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TAROT CARD DECK - Agua Summersus

TAROT CARD DECK - Agua Summersus

Aqua Summersus Tarot card deck is a set of 78 photographs by underwater fine art photographer Cheryl Walsh. In the summer of 2020, she carried out 20 underwater photoshoots with 12 models and multiple designers, followed in 2021 by 10 months of full-time artistic editing to bring the project to life. The resulting elaborate and fantastical images are colorful, inspiring, and mesmerizing.  The project is the manifestation of a journey towards personal happiness and a message of encouragement.

 

The deck will be available through a Kickstarter campaign in 2022.

May 2022

World events have gotten in the way of this project like I never knew they could.  Don't get me wrong, I have no complaints whatsoever as these events have affected people around the world in catastrophic ways while I'm safe, healthy, and happy with my loved ones.  My heart breaks for the people of Ukraine as war ravages them and the people of China as the pandemic has caused so much illness.   The first issue I ran into was getting the artwork for the back of the cards done.  Long story short...I found an artist that I truly bonded with and we started the process of her making the design for the card backs.  Within days the war in Ukraine started and my beloved artist in Siberia was cut off due to economic sanctions.  We figured it out just recently and the card back design is beautiful, meaningful, and complete.  The last phase of this project is to get the card decks manufactured.  This is primarily done in Shenzhen, China which was locked down due to the global pandemic for much of this year.  I'm now in talks with someone to get a contract signed so we can start production soon.  These delays were a sign from the universe for me to slow down, be grateful for every single moment of my life and be as kind and generous as I can to others.  I'm good with that.  I will let you know when the contract is signed and production has begun.  Hopefully, it won't be too much longer.  In the meantime, I have been doing a little bit of traveling for the purposes of teaching printing to photographers and soon I will travel to Cape Cod for a memorial for my beloved, tarot card loving, Aunty Patty who passed away last year.  Then, just a few weeks later, I start exhibiting my work at the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts again. 

This year I will be there from July 5th through Sept 8th, 2022. 

Please come by and see me :)

 

January 2022

I'm working on the Kickstarter campaign, making a new website, finding a company to print the deck, moving to a new office/studio space, and a few other major things, but...I'm still working towards getting the images released in the spring. 

Sign up for my newsletter for updates. 
I only send out a newsletter once a month unless I have very big news. 
Sign-up is on the home page of my website.
 

December 2021

I'm done.
I know, I can't quite believe it either.  But it's true.
I'm finished.
All 78 cards.
And best of all...I really really like every single one.
I plan on offering the deck through a Kickstarter campaign starting in March or April 2022.
My next step is to find a company to print the cards.  Any referrals would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you :)
~  Cheryl

Nov 2021

I'm hard at work still editing the Tarot images.  
Progress: 
* Major Arcana is done
* Suites are nearly edited
* Minor Arcana is almost half edited
Turns out that 78 unique images IS a whole lot of work.  And life sure did get in the way in 2022.  The year started out with preparing and giving an online workshop on underwater photography for Palm Springs Photo Festival.  I had done in it person before but redoing it all for zoom was so much work.  I'm glad to have had the international audience and so many people who couldn't have made it to Palm Springs for the in-person workshop.  Mid-summer I went to WPPI to be a Print Competition judge.  It's a huge honor but a whirlwind few days that is completely exhausting.  I'm very pleased to be just 1.5 points from earning my Grand Master distinction - something I've worked towards for many years.  I hope to earn it in February 2022.  It's a tremendous amount of work but has done so much to make me a better photographer.  I will be very proud of myself when I do earn it.   
I had a fantastic 7 days a week, 9 week run at the Laguna Beach Festival of Art where I got to show and sell my fine art prints.  (I'm so excited to have been asked back by the jury for 2022!)  That was an amazing experience but took all of my time for those months.  Afterwards, I barely had a week to catch up when I got news that my beloved Auntie Patty had terminal cancer. 
Here's 1 year old me sitting on my Aunty Patty's lap.
I flew to Massachusetts for two weeks to be at her side until she left us.  It was the calmest, most beautiful experience with death I've ever had, but I also miss her terribly.  She was one of my biggest supporters of not only my artwork but this Tarot Card project.  She absolutely loved it and gave me invaluable feedback.  When I get to feeling overwhelmed I take a moment, breathe, and think about her calm, soothing spirit.  She will help guide me through the rest of the project.  
Upon returning home from that trip it became very apparent that I've missed entirely too much time with my parents during the pandemic and I miss them terribly.  I've committed to seeing them once a week and am enjoying their company.  They don't live close by so that means two days away from home. So essentially I'm down to a 3 day work week which worries me.  I'm used to working full time.  A week ago I invested in a decent office chair for the first time in my life.  I spend more time in my current wretched awful chair than I do in my car or even my bed and it's long past time that I'm not so very uncomfortable when I'm working.  It should be here in a week and I'm really looking forward to being comfortable while working since I have a lot of hours left working on these cards.  I love the work and find that I totally lose myself in it.  Listening to music and letting my mind drift, hours go by unnoticed until I stand up and feel paralyzed.  I have faith that I will be done with the project by the end of 2021 and I can promise you that it will be well worth the wait.  I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to critiquing my work but this set of images is absolutely what I envisioned.  I truly love them.
Thank you for your patience.
~ Cheryl

