Jack Alfred Raymond Sickly (JARS) is an American-Swiss artist. The core research of the project was done from September to December of 2007, gigabytes of images and documents compiled. He started working on the Sickly Tarot project on September 30th, 2007 and the work was completed on April 9th, 2017.
The finished product is a 78-card standard Tarot deck, plus two additional suits of 15 cards apiece, The Sickly Suit, respectively The Seventh Suit, and a joker card, The King of Limbs inspired by Radiohead, summing a total of 109 original cards plus a back panel.
Every 11 by 17-inch piece is drawn entirely by hand with black Pilot G2 gel pen on Canson eighth-inch graph paper – freehand without pencil or straight-edge, no tracing – ranging between 20 and 140 hours of focused, conscious work per card.
Interestingly, the work has been done in a variety of conditions and locations. It has been drawn during break-ups, funerals, loneliness, depression, sobriety, drunkenness, bereavement, celebration, wedding planning, breaks in cramming for college courses, insomnia, arthritis, influenza, giddiness, lethargy, mania, obsession, boredom, surprise, amazement, gravity, depth, pettiness, love, loathing, solemnity, frivolity, poverty, homelessness, homecoming, hiding, ennui, spite, peace, reverence, joy, chain-smoking, melancholy, confusion, clarity, rage, focus, truth, tribute, opulence, change, envy, nudity, entropy, blame, shame, laughter, bliss, stress, anxiety, confidence, and nostalgia.
The Sickly Tarot literally and metaphorically is a journey. A journey without an end, a predefined outcome. And this is just one of the special features of this amazing Tarot deck.
The other thing I especially value about this deck is the hand drawing. In a digital age and paradoxically abruptly dematerialised material world, a hand-drawn project of this amplitude is impressive and overwhelming.
The originality of Sickly’s work is also remarkable. On one hand is the originality of his artwork and on the other the whole concept is distinct.
There are not so many black and white Tarot decks out there and personally, I love this simple and highly expressive approach. Most of the circulating black and white decks are Golden Dawn related study decks. Among these decks, probably the most popular is the so-called Hermetic Tarot deck by Godfrey Dowson originally published by the US Games Systems in 1990 and re-published in 2006. Fortunately, the Sickly Tarot is not another Rider-Waite-Smith rip-off in black and white. Luckily, Sickly departed from tradition and the artwork reflects his personal experiences of joys, sorrows, hopes, fears, struggles, defeats and victories. Each card is a story by itself while the entire deck is an epic adventure. The personal touch makes it unique and brings the deck out of the ordinary in the circumstances of a quite oversaturated market of mass-produced, “conveyor belt” Tarot decks.
I have to admit, at first, I was a little bit sceptical regarding the extra suits. I have studied and I am practising Tarot for over three decades and I like to think that I get to understand the philosophical and structural foundation of the Tarot deck. Seventy-eight cards make perfect sense to me. One hundred and nine, the addition of 31 cards was confusing. However, if we think of one hundred and eight plus one, in this case, the Joker-like King of Limbs, it makes more sense. Sickly stated that he “observed that, in many ways, while quite thorough, there are many aspects of life that the standard deck deals with in antiquated ways, or skips over almost altogether.” Eventually, he decided to add cards to the deck to fulfil these extra needs and updating the outcomes of readings. Reading with the full 109 cards is recommended, but still, conservative readers can separate the extra Suits and use the Sickly Tarot as a standard 78 cards deck.
In the Spring of 2018, as the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the first edition of the Sickly Tarot was published.
The Sickly Tarot is still available, you can purchase your copy directly from its creator at:
The Sickly Tarot Shop
If you are studying Tarot or collecting Tarot decks, this deck is a must!
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