February 2010


Halfway this month there was the meeting of the BEJC  in Brussels and as the weather conditions weren't too bad Joop went to attend that meeting. Somehow these Sunday morning meetings start early and arriving there at 8:15 AM means getting up at 5:00 for us. Saturdays are usually spend with friends, at our house or at theirs, and often they end after midnight. Miriam doesn't do well with a short sleep, so she often skips a BEJC meeting. But Joop enjoys seeing the Belgian collectors and he always comes back with good stories and a handful of decks.
The monthly flea market in Utrecht didn't bring any new decks this time, but a very nice antique Dutch bowl with a Jack of Clubs inside. We already have a similar bowl with a King of Hearts, so this was a nice addition. There should be 4 bowls in total, so there's two more to go: one with a Queen and one with an Ace.

So what did that other source of decks, the internet, bring us this month? On Ebay we were outbid on all the decks that we were interested in. On the Dutch auction site we did buy a few decks, but mostly playing card paraphernalia, like a very nice 1950's Russian "Matrouska" with a Joker on the outside and a King, Queen etc. inside. But there's more than just auction sites on the net. We stumbled upon an interesting Australian website, which advertised a newly released deck that we immediately liked. A few emails and a payment later, the decks were on their way to us and they reached us in time to win the monthly competition. 

So here are the cards that make the Deck of the Month this time...........

The deck was designed by Brett A. Jones, an Australian artist, who was born in Redcliffe, Queensland, in 1966. Although he was interested in drawing as a youngster and had followed art classes, his career initially started in engineering. In 1991, after an accident at work had left him with a broken wrist and permanent spinal damage, he returned to the arts. Later, referring to his painful injury, he started the Sea of Pain Fine Art Productions to market his artwork. "2B or not 2B" could be Brett's motto, as he prefers to do graphite work with a 2B pencil. However, for this deck his delicate and highly detailed designs were done in colour. 

Although the deck was printed in the USA by the USPCC, it was published earlier this month in Australia by WhiteKnuckle Cards as "New Standard Playing Cards". The "old" standard pattern, which is referred to here, is known among collectors as the Anglo-American or International pattern. And the deck has indeed some of the basic characteristics of that pattern, like the interwoven center design or the one-eyed Jack of Clubs etc. However, it also robs the King of Hearts of its nickname, "Suicide King", by showing the larger part of his weapon (here the historically correct battle axe from the Rouen pattern instead of the later used sword) and placing it behind his head. But that's probably the price to pay if you add a little depth to the usually flat design of the Anglo-American pattern.

Although in the original pattern only the Ace of Spades has a special design, in this deck all the Aces are embellished with intriguing patterns of lines. This feature returns in all the suit symbols too and....... each time in different shapes! Not only on the courts, but also on each single pip, each denomination in each suit has its unique pattern of lines within the shape of the suit symbol. No wonder it took Brett A. Jones some 5000 hours in almost two years to finish all the designs.

Each of the suits has its own colour.  The Spades have purple accents and the Clubs green ones. In the red suits the difference is more subtle. By adding dark lines in the Hearts suit the colour becomes a deeper red and by adding yellow lines in the Diamonds suit the overall colour turns more orange.

The two jokers have a similar design, set against a different coloured background. They are double-imaged, but the images are not the same. The only thing that they have in common is that both images are self-portraits of the artist. Beautifully intertwined are a Brett in control of the game and a Brett, who has lost it.
It seems only natural that the back has a design, that shows suit symbols in a maddening pattern of fine lines.

The deck consists of 52 cards, 2 jokers and a blank card.

The deck can be ordered at http://whiteknucklecards.com and more info about the artist can be found at http://seaofpain.com


In conclusion we can say that we're very happy with this beautiful  and detailed designed artist deck. But we doubt that it will become the new standard that the publisher hopes for. Brett A. Jones is not the first artist or designer that has a go at this pattern. It's because we show this deck here, otherwise it would have been in our "Anomalies of the International Pattern" xpo, where we show more than 80 different decks, of which a good number were designed by artists. Still, if it's not the new standard, it is certainly a great non-standard and collectable deck. And all the hours that the artist has spent on the designs are well reflected in the quality of his artwork........ a sincere "chapeau" for Brett.