Blessed Be Magick is so excited to announce that our signature postcard inserts that come free with every order will now feature chosen artwork from the Everyday Witch Tarot or Everyday Witch Oracle Deck illustrated by Elisabeth Alba!
We are also honored to have Elisabeth Alba as our featured interview this month! Elisabeth has created artwork for many things, but is most notably known within the witchcraft community for her work on the Llewellyn deck "Everyday Witch Tarot." She was kind enough to answer some questions about her process and share with us what inspires her.
Thank you so much to Elisabeth for being so kind as to answer these questions with us, and for sharing insight with our community!
A note from Blessed Be Magick's Founder - Shan
I've been a fan of the Everyday Witch Tarot (which is my daily deck) for years which is how I came to know about Elisabeth Alba's work. I love her whimsical, modern, colorful and fun portrayal of witches in everyday situations. Something that is really special here is that each illustration is full of joyful and meaningful little witchy details, and there's so much to unpack! Her art has helped me to recognize the magick in everyday situations and I had to reach out to see if she would work with us moving forward.
We will be sending out a piece of witchy art on a postcard with all orders which our community can save and love - the idea is that typically you'd put the postcard up on a wall, pass them on to friends as little gifts, use them as bookmarks and even frame them! I chose to work with Elisabeth because I want my beloved customers to experience the joy, hope and pride in being a witch evoked by her art.
An introduction from Elisabeth:
“Born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Florida (and enjoyed and loved many trips to Disney!) where I attended the University of Florida majoring in visual art studies and English (children’s literature focus). I wanted to be a picture book illustrator at the time, something I’m still not opposed to! I traveled a lot with my family since my father was from Spain, so I always got a lot of inspiration from international travel and visiting fantastic museums. I then moved to NYC to get a master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts in their Illustration as Visual Essay program. It was a magical time where I really came out of my shell. I lived in NYC a further 6 years, met my husband Scott, and we moved to Massachusetts when I was ready to go full-time freelance with my art (the year I got the Everyday Witch Tarot job!). I always loved art and drawing, and my parents always encouraged my art. Early influences - I made fan art from Tiny Toons in grade school to Harry Potter in college. I drew my role playing characters, made book covers for stories I wrote (I used to write a lot too), and I was also really into Japanese animation for a while, read tons of manga and drew in that style for a while. I also love reading graphic novels. Book covers and picture books were what really got me interested in making art as a career, especially fantasy fiction and fairy tales.”
Where were there pivot points for you and your art?
“I suppose I am most known for tarot, but I’ve also had some other great projects more in the fiction publishing realm! I’ve done early reader books for Scholastic, some of my first jobs after grad school. I also really love making maps for books, my favorite so far was the map I created for Peasprout Chen by Henry Lien, a really fantastical YA book with martial arts figure skating! Another exciting job was contributing illustrations to the Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare.
I also love going to conventions and meeting people, and giving people the opportunity to see my paintings in person, they look so much more alive in person. I haven’t gone to a convention since 2018 because of kids and the pandemic, but hoping to return to them soon! Right now I’m expecting to show my work at Illuxcon in Reading, PA in October! It’s also a huge honor to me when someone chooses to buy an original piece of art for their home (which often happens at conventions).”
How did you initially connect with Deborah or Llewellyn to collab on the Everyday Witch Deck?
“Apparently I’d been on Llewellyn’s radar for a while but my husband was hired first (Scott Murphy) to illustrate the Modern Spellcaster’s Tarot with author Melanie Marquis. The Llewellyn tarot editor and art directors often ask their artists for recommendations when looking for someone who works in specific styles.
They happened to ask my husband for a rec, and I was on the list. I had to illustrate two samples before I was officially approved (to make sure I was the right artist for the job) and the contract was signed. The first two cards I created were the Four of Swords and the Queen of Pentacles.
For tarot deck manuscripts, sometimes decks are submitted with an artist attached already, and sometimes not, or sometimes the author also does the illustrations. The Everyday Witch Tarot originally had the working title of “Retro Witch”, inspired by old Victorian Halloween cards. Obviously it spun into something entirely different by the end! But they were searching for an artist that fit that style.”
Was this your first engagement with tarot? Had you had readings prior to creating this art?
“I had a tarot reading done years before at an event at a bookstore, and I had friends that used tarot decks, but other than that my only experience of tarot was looking at all of the fabulous art!”
The Moon card from the Everyday Witch Tarot
What did you like to create differently in your interpretation of the RWS structure? Can you talk a bit about your favourite pieces?
“One thing a lot of people don’t know about many tarot decks with separate authors and illustrators is that oftentimes the author (in my case, the awesome Deborah Blake), writes out the descriptions for the cards, what the image is, before the artist starts sketching. So Deborah actually came up with every single image, sent me the descriptions, and then I ran wild with them. Of course with every image I put my own spin on it. Sometimes I changed a few things or had additional ideas, but the rough description began with Deborah. So the description for the Star, for example, went like this: “Picture: A witch with flowing silver hair and a long silver gown stands under a dark sky filled with stars. She wears a circlet made of glowing stars and a belt to match. One hand is raised towards the sky, palm open, and light flows down from the sky into her palm like the Northern Lights. The other hand points to the ground, palm down, and that same multicolored light flows out into a pool of water by her feet. The water is blue, but turns colors where the light joins it. At her feet, a small gray cat looks at an orange Koi in the water.”
