In the late 1800’s, French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - one of the most well -known painters of the Post-Impressionist period - produced some of the most elegant and provocative images of the Paris lifestyle of that era. His work has an unmistakable style all its own and the “Everyman” is probably most familiar with his works inspired by the French cabaret Moulin Rouge, which have been reproduced in poster and print editions for years.
Have you caught the connection? This month I had the opportunity to chat with Lotrek from Half Moon Playing Cards. In our early conversations I just had to ask where the moniker came from, I was pretty sure that wasn’t his legal name, and he shared that it was in homage to the French Painter and for now he enjoys the mystery of having an "Alter Ego".
Lotrek hails from Greece, a country with a long artistic history, glorious past and a somewhat-troubled present. While you may not see his heritage in his early works, there is no mistaking that he draws on a European sense of artistic inspiration in his more recent designs. Lotrek has studied art and has worked several years as a freelance illustrator and graphic artist.
In 2011, around the holiday season, he met Russ Stevens of RSVP Magic (Butterfly, Timeless, Dark Deco).
“I met Russ Stevens online in 2011 (it was Christmas time), when he was looking for an artist to design the "Timeless" deck and I was looking for alternatives to my freelance illustration work”
The work with RSVP immediately inspired Lotrek to such a high degree that he became obsessed with Playing Cards. That inspiration became evident to Russ Stevens, who - with some minor guidelines - gave Lotrek complete creative freedom with his work. Timeless was a very successful project and quickly became one of RSVP’s biggest sellers. His success with RSVP continued with the follow up to Timeless, Butterfly
“I found this theme strange for a deck of playing cards and finally I decided to make the courts as humans with Butterfly wings. This was an idea used by art nouveau artists, so the whole deck has this art nouveau feeling.”
Success didn’t go to his head and, much like the classic artists of eras long gone, Lotrek is driven by creativity above all else.
“My goals are rather personal and artistic rather than financial or commercial. I want to evolve as a designer with each new deck I produce. I want to push my work a bit further every time I get my pencil to draw, even if it’s just for a pip.”
The most interesting thing I learned from our conversation is that Lotrek really doesn’t have a strong tie to Playing Cards. He’s not a magician, although he would love to learn, he’s not a collector in the sense that we might assume. He has decks he’s been given from fellow designers and a few he feels are important to him, but he is definitely not what we would think of as a card aficionado.
“…but I love playing cards as an object. I can perfectly understand someone’s obsession with cards. I’m obsessed with designing them.”
With the release of his third deck – Venexiana – in 2013, Lotrek took the next logical step in his design career and started Half Moon Playing Cards. Since then he has devoted himself to playing card design work and has just finished a very successful Kickstarter campaign of United Cardists’ Annual Deck, Grotesque, which was inspired by ancient Roman decorative art and has some very unique and intricate design elements.
2014 holds some great offerings by Lotrek and Half Moon Playing Cards. With a scheduled “Part 2” to the Venexiana deck and a new, yet top secret project that will be announced sometime in September.
“…in September I’ll be launching a deck which I consider to be my most important (to me at least) until now. It requires a lot of research and I’ve been working on the idea for almost two years. I cannot reveal more about it yet though.”
Like many, I can’t wait to see what Lotrek will have to offer next. For now, he was kind enough to answer a few final questions for us:
What inspires your style when you produce a deck (or any art for that matter)?
Difficult to answer. Basically the style of the era my deck is referred to. But also my personal view on it.
Having a few successful decks under your belt, does it get easier or harder with each new project?
It gets easier and also it gets harder. It’s easier because with each deck a larger audience is built, but it also gets harder because each time, I want to produce a better deck than the previous. I don’t want to disappoint people who support me and also I want to satisfy myself, which is –believe me- the most difficult. I know that some of my decks will be more successful than others (financially speaking) but I don’t care about that. I’m not greedy, the only field where I want more and more is the creative field.
When developing a concept, is it difficult to keep the functionality of a deck, while still realizing your vision, design and customization?
I’d say that this is the challenge. I don’t forget that these are meant to be used by people to play with. For me, playing cards are not a showcase for extravagant design. So this limitation makes the designing process more interesting. How will I come up with a new style for the pips and indices while at the same time they’ll be easy to read? That’s the game.
As an Illustrator, where do you see the Playing Card industry headed?
Truly, I cannot predict. One thing is certain, that more and more interesting designs and artists will show up. Bad news for collectors’ pockets but good news for collectors’ hearts!
As with everyone else who has been nice enough to share some of their story, I want to thank Lotrek for his time and collaboration on this piece. Lotrek, much like his namesake, has a very unique style which brings very intricate designs as well as an almost classic artistic style to his playing card projects. If Timeless or Butterfly is missing from your collection, I would highly recommend them. They are still available in the marketplace.
You can keep up to date with all the latest Half Moon Playing Card projects by visiting Lotrek on his Facebook Page or visit the Half Moon Playing Cards site.
This exclusive 1-on-1 is written by Anthony Ingrassia for kardify. No part of this article can be reproduced without written permission from the author. You can check out Anthony's awesome collection at sparkzcollector.