As mentioned in my previous post, I recently started playing around with tarot cards again. I came across The Wild Unknown Tarot and was immediately drawn to the artwork.
It is a self-published deck that was illustrated by the very talented Kim Krans. It’s a standard 78-card deck. It comes in a sturdy box with a black lifting ribbon. In lieu of the typical “little white book,” the deck is accompanied by a double-sided fold-out sheet. It lists the meanings of each suit (swords, cups, wands, pentacles) of the minor arcana, the major arcana, as well as each individual card with a few keywords. Sort of like a tarot cheat sheet. The guidebook comes separately. It features an introduction to the tarot, how to do simple spreads, grayscale images of the cards and goes into more depth with the artist’s interpretations and meanings.
If you’re looking for a deck that mirrors the traditional Rider-Waite-Smith imagery, this is not it. It’s easy to see how some of the cards “nod to” some of the RWS symbolism, but overall this deck is quite unique.
Each card measures 4.75″ x 2.75″. They’re made of thick, nice quality card stock with a matte finish. They are not glossy or slippery, and feel very comfortable to handle and shuffle. There’s something very primitive and simplistic that I love about the artwork. Krans uses pen, ink and watercolors. I love it when you can literally see the artist’s “process” in the medium they use. Even the backs of the cards are beautiful and kind of hypnotic.
The deck is full of animal and nature imagery. Each suit of court cards features a different animal “family” — instead of your standard page, knight, king and queen, Krans uses daughter, son, mother and father, respectively.
The images are mostly black and white, with a very selective use of color. The limited colors definitely add to the mood of the cards that use them. Some of the cards are quite dark or disturbing (worms, eyeballs, a buffalo carcass), but then there are also cards that are very upbeat and ethereal (butterflies, twinkling stars, rainbows). The deck doesn’t try too hard to be a certain way.
Some cards are much more minimalist and abstract than others (see above), which can make it harder for those just starting out with tarot to understand their meanings. But I think it can be more fun this way. It engages our intuition at a very primal level — our response to color, placement, direction of line, negative and positive space, shapes, textures, etc. Meanings may not be as blatantly obvious in representational depictions featuring people or animals, but I think once you do get an idea of what it means, it’s a very honest interpretation.
I’m a big fan of this deck, and I recommend it. I look forward to discovering new things about the imagery as I continue to work with it.