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Book cover fantasy illustrator talks with art students at Boiling Springs High S

BOILING SPRINGS, Pa. -- A Shippensburg-area book cover illustrator and fantasy artist unexpectedly discovered his future in tarot cards.

Timothy Lantz, book cover illustrator, speaks to Boiling Springs High School art students in Pamela Wellington's class.
Jeffrey B. Roth

Altoona native, Timothy Lantz, who holds degrees in both communications and art education from Penn State University, has always enjoyed drawing. In October 2003, Lantz came across a tarot card deck and decided he could do a better job illustrating a deck than the one he found. On a whim, he drew one of the major arcana cards.

“I decided to share the card with online friends,” said Lantz, who is a full-time illustrator and graphic artist, whose work has graced the covers of ACE/Penguin Books, Bantam, Juno Books, EDGE Books, AEG, Wildside Press and has appeared in DC Comics. “Before long people began asking 'where's the next card?' I did three, (The Moon, The Sun and The Tower), of 78 cards without having a plan. The cards developed a following online.”

Lantz recently shared his expertise with Boiling Springs senior high school art teacher, Pamela Wellington's students. The program was the third in a series of graphic novel and comic book illustrators to talk with students in Wellington's classes.

Nationally known graphic novel author and illustrator, Mark Wheatley, who lives near Westminster, Md., was the first artist/illustrator to talk with Wellington's students. Wellington teaches art history, drawing and cartooning.

By the time Lantz had completed about five cards, some of his online friends had obtained the submission guidelines of three major tarot card producers. They emailed submission forms to Lantz and encouraged him to submit the cards he designed to see if the companies were interested.

“I had to know if I was as good as I thought,” Lantz said. “Within a couple of hours of submitting the cards to the art director at U.S. Games, the president of the company responded by sending me a contract, an advance and a due date of a year to complete the deck.”

Lantz researched well-known examples of tarot deck illustrations. He also poured through tarot deck interpretations from various sources, including those of Rider-Waite and of Aleister Crowley, a 20th Century English occultist, ceremonial magician, novelist, poet and painter, who founded the religion and philosophy of Thelema. From that research, he illustrated the cards and wrote the accompanying book.

“It became the best-selling deck for U.S. Games from 2005-2006 and is still in print,” Lantz said. “It's sold all over the world. I get interesting emails, which I can't read, from all over the world from places such as Thailand, which is fun.”

Lantz began setting up booths at comic cons in Baltimore, Philadelphia, etc., where he sold the cards. The conventions, Lantz told the students, allowed him to meet and get to know other artists. At some point during that time, someone from Prime Books, an international science fiction and fantasy publisher, came across Lantz' “The Archeon Tarot” deck.

A representative from Prime Books contacted Lantz and told him that the company would like to use one of illustrations on the tarot deck as a book cover. Lantz worked out a deal to allow them to use the card art. About three weeks later, Prime contacted Lantz again asking if he was interested in doing an original cover for a book.

“I did that and it went well,” Lantz said. “A couple of weeks later, I did another one; then another one. Around 2007, I had done about a half dozen covers for Prime, when the company started a subsidiary division – Juno Books, which was specifically targeted to female readers. Over the next two years, I did all but two covers for Juno Books.”

Lantz told students that his illustrations are based on various cultural mythological traditions, ranging from classic western mythologies from the Greeks and Celts, to myths of American Indians, Asian and others. Lantz has created covers for Sherlock Holmes tales, urban fantasy, crime and romance. As his work drew the attention of other book publishers, Lantz was commissioned to do cover illustrations by Harlequin's imprint – Luna Books; and covers for Edge, a Canadian publisher.

Lantz told students that his work combines both digital photography and illustration – done exclusively on computers. Popular with female readers, Lantz' work has been described as “beautiful melancholy.”

Stressing to the students the importance of being widely read in the classics and other literature genres, Lantz, who considers his work to be reminiscent of symbolist painters, such as Maxfield Parrish, told the students it was important to learn the basic foundations of art and to study the styles of artists from various cultures and from different periods of history. He advised students to pursue degrees at art institutions or liberal art universities.

From the best of fantasy fiction and sci-fi to 1930s crime fiction and comic books, Lantz’s work has been described as bold and edgy. Lantz said he uses art to tell a story. His work “encompasses themes of mystery, romanticism, tragedy and aspiration.”

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