Hand-painted by fantasy illustrator Wylie Beckert, Wicked Kingdom is an art-rich deck of playing cards set in a dark fantasy world and populated by a cast of strange and complex characters. Each character has a personality, a backstory... and a hidden agenda.
This gorgeous deck features insanely detailed, hand-drawn artwork with a dark fantasy flair. Custom-designed subtle one-way card backs, hand-drawn pips, elegantly watermarked number cards, and dual-identity face cards make for an art-rich playing card deck for cardists, collectors, and fans of the fantasy genre.
We reached out to Wylie and had a quick chat about her design background, the inspiration & design process behind the Wicked Kingdom and her thoughts on the support from the playing card community.
Can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
I'm an illustrator working mainly in the sci-fi/fantasy genre; I love creating images that tell a story. It's always been a challenge to find commercial applications for my work - whimsical, stylized, and traditionally painted - in an industry that tends to favor photorealism and a slick digital finish. As a result, over the past few years, I've gravitated more and more towards creating personal work and building my own projects. Wicked Kingdom is my first large-scale personal project; it was an opportunity to stop trying to fit the square peg of my art into the round hole of commercial work and instead carve out a niche of my own.
What is your inspiration behind the Wicked Kingdom Playing Cards? How did you come up with the idea?
I started the Wicked Kingdom project because I wanted to use card art - a medium that is typically more decorative than illustrative - to tell a story. I thought that the classic two-way court cards would be a perfect opportunity to explore multiple facets of each character's identity, and to play those opposing halves against each other to build a backstory for each card. There are essentially two faces of each character: a "light" side, and a "dark" side - although there is a great deal of overlap between the two!
Talk to us a bit about going from the first draft to the final version. How did you get to this finished product?
Before I even started sketching, I explored the concept for each card in writing: idea maps, random word associations, and pages and pages of circuitous scribblings. Once I'd hit on one possible identity for a character - for example, the gardener who would become the King of Spades - I had to ferret out a second, interrelated yet opposing concept for the reverse of the card (in this case, a gravedigger!)
From there, I would begin to design the visuals for my character - figuring out what elements would best tell the story, and sketching out how to arrange it all visually. My initial sketches were extremely rough; through several stages of drawing, I refined my rough concepts into polished, detailed pencil drawings ready for layers of ink, watercolor, and oil paint.
Skipping the digital tools and creating each card in traditional media was an extremely time-intensive process, but I feel like it added an extra depth to the images that would be hard to achieve digitally. I had the wherewithal to document the process for each card in photos and written notes; I've assembled this documentation into mini art tutorials to include in the Kickstarter campaign for the deck (the King of Spades process can be found here.
What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
When I realized that the stories I was building for each card could be more than standalone - I could weave them together to create a larger narrative for each suit, and hint at an overarching storyline for the entire deck. Once I had this breakthrough, the brainstorming stage for each card became even more intense and the resulting images became more and more interesting.
From the project page, what are a few of your favorite reward levels and why?
My #1 favorite reward is the deck itself. It was a daunting but exciting process to set aside my finished artwork and tackle all the design work that went into the deck - card layouts, tuck design, lettering - even the pips had to fit the painstakingly detailed, hand-painted aesthetic of the deck. After going to such great lengths to make sure everything fit together perfectly, I can't wait to see it all come together in the finished deck.
A close second is the Postcard Print Pack - a fun little set of postcard-sized prints featuring the artwork on one side, and the character's backstory on the other. Since the narrative element was such a huge part of building the deck, I wanted to make sure backers could enjoy the written aspect of the cards along with the art.
We’ve been following Wicked Kingdom Playing Cards for awhile in the forums. What do you think of the playing card community in terms of the feedback and support that you’ve been getting so far? Also, can we expect to see more card designs from you in the future?
I'm really thrilled to have come across the playing card community while building this deck - the amount of knowledge and support to be found in it is enormous. It can sometimes be a challenge to incorporate all the feedback you get into a design - different people want different things out of a card deck, and often one piece of advice will be at odds with another.
In the end, I think I found a balance that did justice to both my own vision and the preferences of the playing card community. A few small but significant improvements to the deck (such as the elaborate design of the card back) can be credited directly to help I got in the forums! And yes, there will definitely be more card decks in my future! I suspect I'll need a break after the Kickstarter, but I'm already starting to get ideas for Round 2...
Finally, what are your favorite playing cards?
There are so many visually striking decks out there that it's impossible to pick one. The Wicked Kingdom deck definitely drew a lot of inspiration from tarot cards, with their narrative component, visual symbolism, and multiple levels of meaning. The Rider-Waite deck, while rather unspectacular art-wise, was on my mind a lot as I designed my own concepts.
Thank you for your time Wylie and congratulations on hitting the funding goal! If you like what you’ve read here and want to support the Wicked Kingdom Playing Cards (currently 173% funded), you can find it on Kickstarter here.
This deck will be printed by the USPCC. Pledge starts from $15 and there are multiple add-ons available such as postcard print pack, limited edition print set and uncut sheet.