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Brett A. Jones
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Playing Cards

The New Standards Project

It seemed to me the perfect subject matter. Playing cards, for the most part, hadn’t changed in 500 years. The simple pictures produced by woodblock printing in those early workshops of the 15th century had been carried over to the modern printing process. While various card houses like Fournier, Piatnik or USPCC have produced their own face cards, each distinguishable in detail and style, all of the images are represented as woodblock style icons composed of simple outlines and angular geometric patterns.

But when we look at the playing card itself, we see a rich and fascinating subject matter. These are characters from an age when brutality rather than diplomacy beat out its ugly track through such crude instruments as naked iron blades and face-breaking halberds.

Malevolent kings like Henry VIII ruled the throne, and there was much bloodshed, intrigue and torture. But in those days, coins really were made of gold, and Kings really did live in splendour. This is an era that was rich in artefacts. Gold was worked by the finest artisans, and Celtic weaponry was forged over open flames.

All of these things fascinate people because they are beautiful instruments in themselves, and carry the intrigue of an iniquitous past. Who isn’t fascinated to look at the metallurgy and weaponry of the sixteenth century, to see the past galvanized in iron and steel, to look upon gold crowns encrusted with shiny stones.

It is a subject matter that sits right beside our fascination of all things archaic. And, it lends itself so well to the articulation of detail and style.

The idea wasn’t to change the playing card. Nothing needed to be added that wasn’t already there. And all the elements had already been assigned to their places long ago. There was no reason to change things around when each piece would make a spectacular subject for a detailed drawing no matter where it was placed.

One thing masters like Hewson, De La Rue and Samuel Hart did was preserve the pattern as it was. There’s no doubt that changes did occur over the centuries. But these all added to the inauspicious semblance of the English pattern itself, as errors were duplicated over time, and as one element gradually disappeared in favour of another.

As inadvertent and incongruous as the journey was, it gave rise to a particular pattern – The Standard English Court Card.

It was this pattern which had survived, and it was this pattern which had been faithfully duplicated over time. And it was in this way that the Standard English Court Card founds its preservation as a cultural design icon.

The idea wasn’t to change the playing card, but to preserve it for what it was. As you will see, if you look past the simple outlines to the objects themselves, all the fascinating detail just beckons the imagination of a highly skilled artist.

All that needed to be done was to explore them with your imagination, and draw what comes out the other side.

In March, 2008, Brett A. Jones agreed that the personages of the Royal Household could make very interesting subjects and provide a rich avenue through which to explore his artistic ability. With his acceptance of the commission, the New Standards Project was born.

To see the finished renderings of these playing cards, visit the WHITEKNUCKLE GALLERY

Brett A. Jones

Brett A. Jones was born in Queensland, Australia in 1966. He began art classes learning drawing and oil painting when he was 10. He has worked with various mediums throughout his life, has won many art shows, and has received wide acclaim for his works in graphite and oil. He currently lives in Hervey Bay, Queensland where he works from his studio, Sea Of Pain Fine Art Productions. Read More

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