Get to know Kaylee Pinecone, creator of Tales of the Tarot

Last year, when we tweeted out looking for someone to create an original webcomic based on tarot or mind, body, spirit themes, we heard back almost immediately from Kaylee Pinecone. She developed an amazing idea that we knew people were going to love, and – if our social media and blog numbers are anything to go by – now we know how much it’s resonating with you!

Beautifully showing the intersection of tarot and comics (which is Very Much Our Thing here at Liminal 11) Kaylee’s Tales of the Tarot is frankly unlike anything out there. We’ve been truly taken aback by Kaylee’s clear vision and powerful execution. Her take on the tarot is original, modern, fresh and, above all, a series of beautifully-told, interweaving stories…

Tales of the Tarot looks at each character in the major arcana, starting with the Fool, and tells their story in four pages. We release a page every Wednesday, meaning you get a new character every four weeks. You can catch up with the series here – we just finished The Lovers, which has been an absolute smash with readers!

Without further ado, let’s get to know Kaylee a little better!

Hi Kaylee! Let’s start off with a quick bit about you – tell us a bit about the work you’ve done so far, and what your main inspirations are.

I’ve been working as an apparel and product designer for about seven years now. A little over a year ago I got the chance to do a teaser comic for Lisa Sterle and Mattew Erman’s horror comic Long Lost. After that I started making weekly autobiographical web comics and I decided comics was something I wanted to do professionally. Within that first year I was doing work for Lion Forge’s Rolled and Told and working as a colorist for Vault’s upcoming title Bonding.

One of Kaylee’s pages in Long Lost

My art has been influenced by manga, comics, video games, fantasy and and sci-fi films. Two huge inspirations for me are Naoko Takeuchi and Tetsuya Nomura. When I was little I taught myself how to draw by trying to reproduce Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon illustrations and by drawing Nomura’s Character designs.

You’ve created something really unique with Tales of the Tarot. Tell us a bit about where this idea come from. Do you have any favourite cards so far?

I was pitching specifically for Liminal 11 and I knew I wanted to do something Tarot themed. I wanted to do something that was didactic but still story driven. I really like the concept of intuitive reading and tools that help people jump right in and explore Tarot without feeling overwhelmed. I hoped that the comic could be a user friendly-primer for getting a feel for the meanings behind the major arcana.

Just a few of Kaylee’s Tales of the Tarot cards

The Fool is my little buddy and has a special place in my heart. I was so nervous working on that one. Writing and illustrating twenty-two different four-page comics on top of working a full-time job and part-time freelance is pretty daunting. I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing (still don’t, probably never will) but it’s hard to give in to doubt when you’re literally illustrating a comic about how doubt is for chumps. 

I’m also really excited about The Lovers card. I was watching an interview with one of my favorite comic artists where she said that if you’re going to tell a love story you need to have crushes on your characters. Her point was “How can you expect other people to love your romantic leads if you don’t have crushes on them?” So I went about designing some characters that would make me weak in the knees. That’s been my most popular card yet so I guess it worked, lol.

We know that video games really inspire your design aesthetic. What were some of your favourite games growing up… and how do you think the narratives of video games have inspired the narratives you create in your work?

Growing up I was obsessed with all the Final Fantasy games. The stories always get super buck wild but are built on a foundation of interesting characters and stunning visuals. The stories typically start out as pretty standard fantasy/science fiction tales, then next thing you know the characters have sacrificed their memories in order to ascended outside of space time so they can slap God in the face with a nunchuck. I think growing up with stories like that made me want to take big weird swings with my narratives!

Let’s get a little spiritual. Tell us your sign, which tarot card you think best fits your personality and what animal you’d want to be reincarnated as if you had a choice!

Taurus, The Tower and a Capybara.

As well as illustration, you do design work (and not all of our followers will know that you designed the logo for Lisa Sterle’s Modern Witch Tarot). We’re curious to hear how the processes are alike and how they differ in terms of creative process…

Design feels like more like refining down and reducing an image to just its necessary elements, whereas illustration feels more like building visuals and layering them on top of one another until you have a finished piece. If I’m designing logo, for instance, I’ll do a bunch of thumbnails then from there do a more refined version of the best looking sketches, and continue to whittle down until I have a finished logo.

To me, design is a lot more of a balancing act where you have to tweak things in just the right way so that the elements work in harmony. With illustrations I’m pretty bad about skipping the thumbnail stage. I tend to be more excited and just toss things at the wall without a plan. I should do thumbnails though – it’s more efficient to go in with a plan than to do damage control once I’ve realized something isn’t isn’t working.

I think a funny difference between design and illustration is that in the final stretch of finishing a design, something probably needs to be taken away. With an illustration, something is probably going to need to be added.

Beer glasses Kaylee designed for a movie theatre bar

So much of your work has what I’ll describe as an ‘adorable’ aesthetic, but with a dark humour beneath (see below for one example). It’s a brilliantly unexpected juxtaposition. How did this develop, and what message (if any) are you hoping to convey with your work?

I think that aesthetic just sort of formed naturally as an amalgamation of all the things I enjoy. For instance, my apartment’s filled with a bunch of plush toys and colorful artwork, but I’m also covered in tattoos and for a long time listened almost exclusively to death metal. I was also pretty limited style-wise in what I could pull off in Adobe Illustrator – I feel like that program really lends itself better to a more simplistic, graphic style.

Now that I have other tools at my disposal, I’m hoping my art will continue to evolve. I don’t think my work has an overarching message. I haven’t been able to make a lot of personal work, so I haven’t had the opportunity to build a thematically consistent body of work.

OK… your About page says Ruth Bader Ginsberg held up one of your designs and, well, we really just need to know more about that!

In 2015 someone gifted Ruth Bader Ginsburg a t-shirt I designed at a ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Eastern District of New York. The shirt had a portrait of her on it and said “You Can’t Handle the Ruth!” A photo of RBG laughing and holding it up was all over the web the next morning. It pretty surreal to see something I made be given to someone I admire so much!

YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE RUTH!

Thanks Kaylee! It’s great to know more about you and your work, and we can’t wait for the next chapter of Tales of the Tarot!

More from Kaylee: Shop * Blog * Twitter * Tumblr

Keep an eye out for news on the Tales of the Tarot book!

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