What I wanted

I wanted a Tarot deck.

All sorts of threads branch out from here, and I won't get too far off-track. See, last year, I wrote up a rule summary sheet for a game called Zarcana.... Oh, go look. I'll wait.

The game uses a Tarot deck. Each suit and trump has its own power. That's a lot of powers. I managed to summarize them all on on sheet of paper, which made for a handy reference card; but it was obvious that what I really wanted was a Tarot deck which had the appropriate rule printed on each card.

All I needed was a set of Tarot art.

I drew a Tarot deck once. Maybe I'll scan it someday... it was a lot of work, of course, and that was just cartoony pencil sketches on index cards. I certainly don't have the drawing skill to produce impressive Tarot images by hand. So what do I have?

I had, more or less, a style. When I'm not being cartoony, I like playing with a sort of pen-stroke style. Fields of vectors, if you take a mathematical view, forming images.

The Hermit and the Emperor
The Hermit and the Emperor (link to larger image)

Now, that doesn't look very good in ballpoint pen. I might be able to do higher-quality forms, if I drew a lot of sketches and then got very careful with a good paper and artist paper. But that would take lots of time. I'm lazy, in the hackerly sense.

I needed a program which would do the work for me. I would lay out curves, forming a skeleton of an image. The program would fill in all the tiny strokes. The direction and density of the strokes would derive from the skeleton, you see. If I drew an awkward shape, I could just adjust it. Darken an area or lighten it, add or remove details; stretch or twist curves; anything.

This is the basic idea behind many a Photoshop filter. But I wanted two things that I'd never seen. One: the underlying skeleton would be a collection of objects, not a pixel image. Two: the ink-stroke effect would follow the skeleton in direction, as well as color and density.

Okay, I had a third goal. I wanted the tool for free. Paying for tools is a game for mugs and non-hackerly artists.

(Sorry, artists.)

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