Interview with Tony DiMauro | A special Guest Post

First question first:
who is Tony DiMauro? Who is the man behind the scenes?

 

My name is Tony DiMauro, and I’m an artist and designer that lives about an hour outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’m inspired by nature and philosophy, and love to solve problems.

What is your relationship with the tarot?
Do you read tarot? What system do you prefer (Rider-Waite-Smith, Thoth/Crowley, Marseille)?
When and where do you first discovered tarot?

I first discovered tarot years ago when I saw illustrations of the cards sitting on the shelf in a local shop. I was intrigued by the images: they were mysterious and powerful, and I knew instantly they had a story that needed to be told and meanings that needed to be unearthed.

 

 

 

It felt like the images were full of secret knowledge, and I desperately wanted to learn, although intimidating. I can’t explain it, I just felt it. I was drawn to the power the images. There was ancient wisdom there, shared through a simple, complex, and carefully told story. I knew they were special, and I wanted to learn more about them. I wasn’t ready then, however, and set aside my interest in the tarot for well over ten years. Rider-Waite was the first deck I saw, and the only deck I knew existed at that time.

 

 

 

In late 2014, I was having a discussion with a painting colleague and friend about concept and theory in artwork. I had been experimenting with images of Death, and was interested in turning the single image into a series based on the tarot. My friend was Italian, and understood the tarot from a European perspective, which helped give me a whole new sense of how to approach the artwork.

 

 

 

Once I began to seriously entertain the idea of expanding a single painting into a series, I began to consider the tarot in an entirely different way: no longer was it a mysterious and powerful force beyond my grasp, but a complex set of artful images waiting to be decoded and recoded by my own hands.

 

 

 

I began creating the series quietly. I didn’t entirely understand what it meant, and wasn’t ready to share its ideas or the project with others, as the mysteries they contained also created a sense of fear. At this point, it was still an art project intended for gallery exhibition.

 

 

 

Eight paintings into the Major Arcana, something changed. I understood enough of the tarot to want to share my knowledge with others. I was no longer afraid, but confident. The tarot began to make sense, and aligned itself extremely closely with my own views and philosophies of the world. It was at this point that I made the decision to create the entire deck and share it with the tarot community.

 

 

 

I don’t read tarot myself, although I am familiar with the academic meaning of each card. I learned about each as I was painting, and did heavy amounts of research, reading, and practicing. I enjoy reading the cards, but struggle with the intuitive connections that professional readers are able to understand. Instead, I seem to get lost in the artwork and fail to connect it to the real world in time and space.

Sometimes I wonder if some folks are naturally able to read tarot, and others naturally able to create it.

 

 

 

After seeing some of your cards I cant forget the sentence from your website:
„The deck strives to paint an honest portrait of nature: it doesn‘t shy away from dark themes but instead embraces them, weaving both darkness and light together to tell the story of the Fool‘s journey.“ How has tarot changed your perspective or approach to the world? How do you see the world now after using the tarot? What has changed?

 

Before learning tarot, I saw the world as a simple, scientific place. Most of my artwork was based on this: intellectual and rational, unforgiving and straightforward. While spirituality was in my blood (my mother is a very spiritual person), and ever-present in my subconscious, I realized that I had slowly let school, life, and work displace my sense of wonder over time.

 

 

 

After discovering the tarot, I began to see the world in a different way. I had a “spiritual awakening,” or sense of connectedness with nature, time, and other humans I hadn’t consciously felt or understood for years. It felt wonderful, and the more I learned and created, the more I wanted to learn and create.

 

 

 

It gave me a fresh outlook on life, and felt as if I was “returning home.” The more I learned, the more I realized how much more there was to learn. As the old saying goes: “science describes the least of something,” which by nature, is how science works: it describes what we can measure in nature. Tarot (and by extension, spirituality) is about so much more. While I knew this deep down, it took my experience with the tarot to help bring these ideas forward and turn them into a lifestyle.

 

 

 

It was also an opportunity to become introduced to a new community and way of thinking known as Neo-Paganism. While I still subscribe to science (which is the study of our natural world), I understand there is much more to learn than what is measurable, and must be found from within. This sense of inner-strength has brought me a great sense of calm, and a much better “big picture” view of the world. I can say the tarot has brought me to the Neo-Pagan world, and I love it.

 

 

 

The funny thing is that I knew these things my entire life, I just didn’t know I knew them. It took the tarot to finally bring that out.