February 2021

Oh my gosh...soooooooooooo much work to edit these images.  The images themselves are great.  My models were wonderful and I captured what I wanted.  But I'm editing in the "story," the atmosphere, colors and textures and THAT is taking forever.  Every time I think I am done I take a step back and feel like its incomplete.  It feels far more like painting than photography at this point.  I don't mind, I love being able to create, but I am a far more efficient photographer than I am a digital painter.  I have been printing out the images that I feel are complete and I've got to say that I love them so much.  They are a culmination of everything I have created so far.  These are the story telling images that I have been striving for my entire career as an artist.  So I'm not going to rush them.  I'm going to be true to myself, my models and you.  When they are done, they are done.  I work on them just about every single day.  Most days from 5 to 18 hours a day. I'm creating videos as well.  I promise you it will be worth the wait.  Here is a new video showing my process from the shoot and edit to the printing. 

Agua Summersus Tarot Card project - The Hermit from underwater shoot and editing to final print.

Sept 2020

I’m in the process of creating a deck of Tarot cards with my underwater photography.  It has gone from a fairly ambitious fun project to a very serious, possibly impossible undertaking. I’m feeling the need to document the process here. It’s how I’m either going to relish my accomplishment or learn from my huge mistake. 
It all started innocently enough in early 2019.  I’m a goal oriented person. It’s the only way I can stay on task. I make a goal then take the steps necessary to achieve the goal.
Goals:
1)  I want to photograph characters, underwater, who are part of a story 
2)  The story and characters must belong to the universe, not just one person or group 
3)  The story must have a beginning, middle, and end 
4)  I want interesting and dynamic characters 
5)  The story and characters must be available for personal interpretation 
6)  I would like for this project to contribute to peoples’ happiness  
7)  I want to work with my collaborator friends, who I enjoy, love, and care about 
8)  I want characters that my collaborators are passionate about
9)  I don't want just one style of aesthetic, but a variety 
10) I want to explore light and dark in my photography
11) I want my collaborators to express their creativity in their character of choice
12) I want the challenge of taking all those photographs and creating a cohesive project
13) I want to offer a physical product
14) I want to be able to print the entire project, at least a few times, in a few different formats
15) I want some video as well as still photos
16) I would like for this project to become a multimedia gallery show, display or event
17) I will use Kickstarter so that the project will pay for itself and I don't risk financial ruin
18) I want this project to help enable me to continue creating this type of photographic art
In the past I had started photographing the Roman and Greecian gods and goddesses, but there are countless of them and I need to feel like I completed a project. I started a project with Disney princesses, but ultimately it rang hollow with me.  Mermaid lore can be found in each culture around the world, but I didn't feel comfortable making my own interpretations. I didn’t want to interpret the narrative, or each character, of a story on my own. I had thought of Tarot but, having been raised Catholic, I didn't know anything more than it was pageon and so must certainly be evil.  However, last summer, two separate friends off-handedly mentioned it as an idea and that turned on a light bulb in my head.  These two people are really good, decent, intelligent people, so this whole Tarot thing can’t be evil.  I asked questions and their passion for the topic lit up their whole bodies.  They each described a story full of choice and self-exploration. At that point, I knew that this was the right project to fulfill my needs.
My first thought was that I would photograph the 22 Major Arcana to make a deck of cards for each participant and that would be it.  Twenty-two photo shoots - that’s a lot.  Where would I find this many people? My little core group of favorite models does not consist of that many people and I never anticipated that each one would want to be involved.  The outfits are elaborate and complicated, and who would want to take on some of the more bummer cards? I can see the beautiful cards like Empress or Sun, but Tower or Wheel?  Really?  
In October of 2019 I had my first solo gallery show. I asked some of my favorite collaborators to be part of a panel discussion about healthy artistic collaborations.  I was worried that only a few people would attend our talk so I hosted a “thank you” dinner for my panel in the gallery before our presentation so that the trip out would be worth their while.  During dinner I thanked my friends for being such a positive part of my life and announced that I would like to do a Tarot card project. I really need to learn to adjust my expectations.  Not only was everyone excited about the Tarot card project, but over a hundred people attended the panel discussion.  
