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Digital animator Peter Hague shows off a deck of Tarot cards he designed. The cards, called Robo Tarot, are available at local stores the Stranger Factory and The Octopus and the Fox, as well as on See full story Page 5.

Artist twists tech with Tarot

Lover of ‘retro-future robots’ puts spin on traditional card designs

Science fiction robots and the ancient mysticism of Tarot cards don’t typically overlap — but anything’s possible to animator and Albuquerque freelance artist Peter Hague.

“I love the style of retro-future robots,” Hague said. “Like what people in the 1950s thought the future was going to look like … It’s always kind of cracked me up and it was an inspiration for the project.”

Hague created Robo Tarot, a robot-inspired Tarot deck, two-and-a-half years ago with concepts for just three cards: The Lovers, The Devil and The Hierophant.

In response to demand, Hague released further Tarot designs until he had completed some two dozen cards — far more than he had initially anticipated.

“But everyone would ask me, ‘Where’s the deck? Do you have a deck?’ and I’d say, ‘No way, that’s like 80 cards. I’m not going to do that … too much work,’” Hague said. “And then, you know, six months later … I have a deck.”

After printing the cards on T-shirts and a fine art paper called giclée, Hague began selling full decks for $50 and the major arcana cards for $20 online and at places around Albuquerque, such as Stranger Factory, to considerable success.

“Peter has a really strong narrative with the Robo Tarot series,” said Mikee Riggs, merchandise director of the Stranger Factory.
“The whole mystical and technical thing is a really cool amalgam. And his stuff is so hot it’s impossible to not sell,” he said.

A typical Tarot deck is made up of 78 cards and divided into two parts: the minor arcana, which consists of four suits (pentacles, swords, wands and cups) of 14 cards (ace through king).

The major arcana consists of 22 trump cards, such as The Fool.

Tarot decks were first created in the mid-15th century to play various card games, but today they’re primarily used by people seeking to define life’s mysteries.

The trump cards are traditionally rich with symbolism, and Hague — despite knowing very little about Tarot when he first began the project — learned what each card represented so he could incorporate appropriate elements into his card designs.

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“Sometimes it’s very literal and silly,” Hague said. “The Lovers is a robot holding a nut and a bolt … like getting ready to put them together. But the Hierophant is a Pope robot that’s bringing the gospel of the ‘Almighty Battery’ to the masses … and that design ties into more of the traditional card’s meaning.”

The Robo Tarot’s minor arcana cards are also thematically robotic, but retain some of their original identity: The pentacles are pentagram-engraved gears, the wands are electrical fuses, the cups are oil funnels and the swords are screwdrivers.

“I was thinking of a weapon that could dismantle a robot and figured a screwdriver was a pretty good way to go,” Hague said.

Hague, 34, grew up in a strict religious household where practices such as Tarot were considered taboo. But with Robo Tarot, as well as Hague’s other projects, he said his art style has deviated from his upbringing. Hague calls himself “a big nerd at heart” and cites video games, anime and comic books as his primary influences growing up and becoming an artist.

“It’s one of those cliché stories, but it started as a competition against my cousin who was really awesome at drawing … and it kind of evolved from there,” Hague said. “The animated film ‘Akira’ changed my life, and that’s a cliché term too, but it really did.

The subject and content matter were horrific but incredible, and the quality of the animation still holds up today … in a lot of ways it opened my eyes to what I could potentially do with my art.”

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