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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Jack Brutus Penny of the Culturae Animalis Art Deck


The Culturae Animalis art playing cards is a deck of highly detailed, hand-drawn, luxury art playing cards with a beautiful message of cultural respect and environmental and animal protection currently funding on Kickstarter. This unique illustrated deck by Jack Brutus Penny took over six months, with every card, including all pip cards, having its own unique design bleeding to the edge.

Lots of creativity has gone into the deck and the artwork employs the imagery of animals, delivering a powerful and thought-provoking narrative. The theme is consistent across all cards, sticking to the black, white and red colors. Last week, we caught up with Jack to talk about his design background, the inspiration behind the Culturae Animalis art deck, the design evolution of the deck and future plans.


For those of us who don’t know, can you tell us about yourself and what is your design background?
I am a nonsense writer and illustrator, meaning I use spoken and visual language to play with our interpretation of its meaning. I consider all my work to be in the same universe, from my In Truth Stories publications on how animals came to be the way they are, and Riddle Me This original conundrum collections, to my illustrated animal series, Japanese clay mugs, men’s accessories and more.

I have years of experience as a freelance artist, and before that various internships and placements in design studios. But I decided to open my own studio/publishing house called JBPPublishing and focus my attention on the creative worlds swimming through a gateway whimsical place, I call Clocktown.


Can you describe the Calturae Animalis Art Playing Cards and why you’re passionate about it?
Culturae Animalis is a deck of art playing cards in which every single card has a detailed illustration, each telling its own story. The suits provide windows into four different realms inspired by four different historical cultures and animals.

It’s as illogical to say why I’m passionate about my work as is to say why I’m passionate about myself - because it’s an extension of me. It shows the curious world of words and images that pass through our minds as we let them wander. But I can say that I’m passionate about my causes. I feel strongly about cultural acceptance, about the environment, and about animal welfare. Culturae Animalis, in its design, its production, and its application, exemplifies these passions.


Walk us through the process you took to design this unique deck. How did you come out with the idea and how did you get to this finished product? 
Well my cats themed in Japanese Edo period ukiyoe (woodblock prints) was a series I’d worked on for years before starting the deck. The series had expanded into different civilisations and I decided to collect them into a deck of gorgeous playing cards with details never seen before in the genre, partly because I’m a keen social card player, and partly because suits epitomise the hierarchy of a classic culture.

Each card was designed from scratch to reference the culture, the animal, the number (for instance the 8 of diamonds includes an octopus - though other number connections are more obtuse), and even relate between the suits. The planning and research, composing and illustrating of the deck took me over 6 months.


How did you get feedback? 
Because I have a community of followers on Instagram (@jack_brutus_penny) based on my animal illustrations - I am constantly getting feedback on design preferences and more popular themes. But I come from an artistic/creative background over a commercial/product design background - meaning I try to balance what feedback I gather with my visual inspirations and the message I want to tell.

As the campaign began I set out to involved my community in the whole process, constantly asking what they wanted to see and creating pieces based on their ideas but that still managed to surprise and enchant. So, in the end, Culturae Animalis art playing cards have a significant sense of the community within them.


What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
As with all my work, there is a lot to ‘discover’. I always hide details, some that can be found with a second or third look, some that will take hundreds until you glance while daydreaming and notice a message concealed across the background waves. I like how the aces subtly incorporate the suit marks into their compositional shapes. But perhaps the design feature I’m most proud of is the court cards.

Because each card had its own intricate detail I needed something to make the court cards more unique and impressive. In deciding to make the court cards a seamless panorama divided into a triptych, it allowed them to stand alone as a powerful set and added the impact I wanted to collect a court run as you see them line up in your hand.

What’s next? Can we expect more deck designs in the future?
I’m working on a full nonsense novel about a Japanese girl and English boy lost in their own ‘Wonderland’, in which a game is also heavily featured and I intend to make into a physical tabletop itself. What’s more, the book itself is written intently to be converted to video game media (think Alice and Oliver Twist in the world of The Witcher), so there are lots of projects on the go. But yes, I intend to continue my work in the playing cards field, to hone what I’ve learned, become stronger with my community, and bring more projects that excite the eyes in ways playing card designers without my eclectic, linguistically artistic approach may never have considered.


Finally, what are your favorite playing cards? 
So I am no cardist, no magician, not even a collector. I’m a professional creative of sorts, who also grew up playing kings, rummy, whist and betting pennies with his grandmother. I love playing cards but my favorite deck is any that is sumptuous to the eyes as I hold them with a cup of tea and a person I care about across the table.

That is why I created this deck to be luscious, to be art in itself, and collectible for that reason, but also for the casual player. I want to bring printing to a top tier printer (EPCC), using environmental processes (some they specially sourced for this deck), and the highest quality card stock - so that the (second) deck you get to open and use, can be enjoyed for a long time.

Thank you for your time Jack and congratulations on hitting the funding goal! 


The Culturae Animalis art Playing Cards just hit one of its stretched goals and the deck will be printed by Expert Playing Card Co. Pledge starts from $19 on Kickstarter.

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Jack Brutus Penny of the Culturae Animalis Art Deck Reviewed by Ivan on 8/21/2019 Rating: 5

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