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an introduction to the SICKLY TAROt


"I started this project on a whim, on September 30th, 2007, based on nothing but the idea of completing an individually designed tarot deck - no restrictions based on medium or time or type; just the idea of finishing it. I had no idea it would take almost ten years to complete, or that I would go about it the way I did.


Every 11 by 17 inch piece is drawn entirely by hand with black Pilot G2 gel pen on Canson eighth-inch graph paper - freehand without pencil or straight-edge, no tracing - ranging between 20 and 140 hours of focused, conscious work per card. If one has not been to my liking, it was scrapped and started over (this happened three or four times). The final card, XIV: Signal for The Sickly Suit was completed on April 9th, 2017.

"i hope you enjoy it

and that it might inspire you

to trust and respect your instincts,

as it has for me."


f. raymond sickly

The finished product is a 78-card standard tarot deck, plus two additional suits of 15 cards apiece (The Sickly Suit and The Seventh Suit), a joker card (The King of Limbs) and the back panel, for a total of 109 original cards. What started as a whim is now being described by my friends and family as my life's work.


The core research of the project was done from September to December of 2007, gigabytes of images and documents compiled. First and second drafts were completed as far as they got. In November, in tandem with the back piece, I designed the border.

The work has been done in a variety of conditions and locations. It has been drawn during break-ups, funerals, loneliness, depression, sobriety, drunkenness, bereavement, celebration, wedding planning, breaks in cramming for college courses, insomnia, arthritis, influenza, giddiness, lethargy, mania, obsession, boredom, surprise, amazement, gravity, depth, pettiness, love, loathing, solemnity, frivolity, poverty, homelessness, homecoming, hiding, ennui, spite, peace, reverence, joy, chain-smoking, melancholy, confusion, clarity, rage, focus, truth, tribute, opulence, change, envy, nudity, entropy, blame, shame, laughter, bliss, stress, anxiety, confidence, and nostalgia.

The images have been drawn in a Denver suburb, and at a flat in the Swiss countryside; at a porn store, at a Buddhist temple. I have worked on it in the freezing cold of an army tent by wind-up lamplight, at desks, in bars, on coffeetables, on meditation cushions, in silence, watching movies, listening to music, on the clock at work. This work was the catalyst for me moving to Shambhala Mountain Center for a summer, going back to school, and meeting my wife. I can't wait to see where and what it brings me next.

The Sickly Tarot Project constitutes the most unique thing I have created in my life and has been one of the most enriching experiences I have had, teaching me more than anything about myself, my view of art, emotion, integrity, potential, and what makes something worthwhile. In the end, it may be the closest thing to a legacy I leave behind when I go. I hope you enjoy it and that it might inspire you to trust and respect your instincts, as it has for me."

F. Raymond Sickly

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