 

 

The Empress and her Emperor from The Darkness of Light Tarot
The Empress and her Emperor from The Darkness of Light Tarot

 

What do you think is the most essential lesson your deck has to offer the new owner? What does the client/reader needs to know about your deck? What is the strength of your deck? How you would use this deck specifically for?

 

I believe the most essential lesson my deck has to offer a new owner is honesty and authenticity. So many decks I see on the market focus on only positive aspects of life, and while although pleasant to read with, don’t accurately reflect challenges we may face in life. This is a problem. On the other hand, I see many “dark” decks focus on only the negative aspects of life, which makes reading even more difficult. The focus of my deck is on balance, particularly the balance found in nature. Nature rules us all, and we are part of her, not above her or below her. As a result, we need to respect nature and understand that not everything will always be positive, and not everything will always be negative, but a mix of both at various times throughout our life on earth. The Darkness of Light tarot strives to capture this in its artwork, and remind the reader that nature waits for no one, and makes no special exceptions. It was Rider-Waite-Smith that did such an excellent job of this balance, and one of the reasons I believe the illustrations are so powerful and so enduring today.

 

 

 

In terms of authenticity, I strived to make the artwork feel polished, finished, and classy, without getting too stylized or taking too many liberties for the sake of the artwork itself. For the deck to work at all, the message and meaning had to be intact, which means the artwork was always playing a supporting role to the message, not the other way around. Too many decks on the market these days are purely decorative, with little to no esoteric connections. While this is fine for the experienced reader, it was important that my illustrations were substantial in meaning. This is why I chose to base the illustrations off of the Rider-Waite-Smith model.

 

 

 

The client/reader just needs to know that the deck is about balance, and about opposites. There are positive and negative meanings to each card, even while some cards are more positive or more negative. The deck has been called “harsh” because of the straightforward, no punches pulled style of artwork. For me, that’s what living is all about: understanding our role in nature, and trying to live a life in balance and harmony with others.

 

 

 

I believe this deck is suitable for all kinds of readings, but I would say that it has particularly strong potential for doing personal readings, if, of course, one can the honesty.

 

 

After hearing you create a „dark themed“ tarot deck I thought „oh well... another one...“

Why did you create your own tarot? What was missing in the other decks? What was the first card you created or saw in your visual eye? Why this card? Do you have a special connection or experience with this card?

 

 

It’s not necessarily that something was missing in any other deck... I believe each artist brings something unique to the table when they create a piece of artwork. Other decks I see out there have their own personality and fit particular personalities of others, and that’s completely fine. For me, it was more a matter of expressing what I believe the world to be, and the way that I see it. For others that see the world like me, then this deck is for them. Some folks might not connect to my artwork all the time, or perhaps just some of the time (for shadow work, for example), and that’s okay too.

 

 

 

The first deck I saw in my mind’s eye was Death. I don’t understand why, even looking back on the entire process. The closest reason I can think of is because Death is popular in more venues than just the tarot, so it became a great “crossover” card to bring me closer the tarot images. Now that I’ve finished, I realize that I do have a special connection with this card: Death represents change. In hindsight, this card represented the beginning of a huge change in my frame of mind, and a deeper sense of spirituality. I didn’t know it at the time, but creating the tarot meant my entire outlook on life was soon going to change (for the better)!

 

 

 

As far as cards in the deck I feel an affinity towards, I’d say: the Four of Wands, which was started on Imbolc and finished on Easter. I felt extremely happy creating that card, and the day it was finished I visited my family and had a great dinner. I was truly experiencing the card rather than just painting it, and therefore it feels special to me. It’s also one of the few images that I feel captures a deep feeling in my bones, that I know I’ve experienced before. It feels powerful and magical to me, and therefore, something I am happy with.

 

 

 

I also feel close to The Universe. The name of this card was borrowed from Crowley’s Thoth deck, and I feel that it fits what the card is trying to say. In many ways, the universe is much larger than the world, and we are connected to something much bigger than ourselves. Not only did the name and style fit the card, but I was particularly happy with the way the artwork came out, which I feel captures the essence of the deck as a whole.

 

 

 

Well..., obviously this is the perfect deck for shadow working. And I love shadow work! Do you have the feeling, while creating the deck, something inside you could heal? And do you feel connected (or more connected) with other people?

 

 

I think the short answer to this question is yes! I think we all have our share of ups and downs, and I think we all have areas where we’d like to see ourselves improve. For me, I’ve always felt like I could be better than I am, that somehow life “got in the way” of me showing my true colors.

