An Interview with Matt Hughes: Creator of The Ethereal Visions Tarot Deck

An accomplished traditional artist and designer with over 20 years under his art belt, Matt’s work has been shown in galleries throughout the world, and featured in numerous publications. In 2017, Matt birthed to the world the highly successful Ethereal Visions Tarot Deck, which is in its 4th printing through US Games Systems, Inc. In 2018, Matt and his wife, Hope, created the publishing company Ethereal Visions Publishing, LLC., a company specializing in the creation of beautiful books and art decks. Their mission is to bring the beauty of art to everyone’s world.

We caught up with Matt following the launch of the Kickstarter for his latest Dreamscapes Oracle Deck to find out more about him and his artistic processes.

What, if any, spiritual or metaphysical influences contribute to your art style?

I am a student of art to my very soul. I observe and record as much as I can from my surroundings. When I was in the corporate world as a videographer I would always schedule time to visit museums in cities that I would travel to for video shoots. I remember practically sprinting through the Chicago Institute of Art Museum one morning before having to catch a flight back to Atlanta. On every plane flight or coffee house that I would go to on those trips I would have a sketchbook that would be filled with anything I could think of or see. I do the same thing now at trade shows. If I am not working on a physical illustration I probably have three that I am working on in my head.

So I guess my spiritual influence would be the vast æther of inspiration and creativity that surrounds all of us. It is the spring from which all creativity flows but it also absorbs. We feed it as much as it feeds us.

Do you practice any witchcraft or consider yourself a witch?

I am not a practicing witch but my wife is. She has been the guide and inspiration for many of the cards from the Dreamscape Oracle Deck. I would consider myself more of a practitioner of Stoicism with a hint of Taoism. I feel our paths are dictated by our actions and our state of mind. You get back what you put out. If you put forth beauty (in my case art) that beauty will come back to you. You just have to be open to recognizing it.

I do strongly believe in spirit guides, though. I have had several lucid dreams in which I have interacted with mine. I have one main guide but have talked with a circle of seven before. They tend to visit you when you need them the most. The rest of the time they have much better things to do than hold the hand of a baby artist.

I do remember one dream many years ago that I believe was my muse. She was awe inspiring to look at. Swirls of color and wind surrounded her as she was looking down at me (I was laying in bed); think Lord of the Rings Galadriel when she is handed the ring. She seemed to be saying something to me but I was unable to hear it. When I managed to squeak out a tiny “What? I can’t hear you” she knelt down very close to my face, opened her mouth, and I was deafened by the blasting sound of an orchestra. She wasn’t speaking to me in English, she was speaking to me through music. No wonder it is so hard to understand our muses sometimes; we don’t speak the same language!

What got you interested in the Tarot? Do you have a favorite Tarot card or deck?

Years ago my wife, Hope, began showing me tarot decks that she felt needed a makeover. With each example she would always say “You could create a beautiful deck” or “You should do your own deck.” Since my goal with art has always been to create images that tell a story I found the history and tradition of the tarot to be intriguing. I was especially drawn to the Rider-Waite Smith deck. The images were elementary in design but full of rich symbolism and meaning. It had a bit of an open canvas feel that I felt would work for someone like myself that was not as familiar with the cards and their meanings.

You previously released Ethereal Visions Tarot deck that many of our readers use and love. Any hidden insights or perspectives on the deck from you, the creator, that you feel they would want to know?

Just that the purpose of the deck was to pay homage to the traditional symbolism of the Rider-Waite Smith deck. That project was the largest undertaking of my career and is not something I would plan to do again. To produce that many cards and still keep the quality level high for each was a real labor of love and I applaud anyone who takes on such a project. I was working a full time corporate job at the time so for about twelve months I would start working on a card at 5 am, head to work at 8 am, get home and eat only to go back to the drawing table at 9pm until around midnight, go to bed and do it all over again the next day. I almost gave up many times!

As far as a meaning for each card – I like to keep my interpretations a bit open so that the user can add their own take on them. I will say that one card from the Ethereal Visions Tarot Deck that has been misunderstood would be the Strength card. I’ve seen a lot of reviews jokingly refer to the card as the “Barbie card” because the breast that is exposed does not have a nipple present. The idea for that came from the unbelievable strength shown by women who undergo a Mastectomy. Many have issues with their insurance covering reconstructive surgery and are often left without nipples resulting from the procedure (although some talented tattoo artists are creating realistic inked areolas). The female breast is such a powerful symbol in our culture. To some it represents fertility, motherhood, and sexuality. Imagine the strength of those women who share this with the world. That is true strength to me.

What inspired the Dreamscape Oracle Deck, which launched March 3? Why an Oracle Deck?

After I created the tarot deck I began having dreams or sleeping visions that would remain so clear to me that I felt I needed to explore them further. Most of my work happens in the back portion of my brain; that portion that is on autopilot. I started creating some of them but I was so fatigued from the tarot project and all of the issues that it brought us that I had little interest in revisiting that form of expression. So I just sketched the ideas out and moved on to the next project. Over the next few years the dreams continued, becoming more refined and intense. It wasn’t until recently that I felt the drive to take on such a project again. And with it being an Oracle Deck I feel I have much more freedom to express these dreams and visions. Some cards come to me as clear as glass while others seem to be submerged in water, almost clear at times but just as quickly become distorted. Those visions require more research and thought on my part to decipher but I think that is the purpose. They are intended to lead me on a path to a better understanding.

How would you describe your vision for the Dreamscape Oracle deck?

I am sharing with the world a series of dreams and sleeping visions that I have been experiencing for a few years now. They came on slowly but now that I am working on the project the floodgates have opened! The cards in the deck vary from world mythologies to embodyments of larger concepts to full on “WTF was that all about” visions that pop into my head. I truly feel I am being guided to a certain degree. It is really up to me as to the direction I take but there’s definitely a conversation going on there.

What are some facets of the imagery you’re most excited for us to see?

This project is far more diverse than the Ethereal Visions Tarot Deck. With the tarot deck I felt the idea of an Art Nouveau reinterpretation of the Rider-Waite Smith deck carried restrictions that I needed to respect. But given the open nature of this project I feel much more comfortable exploring different cultures without feeling I am pandering or forcing elements that don’t feel right to me. I am so looking forward to hearing other interpretations of the imagery.

Any plans for more decks in the future?

I am enjoying the process of the Dreamscape Oracle Deck and would welcome a similar project. It really depends on the response we receive from this endeavour. If people enjoy the end product and ask for more I am certainly open to it.

Thank you, Matt!

There is still time to back Matt’s Kickstarter campaign for the launch of the Dreamscapes Oracle Deck.

If you would like to find out more about Matt and his artwork, head over to his website or Instagram.

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