographic processes, although I'm not currently. For some projects, I then scan my elements, and manipulate and compose them in Photoshop. In the past few years, I've been experimenting with book and card deck formats, and self-publishing.
Creating art, for me, is a way of observing, processing and understanding the world around me. It's a way to connect with and interact with it. When I draw something, in a sense I feel like I merge with it, it comes out filtered through me, and part of it is left within me more than it was before. When I draw something, it's a way for me to focus on its energy, spirit and character that are both beyond, and expressed through its physicality. When I share those drawings with others, I feel like I'm helping the life of those objects be more visible to everyone. It's a reminder that there is more than the physical to this world, and that's extremely important to me.
I've attempted to create a few tarot decks before Earthstar, but never got past the 22 major arcana (if I even got that far). See this Gemini theme continuing? (Lol!) I was inspired to make my own version initially as a way to deepen my grasp of the cards' symbolism. I finally got kicked into the mindset that I was capable of seeing a 78 card deck through to completion, when I was asked by a potential client to make a deck for their company. It made me sit down and schedule out the approach I would take and the timeline there would be to complete it. Even though this was going to pay more than any gig I'd ever had, I ultimately decided against doing it, because their turnaround date wasn't realistic for me. It also made me realize I would rather put the time and energy into my own design, and that if I was capable of doing it for someone else, I could do it for myself!
The Rider-Waite deck was the first deck I owned and began learning on around 2011. But since then I've had the Thoth Deck, Voyager Tarot, Mandala Astrological Tarot, Aquarian Tarot, Medicine Woman Tarot, Dali's Universal Tarot and others. My deck follows the basic format of most traditional decks, except that it uses the elements (earth, water, air, fire) in place of the suites of coins, cups, swords and wands. It also includes on the card the number of its order in the 78 cards, the degrees of the zodiac wheel that the card corresponds to, and associated planet/sign. So it combines more symbolism from Astrology and Numerology than some decks. It's also kind of like an oracle deck in that each card features a plant + its symbolism and uses. So this deck is the beginning of a bridge between my existing studies of metaphysical tools or systems, and my more recent interest in herbalism! I'm very excited to have discovered an online school called Evolutionary Herbalism that offers courses on 'Astro-Herbalism,' - the relationship between medical astrology and herbalism. This is the direction I feel myself going in now. It melds the theoretical and practical. This deck took between 6-7 months to complete. It was, at times, laborious feeling- the longest I've ever spent on a single project- but for the most part it was really grounding to get up every day and know it was there waiting for me. I knew what I needed to do, broke it down into manageable chunks, and just chipped away a little each day. The whole thing was, again, very meditative.
I hope that when people own one of my pieces, it's like a little gateway into another dimension for reflection, and connection to another world, idea, feeling that is uplifting and inspiring. I think all images are 'sigils:' symbols believed to have magical power. I think images automatically change the person's psyche who is wearing them or seeing them, and can be strong tools for shifting consciousness.
I hope that people take away from my tarot deck and book is that it can be light and fun, and is accessible to everyone. You don't have to become an expert or lifelong Tarot student to use it. My deck doesn't go in depth explaining its elements, but it gives a taste, an intro to many areas. So I hope it may spark some people's desire to delve further into one or more of its components (the people in the portraits, herbalism, the zodiac, etc.). But again, that isn't necessary. Everyone brings their own associations to the imagery, their own meanings. Everyone automatically forms their own interpretations of the cards, the same way anyone can look at a painting and it evokes certain memories or ideas for them. In this way- I believe it was Alejandro Jodorowsky who said in his book 'The Way of the Tarot,' - the Tarot is alive. I also hope people might start consistently sitting with and listening to their inner selves for clarity, and that this tool can be an encouragement and aide for them to do so.
I think of 'high vibrational' in general, as trying to maintain and cultivate a state as close as humanly possible to Love, on the spectrum of Fear vs. Love! Coming from Love, radiating it outward to others and your environment. Letting decisions and actions and projects come out of sesnitivity, joy and excitement rather than suppression, obligation or dread of the consequences of not doing them.