"Certainly, the history of my life and the works of art which have especially enriched it is precisely that: the depiction or incantation of a handful of metaphors whose splendor rests upon their intonation." - Michael Ayrton
(The Mary-el Tarot, Marie White)
It feels pretty loaded, doesn't it, to discuss the epic topic of tarot and art? Now, I don't mean the art of reading cards (which is a universe unto itself) but the real, tangible, actual art used to create a deck of cards.
You could safely say I am a tarot and oracle deck collector. I have a fair number of decks that span a variety of artistic styles. Someone recently asked of me, incredulously, "You buy decks just because they look pretty?" Yes. Yes I do. And though, from a collector's standpoint, that is reason enough, there's actually other reasons to buy tarot for its art, which extend beyond their monetary or aesthetic value.
Tarot, traditionally, is a very defined system, with defined imagery and defined interpretations of that imagery. People learn tarot (usually) around this system, so are not always called to care how the art speaks to us or what it has to say, beyond its traditional meanings. Some, however, read tarot intuitively, by drawing inspiration from the imagery, the embedded metaphor and symbolism, and the story each artist is trying to tell. Which (and I promise it's not blasphemy) does not always coincide with tradition.
Neither approach to tarot, in my opinion, is right or wrong. The traditional art and symbolism and definition has its place. And unconventional tarot has its place. The joy is in the journey towards discovering what those places are, how we inhabit them and interact within those spaces and what we can learn from these interactions.
The art of tarot is immense and intense. It can move hearts. It can pull at the psyche until we fall into the shadows and roll around in their meaning. I am not moved in this way by conventional imagery. I am not pulled into the Rider-Waite story. My heart doesn't lie in those cards. But hand me the Mary-el, the Wild Unknown or Prisma Visions tarot, and I fall in love with the story these cards attempt to share. I fall into their meaning and wrap myself up in the character and voice and translate that voice into a cohesive idea.
So, if you think it's pretty. Use it. Don't let anyone tell you that you're required to adhere to tradition. Learn tradition then break all the rules. You're allowed. You're allowed to enjoy the art of tarot. You're allowed to love one image more than others. You are allowed to create and foster your own relationship with tarot on your own terms.
Just enjoy it. Enjoy the journey and art and never mind the rest.