By Phoebe Trillo
Ejiwa ‘Edge’ Ebenebe is the self-described illustrator of fantasy, opulence and whimsey and the artist behind the fantastical illustrations of The Metaphysical Cannabis Oracle Deck, coming August 2022! Here she details her experience working alongside author Maggie Wilson and all that she has discovered along the way.
How was your experience of illustrating the Metaphysical Cannabis Oracle deck with Maggie and how did you collaborate on each card design?
It’s been a transformative experience for me, and working alongside Maggie, her extraordinary visions, and the Liminal 11 team was a great pleasure! Definitely, so much more work than I ever could have imagined going into it for the first time, but being able to see the final deck in person is such a surreal and exciting experience!
Maggie started working on the deck a little bit ahead of me, building out the initial structure of the deck. So when it was time for me to begin the art, Maggie had drafted out a bulk of the initial descriptions and ideas for suits, cards and overarching system, which was fantastic for me to be able to start building out the ideas for the artwork as an overarching collection, vs card-by-card over an extended time.
So I’d read Maggie’s writings and begin drafting sketches based on what imagery felt intuitive. Once we’d decided we were happy with the final sketch for a piece, I finished the card, created any needed references, drew final lines, put in flat color, shading, and lastly, any final effects and tweaks.
A nice aspect was that we worked collaboratively in a Google Sheet doc, with the card art being updated alongside each description as we both made progress. It was a very dynamic way of seeing the entire deck coming together.
What have you learned about your artform to bring this oracle deck to life?
I’m pretty technically minded, and primarily as I worked digitally for this deck, this question made me think about my art-making pipeline – and I realized just how much I could streamline the actual creation of my artwork while still letting my ideas flow organically with the inspiration being generated by Maggie’s writing. It was also enjoyable to find ways to optimize the software I used to achieve the desired results. Although the production process was a blur, there was so much to do, and time went fast!
With 78 cards to illustrate and color, where did you choose to begin and end? Was there a system you followed?
There was no specific order I decided to go in; instead, I just let myself go with the flow as I usually do to maintain my momentum. When working on larger projects, I tend to prefer going back and forth between as many pieces as possible, so I worked on varying cards simultaneously throughout. This started out more haphazardly at first, though. So as the deadline approached, I worked to streamline that process into more of a production-line approach, aiming to finish specific stages (final drawing, lines, flat color, shading, final tweaks) on multiple cards in tandem rather than completing certain cards sooner than others.
From the start, I did also create a spreadsheet to help me track and visualize the progress of all the cards together, and that was hugely helpful in understanding how the overarching project was going, but yeah, honestly, overall, it was a pretty organic, stream-of-consciousness approach, following whatever cards would engage my brain best at the moment.
What was the most straightforward card to create? And the most difficult?
It’s kind of hard to quantify things that way as so much of the process ended up blending, but if I had to choose, I’d say the easiest was probably Bliss (Trust), the concept for that one kind of just clicked from the start and was quick to execute. For the hardest, I’dI’d bring it down to either Arziki Dabaran (Gratitude) or Agbaye (Bliss), both those cards involved complex compositions with multiple figures and figuring out how to make them work on a small card took a lot of push and pull.
How was your experience working alongside Maggie as someone knowledgeable on the cannabis plant and this divination system?
It was fascinating! Coming into the project, I was on the opposite of this spectrum to Maggie in that, while curious, I was highly new to tarot and oracle decks. And so, it was fascinating to talk with her and watch her weave her magic as she built out the system and mechanisms for the deck! It’s been incredible to see it take shape along with the artwork into the final deck and booklet.
What surprised you the most along the way when creating this oracle deck?
The sheer amount of artwork that came out of it is what’s been striking me most so far, I think – I hadn’t created anything on this scale prior, and it’s pretty surreal to see all the cards laid out in front of me now… there’s so many!
Have any other tarot or oracle decks inspired you during the creation of this deck?
I was in awe of so many decks whilst working on this project; many gorgeously crafted ones are out there. The ones that caught my eye were Liminal11’s Modern Witch Tarot by Lisa Sterle, Tarot of the Divine by Yoshi Yoshitani, Botanica by Kevin Jay Stanton, Star Spinner Tarot by Trungles, and The Literary Tarot deck by Brink Literacy Project (on which I was also working simultaneously as part of a 5-artist collaborative team).
You have filled each card with so many fine details! Are there any hidden gems that stand out?
I’ve stared at each card for so long working on them that I’m not sure which details would count as hidden, haha, but the little cat peeking out of the Lantarki Mace (peace) card makes me happy every time I see it, as well as the Leo sun in Oorun (Joy and Light). Playing with the melding of organs and nature was also fascinating in the Codes in Nature (Miracles) card.
Where did you draw inspiration from to create the overall tone of the deck?
It’s hard to overstate just how much fuel Maggie’s drafted descriptions and card names provided for the artwork creation; my natural ideation process is a very sensory, stream-of-consciousness one, and so reading her initial drafts came with an energy and vibe that pulled the imagery of each card into my mind.
I’m a non-visual thinker, so I often try to explain that I “feel” images, and by letting my mind flow as it wishes, I start to sense concepts and image ideas that feel synced with how the writing is resonating with me. Maggie’s words created visceral feelings for me for each card, and through that, the tone naturally developed as I made sketches based on those visceral emotional pulls.
We are absolutely in love with your artwork. What’s next for you?
Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it so much! 🙂 Due to difficult personal circumstances, I’m taking a break from freelancing for the foreseeable future; however, I have been working on a mural project for the Britannia Community Services Center in Vancouver, BC! I was also fortunate to be awarded a creative grant by the Canada Council for the Arts, which commences towards the end of this year. So I’m looking forward to being able to focus on exploring my creative project for a while in 2023.
And get your copy of The Metaphysical Cannabis Oracle deck here!