I had the great pleasure of interviewing artist Patrick Valenza, creator of the much-anticipated Deviant Moon Tarot which should be out within the next few months according to my contact at U.S. Games.
Janet: Patrick, I just have to ask: are you a water sign, by any chance?
Patrick: Yes, Pisces. Better yet, I am born on the "Ides of March".
Janet: Well Happy Belated Birthday to you!
Patrick, tell me a bit about yourself. Where do you live? What are your passions?
Patrick: I was born and raised on Long Island, NY. As a child, I always saw the melancholy side of life. I believe I came into the world with some kind of experience, which eventually shaped my persona in the years that followed. My childhood imagination was very vivid. I would constantly create stories and characters based on the shadowy images of my “past life”.
Most of the visions included a murderous harlequin or a ward of deformed babies screaming in a medieval nursery, to name a few. Pretty deep for a three year old, but I definitely came into this life with memories like this. I don’t know where they came from, but they were always there and were a part of me. As I got older, I would use this source for my stories and tried desperately to connect all of the visions I saw inside. It is an ongoing endeavor.
Having haunted memories, as I used to call them, never scared me. It made me more interested in history and events from the past than what most children might involve themselves in. I believe I can clearly identify a handful of different time periods. They all occur during a time of great stress and tragic death. I am a woman, a child, and a soldier. The greatest and most influential memory deals with a group of harlequins circa the renaissance. The sound of certain types of harpsichord music often sends chills down my spine to this very day, causing me to “remember” some diabolical event from a long forgotten past. I have been trying to piece that memory together throughout my life. It was this vision that influenced the original design for my Fool card, back when I was about 9 years old. It deals with insanity for the sake of being insane!
Another childhood influence in my art and the Deviant Moon were the old insane asylums here on Long Island. There were three of them in very close proximity to each other, but it was Pilgrim State Asylum that caught my interest growing up. I would see its looming structures from my window silhouetted against the night sky, the moon hanging malevolently over them. My parents told me it was “Boogeyman Island”. My mind would run wild thinking of all the debauchery running wild within its dark brick walls at night. The asylums were abandoned in the mid 90’s. I finally had the chance to explore the rotted corridors for the making of the Deviant Moon, taking hundreds of photographs that would later be manipulated into the backdrop of the deck.
Janet: Who are your favorite authors/musical artists? Books, TV shows or movies?
Patrick: My art is based on my exploration of my subjective and subconscious experiences. I have never sought out art for the love of it. I tend to work in a vacuum. There are, however, many people who’s imagination I greatly admire. I love the work of Maurice Sendak and Dr. Suess. Artists like Max Ernst, Picasso and Joan Miro are my favorites. My favorite authors are Oscar Wilde and Roald Dahl, as well as Charles Dickens. I don’t watch too much TV, but I love the History Channel. As far as movies go, I always loved the old ghostly movies from the 1970’s such as the “Sentinel”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, or “Burnt Offerings”. Favorite movie of all time is “Nosferatu” 1922 with Max Schreck. I discovered that one quite by accident when I was about 7 years old. It was like a missing puzzle piece, it fit with me so well!
Janet: Patrick, who inspires you?
Patrick: I am inspired by anyone who uses their imagination without rules or limitations. As an adult, I am amazed at the ingenuity I see in children’s art. It comes so natural to them. The older one gets, the harder it is to draw upon that boundless creativity one possessed in early days. I admire the perfection of a childlike mind.
Janet: As the mother of a 9-year-old who loves to hole up in his “art room” and create—I couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing what kids come up with when they’re not crammed into “reality”!
At this point in your life, what's the greatest lesson you've learned?
Patrick: I was lucky enough to learn a great lesson very early on. I always knew that days here on Earth are finite. Mundane situations and daily circumstances we think will never change will one day be in the far past and looked back on with great nostalgia. Family members taken for granted and seen everyday will one day be forever gone. I knew as a young boy that one day my life would be totally different, so I would take “snapshots” with my eyes and mind, thinking to myself as I looked out around me “I am STILL young! “ I would feel the air around me as my senses explored my environment, and save those little visions in the back of my head, knowing one day the older “me” would come back to retrieve them like little treasures. I have done this throughout my life, and they have become windows to times long vanished. Today, it has changed a bit more to “I am STILL alive!”, and I guess one day, I will be glad I did this as well, wherever I may wind up in the end!
Janet: Holy cow, I wonder if this is a “water sign” thing? (I’m a Scorpio Sun—stellium in the 7th/8th houses). I do the same thing re: visual snapshots to store for future retrieval!
