Tribute to Pamela Colman Smith

by Mari Hoshizaki


Pearl One: Be true to where your art leads you.

My image began as a young sculptor who is forming an
allegorical portrait in stone. Her teacher looks over
her shoulder. The image taking shape is the smiling
feminine form facing the student and teacher. In the
background, the imagined ideal is a classical Muse.
Teacher, Student and Muse are at a juncture where the
imagined work is coming to form. To me, this is the
result of the first pearl suggested wisdom. This an
imaginary scene of a young Pamela Colman Smith
studying art under Arthur Wesley Dow and Ernest
Fenollosa at the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, New

I based the scene on the Rider-Waite Smith (RWS)
design of the Three of Pentacles. The RWS image shows
a sculptor standing on a platform gazing at his work
beneath an arch with three pentacles in the design.
Two others also gaze at his work. A Pictorial Key to
the Tarot suggests this means trade or skilled labor,
aristocracy, and glory.

Pearl Two: To others as yourself.

In the reversed position of the Three of Pentacles, I
see the meaning as mediocre work or pettiness. To me
it means lacking the attention to work or to other
people's concerns. When this lack that is brought to
my attention, than I need to follow the above motto.
Pamela Colman Smith took this motto for herself when
she was ordained into the Golden Dawn chapter headed
by William Butler Yeats.

My picture took on another meaning as I looked at it.
The young woman could be lying down, propped up on
pillows. Friends or attendants can be standing over
her in a kindly visit. The Muse in the background is
the spirit of compassion suggested as a remedy for the
lack of care or concern for others.

Pearl Three: Dreams made visible.

Whether this a picture of art emerging or a
compassionate visit, both skill and sensitivity are
required for results that reflect maturity and grace.
In Pamela Colman Smith's mature years, the musician
Claude Dubussey said her skill and results to painting
to his music was "Dreams made visible".

Pamela Colman Smith lived in England most of her
mature life. She shared her income and living space
with a friend in her local parish and nursed the woman
through shell-shock during World War II. She was
awarded membership to the Royal Academy of Art. Even
if others did not buy her art and she was not
well-known, she continued to be both true to her
vision and compassion. Her elderly friend also helped
Pamela Colman Smith in her declining years, when she
was restricted to her bed with heart problems.

The highlights of this tale is in between the
lines--she was an artist who may have not made the
largest impact on the art world. But to a small
corner of tarot art fans, the details of her life can
be inspirational. Her art can also be considered
inspirational in a sense to many--her tarot card
designs are said to be the bestselling style even to
the end of 2003, about 97 years after the first
publication of her designs in 1910.


Image Background:

I did four versions of drawing and painting around the
collage of Japanese papers and the central Muse image.
I hoped to blend them all manually to look like a line
illustration of the early 20th century. I took
inspiration from readings of Pamela Colman Smith in
Stuart Kaplan's Encyclopedia of the Tarot Volume III.
One of my favorite topics is Eastern and Western art
influences that may have come from the Meiji period of
Japan. My grandparents were influenced by that time
period previous to their arrival to the United States.

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