 

For example, I’ve always wanted to travel the world, I have an intense sense of wanderlust that I can’t shake. On warm nights, I dream about my youth and the excitement of traveling and experiencing something new. I love the possibility of learning something that would make me a better person. Then, I realize that I don’t have the money or time, and it stands in opposition to the “stable and normal” life I’ve built for myself.

 

 

 

I seem to be a man of contradictions: on one hand, I’m a “normal” middle-class American who goes to work for a living, mows the lawn, and fixes up his house, and on the other, I’m a rebel, an artist, a child of the world, and a risk-taker: someone who wouldn’t mind selling it all and living on the road, just to live an exciting life. Its been difficult for me to bring these two parts of myself together. Sometimes, I feel like I’m two people in one.

 

 

 

Over time, I realize that the “safe, normal” me has seemed to win out. I’m scared that one day, I’ll wake up and feel as if I missed out on my life. On the other hand, however, I don’t want to wake up one day and not have a house, a family, or money to eat. It’s a constant balance to find who I really am, and live that life authentically and honestly.

 

 

 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the creating the deck has helped me heal, because that implies there was something wrong in the first place. Instead, I’d say creating the deck has helped me find balance. It has brought me some kind of peace and calm to what used to be rough waters. I’m able to accept some things I couldn’t before, and let go of others. It’s helped me be become both of those people at once, without becoming self destructive or give up and forget about my dreams. It’s helped me put my own life into perspective of the great universe we all share.

 

 

 

I can’t stress enough how much the deck is about balance. Understanding positive and negative energy is always present, and understanding how to bring those two forces together into something that resembles reality.

 

 

 

As far as the dark or harsh aesthetics, much of the way I paint is derived from life itself. I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania, where poverty stricken coal mining towns, dilapidated farms, and poorly educated lower class folks made their home. Bitter gray winters and blankets of gray covered the land, bringing a merciless dose of reality to the land. My particular region is one of the cloudiest and gloomy in the world, where seasonal depression is very real among the inhabitants, many owning sunlamps to help combat the dismal lack of sunlight.

 

 

 

Additionally, I lived seven years in Queens, New York City, about a 10 minute subway ride from downtown Manhattan. While there was exponentially more opportunity and culture in the air in New York City, with exponentially more positive-thinking people, the gritty concrete, graffiti, litter, and grimy scenery still managed to find its way into my work.

 

 

 

For some reason, I was never able to connect to art that didn’t have a “gritty, visceral” quality to it... it didn’t seem honest or authentic to me, and I have no doubt that is because of where I’ve lived in my life.

 

 

 

In the end, though, this project has made me feel much more connected to others: I’ve been able to put part of myself out there I never have before, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I realized that I’m not alone, and that somehow feels validating. This interview is the perfect example of that!

 

Would you say that you need the creative process right now? Is it necessary right now?
Do you create more? What‘s your plan for the future? Are there more projects to come?

 

 

I believe I need it now more than ever... now that the tarot card deck is complete, I’ve gone into “business” mode, and have been focused on promotion and book-keeping, and the creative side of me is starting to feel neglected. It’s about time I let the genie out of the bottle again.

 

 

 

The creative process is particularly important between projects. While I am working on a project, its easy to know what comes next. The hard part is starting a new project after you finish the first one. For myself, I always end up asking myself the question: what now? It’s not a place that makes you feel creative. Therefore, I think relying on the creative process to get myself through those places of self-doubt is extremely important.

 

 

 

The plan for the future is to explore more of the feelings and philosophies I learned while creating The Darkness of Light tarot. I was particularly interested in the nature of magic, or at least the way Margot Adler describes it in “Drawing Down the Moon.” I’d like to explore some images related to what it feels like to connect to the universe on that subconscious or greater spiritual level. At the very least, I’d like to explore some new images that aren’t based on archetypes that have already been established.

 

 

 

I’ve been exploring the idea of creating a story around sex and sigil magic: something a bit more modern and edgy than the tarot.

 

 

And last question to ask: How do you feel more free?

 

The tarot has opened many doors for me. However, the greatest door may be the feeling of freedom. The freedom to be whom I’d like to be, and the freedom to create what I want (and must) create.

 

 

Thank you Tony for this amazing interview.
I hope that you'll have all the success you wish for! your deck is amazing and I love to work with it.
Good luck and all the best from my heart to yours.
Please feel free to follow Tony:

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