An Interview with Joanna Powell Colbert

A Long Courtship


Like so many others, I followed Joanna’s journey over about a decade as she created the Gaian Tarot. From the first time I saw her art, probably 10 years ago at a conference, I knew this deck was special.

When I had the opportunity to purchase the limited edition Majors Only deck, I jumped on it. Likewise, with the limited edition full deck, even though I knew the mass market edition would be available eventually. Now I own all three and love them all.

This is the deck I bring with me into circles and rituals; it is my spiritual workings deck.

The images make me happy, thoughtful, brave, bold, and safe. They create a sacred space in which I feel safe enough to explore issues that otherwise I might shy away from. They let me discover parts of myself, beautiful and strong aspects, that I was blind to. Working with these cards helps me be the person I want to be.

I am proud to have played a hand in making the mass market version available through Llewellyn publishing. I am glad that the deck is now available at a price point that is within reach of most tarot lovers. To celebrate the mass market edition, here is a conversation I had with Joanna recently.

The Interview

Describe where you are working right now. We’d love a peek into an artists’s studio.

Today my artist’s studio looks more like a writer’s or teacher’s studio. :-) I’m not making a lot of art these days, except for sketches in my sketch journal. Instead I’m focused on teaching workshops, classes, teleseminars with the Gaian Tarot Circle, and planning my business goals for 2012. Sounds a little boring compared to making art, but it’s not. It’s just using a different set of creative muscles.

Here’s a photo of my artist’s-writer’s-teacher’s-businesswoman’s studio.

What will you be creating today?

Today I’m working on a digital slideshow for an upcoming workshop.

What was your most surprising experience while creating this deck?

Finding out that so many people resonated with it and loved it. I was creating a very personal vision, so I was quite surprised (and pleased) that so many other people loved it, too. It reminds me of my high school English teacher’s precept that good literature always “clothes the universal in the particular.”

What was your most unexpected reaction (personally) to your finished deck?

I was simultaneously relieved it was finally done, and very sad that the project was over. For a long time, I held that paradox and sat with it, experiencing both sets of emotions. I felt very lost, because I no longer had this intense creative project that was a constant companion. At the same time I heard myself vowing to never do another piece of photorealistic colored pencil painting again. After 78 time-intensive, extremely detailed works of art, I’m ready to do something spontaneous, quick and free. I’ve been playing around with encaustic (painting and collage in beeswax) and mixed media. It’s about as far away from photo-realism as you can get!

What was an unexpected response from someone else to your finished deck?

Someone on a forum said the deck was prudish because there are no naked people in it. That really surprised me, and I just had to laugh. Actually, the silhouetted women in the 6 of Water and the Guardian of Water are all naked, but it isn’t overt nudity. And the woman in the Star card is wearing a gown that is about to slip off her shoulder, so the viewer can imagine that any second now she will be completely naked under the starlight. Personally I think that sexuality is more about energy than whether or not a person has clothes on, and revealing a little bit of skin is more enticing than showing the whole enchilada.

I did make a conscious decision in the beginning not to show a lot of nudity, because I hoped that this deck would reach an audience of people who might not otherwise pick up a tarot deck. So in a way, I’m trying to seduce people by not showing too much skin! :-D

What is next for you?

As I mentioned, my current focus is on teaching online courses and in-person workshops, on the Gaian Tarot, earth-centered spirituality and manifesting your dreams. I’ll soon be announcing an expanded version of my “Empower Your Dreams & Visions with Tarot” online class that I did earlier this year, which was an extremely popular class. Another project I’m very excited about is creating a Gaian Soul Retreat for women, with an emphasis on creativity, spirituality and nature. I’m looking for a venue here in the Northwest, maybe on one of the islands. It will probably be a four day retreat in late summer or early fall of 2012.

I’m tossing around the idea of an oracle deck focused on plants and animals, with no humans in it. But so far it is just an idea. I went on a writers retreat in July, and received a “divine download” for a new illustrated book. The working title is Reading the Book of Nature. It’s a series of illustrated meditations based on practices I’ve collected from many sources over the years on how to create a deeper relationship with the natural world. I cover some of this same material in my workshops. I’m very excited about it!

At Practical Tarot, we like practical uses…do you have a fave quick tip or practice for our readers that works particularly well with the Gaian Tarot?

My favorite reading practice works with any deck. At the end of a reading, I always ask the person I’m reading for:

“What is the key insight you are taking away from this reading? And what can you do in the next 24 hours to anchor it in the physical world?” (I probably learned this or something similar from Mary Greer, but I’ve been doing it so long I can’t really remember!) These questions help them to 1) remember the most important thing they’re taking away from the reading, and 2) make a commitment to themselves to make some kind of change in their everyday life.

Learn more!

To see the cards and learn more about the deck and Joanna’s work, click HERE. Or purchase a copy for your very own:

Gaian Tarot

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