Coming late to the 78tarot project, I had the choice of two cards. I glanced at the meanings of each of them, and the 3 of pentacles made me smile. Briefly, the card is about projects. And I? Love projects.
More specifically, the card is about bringing a complex project to completion, about leadership, teamwork, planning, and competency. It makes suggestions about the need to rely on others when appropriate, and to take pride in the hard work that will bring results. The suit of Pentacles, sometimes alternately called the Coins, is associated with the element of earth.
Traditionally imagery for this card shows an apprentice (a laborer, in some interpretations) in a cathedral with two older men holding architectural plans, listening to him intently. The three pentacles are part of the arch above them, and the cathedral is in a stage of being finished. Alternate versions of this card show a master craftsman completing his work, usually carving into stone, or something with permanence.
As I sat down to sketch, I kept several things in mind. I didn't want to stick to merely a reimagination of the Rider Waite version, but I wanted to keep some of the sense of grandeur from the original setting, so I kept the arching composition. Rather than make the pentacles part of an arch, I turned them into lights - at first I thought the chandeliers would be crystal, then I thought they might be something organic based on the earth element, but as I sketched, I wanted to capture a little hint of steampunk, so I made big gear settings with chains.
I wanted to keep a trio of people in it, as well (because I couldn't do anything the easy way), and I wanted them to show levels of mastery - an apprentice, a laborer, and a master craftsman. It was important to me to show them assisting each other, because the card is so strongly about cooperation with others, so I had one of them holding a ladder for the other, and I showed them all working on different aspects of the project. The old woman in the foreground is handling plans and drafting tools, wearing robes that indicate status. The laborer has a box of hand tools, is dressed for physical work and is wearing practical clothing. He is clearly in the prime of his life. The young apprentice reaches high above himself, holding the delicate globe and dressed in modest garb. He wears a pouch with scrolls to show that he is learning and studying.
The vinework up the arches is intended to echo the element of earth, and the deck of cards on the table by the plans is not an accident; it is meant to represent the 78tarot project itself! The 3 of pentacles is about bringing a project into its final stages through teamwork, and leadership, and ambitious plans that couldn't come to fruition without hard work and cooperation.
This card is part of the 78 Tarot project. You can get a copy of the deck - plus awesome extras! - through our Kickstarter! Some of the limited packages are sold out, and several others are disappearing fast!