To start I bought the black and white tarot deck and accompanying Highlights of the Tarot booklet. This smallish booklet provides nice overview descriptions of the 22 Major Arcana cards along with specific coloring instructions from Case himself. These texts are highly recommend in order to do the project correctly, and aren't very expensive. The Highlights was $5 and the Key to the Wisdom of the Ages was around $12. I am not a member of, or affiliated with B.O.T.A. Anyone can order the tarot deck as well as Case's books on the Builders of the Adytum website.
The BOTA deck is very similar to the Rider-Waite-Smith deck with alterations that Case believed was important enough to actually create another deck. He talks about the adjustments in his books and why he thought they were indelible to tarot study. The cards aren't flimsy little cards, nor are they much like regular playing cards that you can shuffle. They are thick paper stock intended to absorb color. That was a little bit of a bummer for me as my intention was to actually use the cards when finished. I remind myself that the purpose of this project is painting the images, thinking about what the colors represent, and absorbing the symbols as a meditation of sorts.
For the last three weeks I've been working on the Major Arcana spending 1-2 hours every day. My goal was to get one card finished each day for a total of 3 weeks to complete the Trumps. That was quite ambitious. The reality is that I just finished the Justice card! That is only 12 cards over three weeks, approximately one card every two days. Realistically it should take around 3 months to complete the entire deck of 78 cards. I will say that the Minor Arcana are far less complicated and should be much faster to paint.
Your time may vary based on experience with mixing paint and and coloring. Painting is new for me, and my last coloring experience was about 30 years ago. Also, my best effort is going into the project. It would be much faster to slather translucent paint hastily across the cards, but it certainly would not be the best approach in terms of learning goes.
I went through a few phases of testing coloring mediums from markers to oil, acrylic and water color. Water color seemed to work the best and provide the most flexibility. The markers were too dark and it was difficult to hide the paint lines, as you will see in the Fool card. Also they bled through the lines very easily. The acrylic and oil paints were a bit thick and heavy. For watercolor you do have to be careful not to get a bunch of water on the card or put on several coats, because the card edges will start to curl up. Take a look at my first card below to see how water color mixed with marker looks. I used marker on the mountains where you can see the coloring lines.
The Fool (Card 1)
The Fool, Aleph. This was my first card. Both markers and watercolor were used here. The colors are close to what was requested in Highlights of the Tarot booklet with the exception of the face, the eagle on the purse, and the rose. For some reason I painted the rose red when it called for white so instead of purity we get desire. Light brown was requested for the eagle instead of dark brown. My first attempt at mixing the flesh color came out a with too much red. The book requested equal parts of brown, black, white, yellow and red for an equal representation of all skin colors. Everything else looks good. The white parts are left blank as suggested by Case. White paint really doesn't show up that well on white so what's the point? Well thanks for looking. I will post more cards as I get them done. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!
The skin color turned out better in this card. It took a long time to get the details correctly painted in the bottom leaves, flowers and robe section. The yellow background was challenging because of the saturation. I put on one coat but it was too thin. I try not to get too much paint on my brush to paint detail more accurately, but then it's not thick enough and I end up needing two coats. In the end I put another coat on and it over saturates it anyway.