I had those descriptions plus I also knew the deck was based on RWS, so I could look at those cards as well for inspiration. Gradually the deck and the characters within it became part of their own world, the “Everyday Witch” world which is part modern day, part medieval, part storybook, and I got to return to that world with the oracle deck. I absolutely love reading fantasy books and watching fantasy movies (books by Tamora Pierce, the Harry Potter series–although that’s a bit problematic for me now thanks to the author–Lord of the Rings, Willow, Game of Thrones, the Last Unicorn… I love those worlds) so that genre has definitely contributed to the worlds I create when I illustrate.”
With your non-witchcraft background, how does it feel to be so joyfully welcomed amongst witches & pagans alike who adore your art?
“I have a Christian background but I am currently not practicing anything. I had friends that were practicing witches but I didn’t really know much about it. When I started sharing my tarot work while working on the Everyday Witch Tarot deck, I felt embraced by the community. They’ve always been so welcoming and friendly to me, with never any judgement.
I’ve always felt more at home with fellow nerds, metal heads, witchy folk... people perceived as being in alternative subcultures. Bring me to a comic convention and I’m in heaven. I also very much love being in nature and viewing the wonders of earth, and have found that witches and pagans have a wonderful connection to the earth and really appreciate what we have now, and want to protect it. I’ve found that my inspirations and artistic style and things I like to illustrate just fit so well with new age publications. It’s important to me to illustrate things I love to illustrate, not just take any job for money. The work isn’t going to be good if I don’t actually like what I’m drawing, or feel any connection to it. I have loved every job I’ve done for Llewellyn!”
Strength card from the Everyday Witch Tarot
What is your general creative process?
“Whether it’s a client job or a personal piece, it always starts with a sketch. I work traditionally but do some sketching digitally. I usually start with a rough pencil sketch, then scan it and work on it more digitally. Once I figure out the composition I gather reference photos, and also take photographs of myself, husband, or friends for reference for poses. Then I make a more finished drawing. I figure out the colors digitally. I print my drawing onto watercolor paper, and ink and/or paint on top of that! I usually use ink, watercolor, and acryla gouache. Occasionally pencil or colored pencil.”
As a busy mama what tips can you share for those who want to get involved with their art more but also need to prioritize other commitments?
“Well… I’m lucky (or unlucky, hah!) that I don’t have much of a life outside my home and work. We don’t have many local friends, so it’s not like there’s all that much to distract me! And the kids being so young keep us from going on a bunch of adventures too, no more long trips to Europe for a while, etc. But it really does take dedication. I have the added pressure of deadlines and needing to finish things for clients, but I also make time to create my own personal work. If I didn’t have deadlines it would be a lot harder to feel motivated sometimes. During naps - I work. After they go to bed, I work. Sometimes I have to make use of a little screen time and work a bit while my kids are home and awake and not at school. But I still value me time too, which is basically late night. I don’t work past 9:30/10 (I stay up a little too late even though I have a poorly sleeping 3 month old!), and I catch up on tv or read or work on a puzzle for an hour or two. I try to do housework when the kids are awake since my older son usually likes to watch or attempt to help. I’ve actually gotten a lot more efficient with work since having kids. I’ve heard this from other artist parent friends of mine too. I know the times they are asleep or in school is the time I HAVE to work. I can’t put it off. So it becomes routine to fit it in. And art is mostly enjoyable anyway. It’s relaxing, meditative. I think most artists enjoy being artists and creating, which helps with making time for it. Anyway… not sure if this answer really provides tips or not, haha! It might be different if art was more of a hobby, but since it’s also a job I have that career pressure.”
Go with the Flow card from the Everyday Witch Oracle.
Have you any projects coming up that you would like to share with our community as a small little sneak peek?
“I have a couple of new decks I’m really excited about! The first, Tarot of the Owls, is another tarot deck that I illustrated entirely. It’s written by Pamela Chen and features the wisdom of owls from a magical realm. I had so much fun with the artwork. Who doesn’t love owls? And these owls are colorful and mysterious and some are just super cute. It will be published in March 2023 and is currently up for pre-order. Second, I have just begun working on a new oracle deck with Deborah Blake! This deck also takes place in the ‘Everyday Witch’ world but features animals/familiars who help guide you. If you follow me on social media you’ll be seeing updates about it over the next year!”
Where can we learn more about you and connect with you best?
“My website is www.albaillustration.com. You can find me most often on facebook (www.facebook.com/albaillustration), instagram (instagram.com/e.alba.art), twitter (twitter.com/elisabethalba), and I also have a Patreon (www.patreon.com/elisabethalba) where people can become ‘members’ for a more in-depth intimate view of my art and updates about it.”
Again we would like to give a massive thank you to Elisabeth for answering these questions for us, and encourage you to connect with her on socials where you can see more updates on her upcoming decks. You’ll be seeing some very magickal prints on postcards within your deliveries soon!*
*While we make every effort to include a postcard with your order, we sometimes might miss out because of human error or because the postcards run out. As the postcards are free to our customers, we are unable to re-send just the postcard if you did not get one. Thank you in advance for your understanding!