Since the dawn of time humans have looked up at the stars and connected the dots, drawing characters out of nebulous chaos. Curling bull horns, a lion’s mane, water pouring out of a jug, cosmic twins—the 12 signs of the zodiac drift through the constellations like a great comic in the sky, an elusive narrative from which astrologers read their daily predictions. Ever since these great symbols were first envisioned, humans have put pen to paper in their honor, drawing cryptic wheels and the zodiac’s scales, crab claws, and watery mountain goats to accompany the predictions of knowing clairvoyants.
Last week, NASA released information proving there are in fact 13 zodiac signs. In celebration of this 13th sign—snake wielding Ophiuchus—we look at unexpected examples of contemporary zodiacs and speak to the illustrators behind them about their design process and their surrender to cosmic guidance.
Cachete Jack’s Nuria Bellver and Raquel Fanjul: Moon and sun zodiac for Elle Magazine
“We love astrology and so were very excited about this brief. We often talk about the differences between the signs, and enjoy making a game out of thinking how the characteristics associated with a star sign correspond with friends. It’s actually quite normal for us to try and figure out the horoscope of someone when we first meet them, too!
“For Elle, we decided to take inspiration from our friends, and personify each zodiac sign based on people that we knew. We’re both winter signs: Capricorn and Aquarius. These were the hardest to illustrate. Of course you can feel it when you draw your own sign, you want it somehow say something about you.”
Adam Higton, Cosmic sounds zodiac for Rough Trade Magazine
“I was approached by my buddy, editor Liv Siddall. She had an amazing idea to ask a different musician to foretell everyone’s horoscope each issue. After trying out some different formats, she decided to ask different musicians to predict the whole zodiac and then this gets presented over a double page spread.
“Normally Liv will send me the edited text, which I’ll print out, and then I’ll put on a record (something like The Zodiac’s Cosmic Sounds or David Cain’s March) and I’ll sit on the floor at home or lie on the bed and doodle things relevant to the text. I love working on these because it helps me loosen a little bit—the drawings are sketchy and I don’t use a light box.
“I’ll work on A4 sheets of paper, and when I get a drawing I like I’ll cut round it and put it to one side. Then I’ll mess around with the cut outs and see how they work together. The important thing is for the article to look fun and strange, and a bit rough around the edges.
“In a way, this is the perfect brief for me because I have a passion for music and for the occult. I guess I was well seasoned for this particular project—last year I illustrated a Ouija board for Beach Gallery in London. I’ve also worked for the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, and I’ve made a latch-hook rug of a green tree face to represent ‘Jack o’ the Green’ for an exhibition at Pick Me Up.”
Lauren Doughty, Horoscope for Fruitlands Zine
“Horoscopes are equivocal things—miniature ambiguous narratives. They envision various mind states and emotions we might be feeling; be that elation, enthusiasm, spontaneity, lust, guilt, shame, frustration, and try to act as some guidance to navigate the mostly random events which tie together to form our day-to-day lives.
“I kept my approach to the brief simple and read each horoscope a few times with these thoughts in mind, responding with straight, candid image-making. These are fleeting moments and daft situations open to everyone’s interpretation.
“I’ve not looked at horoscope illustrations too closely, although I know that most of the time they are quite clear reimagined versions of the zodiac, following the characteristics and semiotics of that sign. It can be quite traditional. It was fun to try and approach the way they are communicated visually from a slightly different angle.”
Sac Magique, Summer beach zodiac for Elle Italia
“This project was pretty challenging on a number of levels. First, the layout was so complicated: each image had to carry across three pages—a double spread and a single side. Second, there was the schedule; I had one day per image, and the level of detail meant I was pushed to my limit. There was no time for fine-tuning or corrections, it was just BOSH! I had to cut out my usual sketching stages and go straight from loose line sketch to final, which I think worked out well. Out of the 12, I’m only dissatisfied with four.
“I quickly settled on the idea of the star signs on the beach interacting with women beach-goers. I wanted to gently make fun of the attributes of the signs, so I depicted Taurus the macho bull being buried in the sand by kids.”