The Art of Fred Martin
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A selection of paintings...
The Tarot Prints, 1979-1980.
Unless otherwise noted, all prints are linoleum block prints with watercolor on paper, 22 x 30  inches
Images marked
** are described in the catalog for my 2003 Retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California. 
Click the
** to go to the description.
Scroll down for the paintings, click the image for a larger view.


I began the Tarot images in the late 1970's because I had begun to feel that my vocabulary of archetypal forms--the uprush of imagery that had come in my work in the late 1950's on Harrison Street and in collage on Monte Vista in early 1960's--had become an empty repetition.  Subjective, personal, recondite, esoteric and incomprehensible to everyone else, the imagery was by now merely worn out shells for me.  I was teaching at Cal State San Jose, and a student had brought in some Tarot things she had made using oil pastel on paper, with the information and imagery coming from Douglas' book on the Tarot (I later bought a copy and thought it wasn't much, like I have thought of every other Tarot book except Stuart Kaplan's Encyclopedia of the Tarot).  I was thinking my work had become the product of a stale subjectivity, and here was the opening into an objective archetypal system, one I could explore as a way beyond the limitations of my ego and the tedium of its life.

Late 19th Century deck of the Piedmont Tarot,
Swords and Coins.

I remembered Jean's Tarot deck that I had not looked at since the early 1950's, got the deck out and decided to get serious.  (I also thought that I should look into other objective archetypal systems, particularly astrology.  I went to the Achenbach Foundation at the Legion of Honor, talked to Robert Johnson, the Curator, looked at some old prints but could find nothing that started my juice.)  I began by making slides of the entire major arcana with the thought of projecting and painting from them the way I had my travel slides of the early 1970's.  It turned out that I had underexposed the slides so seriously that the projections were barely visible in my studio.  So, I put the projector on a high ladder above my drawing board, projected the image onto a piece of white paper--I could barely make out the outlines--and improvised.  The result was a series of drawings, two cards of the major arcana on each sheet, eleven sheets for twenty two cards.  Plus a couple of extras, drawing with watercolor wash, one for each suit of the minor arcana, another for the stave and sword, another for the cup and coin, and a last one for what I think of as the purpose of it all, the Fool moving in a spiral through  the four suites (elements, seasons, stages of life) to the goal, the dancing woman of the World at the end (image #5 below).


Drawing of the first two cards of the Major Arcana.

The cards, the slides, the tools.

The Tarot of the Italians.
Ink and watercolor, 22 x 30 in.

The Tarot of the Italians,
Drawing 1.

The Tarot of the Italians,
Drawing 2.

The Tarot of the Italians,
Drawing 3.

The Tarot of the Italians
Drawing 4.

That was fine, now on to the next stage of learning the images--to make a linoleum block of each card of the Major Arcana, a block for the Ace of each suit of the Minor Arcana, and some miscellaneous images that came to mind--like the grass of human life and the scorpion of sex--as I went along.  The plan was to make one block at a time and to use it in every possible way that I could imagine with itself and then with any blocks made of the previous cards before I made the next one.  This went on for a year or more.

Cards of the Piedmont Tarot.
The Fool, Magician, Wheel of Fortune, Ace of Coins, Death,
and World

Linoleum Blocks.
Death, Ace of Coins, Temperance, Scorpio, Moon, Devil.


From Groups 1 through 4 of the Tarot Block Prints, 1979-1980
Block print with watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 in. unless otherwise noted.

Undated early 1980.
The Kingdom.

March 1, 1980.

March 16, 1980.

Undated early 1980.
** "Calendar... Wheel Reaper."


"All Together Now,"
Summer 1980.
When all the blocks were done, I made this as their sign.
Then, I began to print them over one another to see what new images might materialize.


October 27, 1980.
"Rejoice, Ye Partakers of this sign."


October 28, 1980.
"The House on the Hill."

November 5, 1980.
"But, Sometimes Love Hurts."

Title Page, Tarot Prints Group 5.

Group 5 of the Tarot Block Prints, January-February 1981.