Every creation begins with an idea or an inspiration. Patrick, where did you get the idea for such an innovative deck as the Deviant Moon Tarot?
Patrick: I discovered the Tarot (or maybe it discovered ME?) when I was about 8 years old: around 1975. It was an accidental discovery, in the back of a greeting card store in an obscure section of a shopping mall, but I had an instant connection with the characters I saw in the box. I had never seen anything like them before, yet I “knew” what they were! I had to have them and convinced my parents to purchase them for me. My first deck was the “Classic Tarot”. I studied the characters intensely, often drawing my own variations. While my friends were busy creating drawings of super heroes, I was off sketching the fool or the magician. I was disappointed, however, that the minors were not fully illustrated as well. I soon discovered the Rider Waite deck and fell in love with the narrative illustrations.
Throughout my childhood, I have made various attempts at creating my own deck. I only completed a few cards each time, but the theme began to take shape over the years. When I finally set out to pull all of the cards together in 2004, I took the best examples from my early creations and revived them here in the Deviant Moon. The Majors read like a timeline for my art. The ideas date through the last 30 years. The minors were made a bit differently. The art from these also come from my past, but many are taken from characters and situations in full drawings or paintings that are unrelated to my tarot creations. Paintings I had never finished, or a character I created long ago found a home within the deck itself.
Janet: Do you do your best work in silence...or to certain "soundtracks" that you play while working?
Patrick: When I am conceiving the original concepts for a card, I need absolute silence. The slightest sound is very distracting. Once the idea is in existence, I can usually work through any noise. I tend to listen to sappy songs from the 70’s when I’m working, but I love Harpsichord music, and have always been influenced by the music of “Kraftwerk” or Yngwie Malmsteen.
Janet: Who, or what, are these "moon creatures"--and what do they represent?
Patrick: The moon has always been a sentinel of the night and a psychic friend to me. It casts a strange glow on the colors of reality, feeding my dreams and enhancing my nightmares. It is featured in every work of art I have ever made, however the deck was never originally based on a moon theme. When I had completed the majors, I still had no name for the deck, and had yet to start the minor cards. Before I submitted to US Games for publication, I was truly stuck on a name. Deviant Moon came out of nowhere the day before I sent out my samples. I was not going to create the minors unless I knew for sure I was going to be published (56 more cards is quite a task!). I was lucky enough to get in with USG and soon began to complete the deck. With the title in place, the minor characters became more “moonlike”.
The original characters were based on an abstracted twist to ancient Greek vase paintings. I love the flat stylized figures found in them. After doing a few cards, some faces needed a quarter view as opposed to only left or right profiles, so I split the face up, and it eventually evolved into the moon faced beings seen in the cards.
Janet: I find the Devil card particularly intriguing--what are his wings made out of? Are those rivets on metal...or is that some kind of leather?
Patrick: The Devil’s wings, as well as most everything in the deck, is made by manipulating digital photographs I have taken of 18th century tombstones. I would explore cemeteries and abandoned buildings, taking many photos of textures or objects of interest to blend into my drawings. Rotted doors and windows became buildings and structures, while tombstones parts were fabricated into clothes, accessories, or even the citizens themselves. I like to think the photos contain some of the “spirit” found in the places I have visited, and that perhaps some of their energy will reflect in the cards I have made.
Janet: The images I've seen are incredibly vibrant. Can you explain what mediumyou used to make this deck--as well as how long it took to make each card?
Patrick: Each card starts with a very detailed pencil drawing. I scan the drawing into the computer where I use it as a guide when altering my photos into the things I want. I then draw and shade over the photos again, blending them back into the original drawing. This is quite a process, but it allows me to experiment with compositions, change sizes, shapes, and colors into whatever I can dream of. For me, working digitally in combination with my original drawings is a true home to my artistic style and temperament.
Each card took about 3-5 solid days/nights to complete from start to finish. Initial ideas could take weeks or months to settle on, and I never settle on anything if it does not speak to me in a profound way. There are no “filler” cards in this deck. Every card means a great deal to me in not only the art, but also more importantly the concept and underlying meaning.
Janet: Patrick, what is the highest compliment someone could pay you as an artist?
Patrick: The highest compliment someone could possibly pay me as an artist is taking the time to "look" deeper into the work I create. Although the art is key for conveying my ideas, it is the idea itself that is the most important aspect of my creations.
Janet: Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Patrick. I cannot WAIT to get my hands on the Deviant Moon Tarot, and I'm sure your innovative imagery will prod many of us to look deeper into your art for underlying ideas that are personally meaningful and illuminating. Congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment and best of luck to you!