Details about the Tarot Project Offer

The following is a letter similar to the few I have sent to artists who have expressed interest in the project. At this time, I am not working with and have not signed a contract with any artist.

Thank you for responding to my request for an artist to work on a tarot project.

You need to understand that I am not offering a job or any money for your work. I am a working person, not an employer. My income is not sufficient to pay any money up front. Any payment to you (or to me) will have to come from a publisher, either in the form of an advance payment against future sales, or from royalties for actual sales of the completed tarot deck and book. We will both be working "on spec," that is, on the speculation that our work will eventually bear fruit.

The creation of a tarot deck is a major artistic undertaking and may require two years or more of your work, depending on your ability, working methods, chosen media, and of course the amount of time you can devote to the project. However, it is not necessary, and perhaps not desirable, to create artwork for the entire deck before trying to find a publisher. A few finished cards plus sketches for some or all of the rest of the deck would probably be enough to show to a publisher and possibly obtain an advance. Naturally, my book (or portions of a book) would be submitted along with your artwork.

Before describing the project in detail to you, I will need a signed non-disclosure agreement. I am asking for this because the idea I have is not something that can be protected until it is embodied in an actual deck or book. The artwork should be protectable under a design patent, and the book of course would be copyrighted. These legal protections will not be obtained, however, until the work is completed or mostly completed, and possibly not until actual publication--I am unclear of the details. However, the very idea of the deck, its plan, the ideas of the cards and suits, are of considerable value, and the only protection I can have for these ideas is a non-disclosure agreement.

I have written this agreement. I will send you two copies for your signature, if you wish to pursue this project and if your available work looks suitable to the needs of the deck. When I have your signed agreement, I will disclose my idea and send you all the material I have so far towards the book I have been working on.

In addition to the non-disclosure agreement, I would like to know something about you and your artistic ability and experience before making my disclosure. If you have a web site that shows some of your work, that would be ideal. No doubt you have similar questions about me. As a first step, I'd suggest that you visit my web site at:

Then I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about my writing ability or other matters that may be of interest or concern to you.

Once we have gotten to know each other somewhat, if our plans are mutually agreeable, we will draw up and sign a contract to spell out each party's rights, responsibilities, and expectations, including who will be responsible for contacting publishers and arranging for publication, what happens if one or the other of us wants to pull out of the agreement, money concerns, and so on. I would prefer not to involve a lawyer, but am prepared to do that if necessary. But first, we have to decide to go ahead, and that is where we need to focus our concerns right now.

It will be helpful if you have some familiarity with existing tarot designs and the theory of tarot, though that is not necessary immediately. Briefly, I anticipate that an individual and distinctive piece of art will be required for each of the 22 "trumps"; the 16 "court cards" should be substantially easier to produce, because they are of four types in four suits and should share some marks of similarity; the remaining 40 suit cards can be symbolic, and need not be greatly different from the design of a typical deck of cards, Ace through Ten (i.e., not including the King, Queen, or Jack).

I can give you my thoughts on the kind of artwork I'm looking for. My intention is that the deck should be both clear and beautiful. By "clear" I mean that the people should look like who they are supposed to be, that the accompanying symbols should be recognizably what they are stated to be, and so on. So the deck will require realistic art. The medium could be completely computer art, such as modified scans of photographed persons, or it could be a more traditional form such as acrylics or other pigments, pastels, oil paints, etc. The originals need not be large, because they will be reproduced as a deck of cards.

I can also tell you up front that I think of this as my design, and I would not look kindly on requests or demands to make major changes to the plan of the deck. I have worked out the suits, court cards, and trumps in detail, and the very reason for its existence. Once I have disclosed these details, if we cannot agree on the design of the deck, we simply go our separate ways and the ideas I have disclosed remain my property, as will be spelled out in the non-disclosure agreement. If we do agree to work together, naturally I will be willing to consider any changes you may wish to make to the design, including changing the designations of the individual cards or suits. Requests for major changes would probably be unwelcome, but I would certainly give them due consideration and even agree if I believe the changes will result in a better deck.

I have great hopes for the commercial potential of this design. All the tarot decks I have seen require the user to: undertake a considerable course of study to learn how to use it; look up of each card as it shows up in a spread; or work with "ugly" cards that have "book" interpretations written directly on them. My design will not require any of these methods, yet will allow an easy way to practice tarot. It can be marketed as "Instant Tarot," a deck that a complete beginner can use with confidence and skill (though this name is already taken). I believe that no other tarot deck on the market can legitimately make these claims.

Once the first deck is done, other decks following the same plan can be created to target specific demographic groups: feminists, various minorities or religions, and so on.

My feeling about tarot itself is that it has no magical or spiritual power; the reader of the cards supplies all the details of the reading, and a reading has no "fortune telling" validity. However, even a rationalist or realist can derive benefits from a tarot reading, because random stimulation of associations in the reader's mind can bring hidden riches to the light. But I have no particular point of view to sell. I want to produce a deck that will enable beginners to get into tarot easily, for whatever purpose they see fit, and yet will allow experienced tarot readers to use a deck that is appealing to them aesthetically and for ease of use.

So, to proceed further, I request that you send me some information about yourself, the address of your web site, if any, and your mailing address so that I can send you the non-disclosure agreement. Again, I need to get a look at some of your work, however that needs to be arranged. I realize that this letter is probably not what you had hoped to receive in response to your inquiry, but it is all that I can offer at this time.


Alan Nicoll

If you wish to pursue this possibility further, please email me through the link below.