Discussions about the topic soon turned into actual plans.  In late February 2020 I was supposed to start making appointments for photo shoots, but was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of dread. I knew that if we scheduled the shoots now that something would happen and we would have to reschedule.  Within two weeks my internal dread was confirmed with the lock-down of our country due to a global pandemic.  
Being an introvert by nature, I didn't mind being stuck at home at first, but as the months dragged on I knew that not only did I need a creative outlet, but my creative collaborator friends would too.  We needed something to work on, something to look forward to.  I came up with a new set of rules based on health and safety for myself, my collaborators, and my family, and started to schedule appointments.  The list of cards wasn't open for a week before it was completely full.
Not long into the shoots it became apparent that I needed to also create the Minor Arcana cards as well.  Everyone involved has gone above and beyond all expectations so I need to do the suits as well and make this a complete deck.  It’s the least I could do. It only took a few hours to cast the rest of the deck.
Of course I had no idea how big it would get. As soon as I announced the project on social media I was swamped with messages and positive feedback.  It became obvious that this might be bigger than I had originally thought. I decided that I will need to do a Kickstarter, as I did with my calendars, so I would know exactly how many decks to order.  
So right now I sit here with the realization that this project is huge.  I need to come up with an identity for the deck, a title, fonts, a logo, an illustration for the back of the cards, a book, prints, a social media campaign, some special handmade items.  I will have to edit 78 images.  Seventy-eight fully edited, completely perfect photographs.  Seventy-eight!  Editing two images is hard. 
Oh yeah, it just dawned on me, before the first shoot I couldn't decide if I wanted to shoot this on a black or neutral gray background.  Each would lead to a very different editing style and feel to the cards.  So in my infinite wisdom I decided to do both.  That way I would have a dark and a light deck for the Major Arcana.  
So let’s redo the math here… (22 x 2) + 16 + 40 = 100.
That is one hundred fully edited images.  One hundred images.  100. One hundred.  ONE HUNDRED!  So today is the day that I take this on full time, until this project is complete.  I am so moved by the effort that my collaborators have put into their costumes and the story behind their cards.  Each has brought their own flavor to their cards - just as I wanted.  While it’s up to me to pull this all together and make cohesive decks, it will always represent the uniqueness of each of these beautiful special people and the variety each adds to this project, and to my life. So even though I’m well into this adventure, I do feel like today is the kickoff.  The photo shoots are easy compared to the rest of the tasks.
This project has to be successful.  It is a “make or break” for me. If it goes well I get to keep doing this kind of work, keep my home and thus my pool that I have worked so hard to make into a studio. A lot is riding on this.  A lot of people have invested their time, talents, and hard earned money in their creations and are counting on me to succeed. This project has to be successful.  Please wish me luck.

November 2020

Just finished putting together my 2021 Underwater Photography Calendar and should have it available by December 10th.   It will be available on both Kickstarter as well as my online shop.  I had thought of offering a Tarot Calendar for 2021 but I simply don't have enough images edited and I don't want to rush this project.  I'd much rather take my time and have it be perfect.
But back to Tarot... I was able to cull my images down to 100 much more quickly than I had anticipated.  That made me really happy.   Even taking a quick look at them I know which ones are THE ones.  They jump off the computer screen and speak to me right away.  I've never been so in love with my work as I am with this project.
But of course I can't be happy with everything, it's just not in my nature.  Looking though the images the ones shot on the black background look VERY different than the ones on the gray background.  Very different. Of course I knew they would look different but not this different.  I love them both but now I'm really regretting not having shot all of the minor Arcana and suits on the black background as well as the gray.  I asked my models if they would be up to shoot all those again and they all gave a very enthusiastic YES.   I'm the luckiest person ever to work with such kind and caring artists.  Since we are well into November and the weather and sun position are not optimal for underwater shooting I wont be doing any more shoots this year but it's nice to know that I will be doing it as some point. 
Right now the covid pandemic is surging again in the United States.  We just cancelled Thanksgiving plans and will video chat with family so we can be together that way.  I generally stay home and work on various projects.  Having just finished a bunch of other projects I am focusing all my efforts on Tarot.  At this point I have no idea when I will be done.  But I will let you know as soon as I have an idea. 
Ok, back to work on these beautiful images.  
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