Interview with Nakisha VanderHoeven


Find out more about Nakisha VanderHoeven and her artwork on her blog,

By Terri C.

Nakisha VanderHoeven is a Seattle artist and creator of The Rabbit Tarot, which we ran across looking for something seasonal for this issue.  Because of her longtime, acclaimed animal artwork, especially with rabbits, she is also known as "The American Beatrix Potter," and her work is shown in galleries in the Seattle area.  Terri C., who lives in the Puget Sound area, volunteered to interview her for this issue of Tarot Reflections. - Ed. 

TR:  When did you start reading Tarot and would you share some of your experiences?

Nakisha:  I purchased my Maddonni deck when I was 19, and read from it until last year when I found the world was missing.  I had notes written all over the card faces of the deck, which some tarot collectors may cringe at, but they helped me learn and interpret the cards over the years.  Since publishing and using the Rabbit Tarot I have found some surprising things about the deck, even though I was the one who created it. For example, sometimes, all the Dutch rabbits will group together in a meaningful way, which I did not even think about when I created the deck.

TR:  Would you share your best Tarot reading tip?

NV:  Online is a great place to get help with the Tarot.  I didn't have that connection to the other readers out there when I first started learning. As far as reading the cards themselves, I think it's important to have a personal connection to the deck and images, sometimes the written description of what the card means doesn't quite work or feel right. Trust your instincts.

TR:  When and how did you first discover your talent as an artist?

NV:  My earliest memory is of drawing. My dad is an artist, and we were on a plane, he drew a horse and I drew one too, which he remarked was much better than his. Growing up I was always drawing and making things, it was pretty hard wired in me.

TR:  As an artist, what inspired you to create your own deck?

NV:  Well, I had been reading from the same tarot deck over 20 years (the Maddonni Tarot), and working on several illustrative projects including the character of the Little White Rabbit. I discovered that I was missing my world card from my Maddonni deck, and it seemed a natural progression to recreate the world of the tarot using the Little White Rabbit.

TR:  Tell us about the process you used to create the artwork for this Tarot?

NV:  Each image is a unique watercolor painting. I started with the major arcana, and when that was completed, I felt confidant I could do the entire deck. It was a personal challenge, and took me about 8 months to paint, then a couple months getting the images print ready.

TR: You seem to feel a strong bond to Rabbits, especially the Dutch Rabbit, can you explain your fascination?

NV:  It's a natural progression. I have always painted animals, mostly dogs, cats and horses. For an all too brief time I had a Netherland Dwarf house rabbit, and that really opened my eyes to what amazing, funny and really mischievous characters rabbits can be. About 4 years ago I was painting a simple seascape and thought "it needs something there", so I made a little red boat, and in that boat I found a little white rabbit. That painting sold so quickly, and I had my customers asking for more rabbits. The character of the Little White Rabbit evolved and continues to appear in my work.  Dutch rabbits are just elegant! It's as if they are always dressed up in formal attire.

TR:  Your deck really does not follow the traditional RWS model outside of the Major Arcana, when looking at the Minors in some cases, you followed closely to RWS, but in others (ie. 9’s and 2’s), they are vastly different, how did you come up with your interpretations of the Minors?

NV:  Well, a lot of the interpretations are based on my use of the Maddonni over the years, which does not have illustrated minors. It was a bit of naivete on my part, I just used imagery that made the most sense from my experience with the individual cards rather than relying on other visual interpretations.

TR:  Each of the Kings and Queens have a little blue globe within the image, is that a smaller version of your “World” or is it something else?

NV:  I don't have a specific interpretation of this globe, other than I used it as a visual symbol for the royal cards. It's deliberately left up the the reader to decide the meaning :)

TR:  What is your favorite image from your deck?

NV:  Probably the Knight of Sticks, he's so hopeful. My favorite Major is Strength, which I tend to pull a lot in my own readings.

TR:  What led you to go the self-publishing route?

NV:  I did contact a few of the big publishers but they felt it was too much of a "niche within a niche" market for them. Now I am glad I went the self-publishing route, since I didn't have to wait years to see the deck published.

TR:  How did you feel about self-publishing and would you recommend it to others?

NV:  There are good and bad things about self-publishing.  The cost up front is a major setback, but there are companies now that will print small batches. Self-publishing is a good way to test the deck, refine it and improve upon it, I learned a lot by self-publishing.  The only thing that is really difficult with self-publishing, is distribution.  If it's your goal to sell a lot of decks, you really either have to have a strong web presence or the ability to get your deck in as many stores as possible.  I was fortunate to have a background in web design and a successful on line store already where I could market the deck.  The best thing about self-publishing is the one on one contact with the customer who buys and uses the deck.

TR:  Where can our readers see more of your work?

NV:  My website, I also show in a few places in Seattle (listed on my website

TR:  Do you have any upcoming events or projects that you would like to let our readers know about?

NV: I am working on a new printing of the Rabbit Tarot that will be slightly different from the version available now. I am also working on a children's book I hope to self publish later this year, about the Little White Rabbit.

TR:  Is there anything else that you would like to add?

NV:  I love hearing about people's reactions to the deck, it's been humbling and illuminating. I am so pleased with the responses that I have received, it was much more than I had dreamed when I first started creating the deck.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2010

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