Saturday, May 30, 2015

Touchstone Tarot Review

Touchstone Tarot

Reviewing the Touchstone Tarot 

By Viv Dulac

Anyone who has read my review of the Golden Tarot will know that I am one of Kat Black’s biggest fans. I am by no means alone in that. Among many others, I have learned that it is one of the favorite decks of no other than Tarot expert extraordinaire Mary K. Greer. So it will come as no surprise that I also own her second and so far only other deck, the Touchstone Tarot.

Like its beautiful predecessor, the Touchstone comes with rich golden edges in a box both beautiful and sturdy, accompanied by a well-printed, rather thick book (197 pages). It also is a digital collage creation, each card a veritable mosaic of old European art, though it chooses its sources in later times – the Renaissance and Baroque eras, rather than the Middle Ages. Any similarities, however, end here.

Touchstone Tarot

This time, Kat wanted to create, in her own words, “a deck of portraits… ‘78 friends you can hold in your hand.’” And what faces! Be it the smug-looking older man in the Nine of Cups, or the sultry, calculating Queen of Wands – who could be in her element both in a Victoria Secret’s catalog or presiding over an executive board—these people are warm and present in a way rarely seen in Tarot cards.

The eras chosen as sources for the Touchstone’s art, however, do not work for it as well as the Golden’s did. The flatness, lack of perspective and sketchy anatomy of Medieval paintings makes them heaven for a collage artist, digital or not. But, while the realism of these later times accounts for the marvelous faces that are the true strength of this deck, these composite human figures have a tendency to appear slightly disjointed (look at the head of the woman in the Moon, or of the boy in the Six of Cups) and, on occasion, anatomically impossible, like the man in the Three of Wands. 

They also do not always mesh well with their backgrounds, and their lighting sources can be awkwardly different – the head of the man in the Eight of Coins, although well proportioned, is clearly in a darker room than the rest of his body. When it succeeds, however, the collage is practically undetectable, like in the case of the King and Queen of Wands.

Touchstone Tarot

These gripes aside, the Touchstone images are magnificent both as works of digital art and as Tarot cards. The suits are done in distinctive colors – Venetian red for the Wands, ultramarine blue for the Cups, black and gold for the Swords, and forest green for the Coins (named after the Marseilles symbol rather than the Golden Dawn one). The deck boasts also two bonus cards, a Touchstone Tarot presentation card graced by an easily recognizable Elizabeth I of England, and the Happy Squirrel – which, thanks to an episode of “The Simpsons,” has found its way into many a deck.

The Touchstone Tarot is sadly out of print and not as easily available as its older sibling. Published in 2008, a 500-deck limited edition by Tarot Connection sold out very quickly, but its mass market printing by now defunct Kunati Publishing can still be had at a thankfully affordable price at Tarot Garden and Tarot Connection. It is (also thankfully) readily and widely available as a mobile application under the name of Little White Book. May this wondrous little deck live on.

Related Links:
The Touchstone Website
The Tarot Garden
The app

Copyrights to deck images belong to the holder, more often than not that's the publisher. Images may not be reproduced without permission from site owner.

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