Hull 52

This project started when I saw an advert on Facebook asking for artists from Hull to volunteer their services for charity. The idea was for each artists to design a single card each so that 52 artists would create an entire deck of playing cards. I submitted my work and was chosen to participate. Though given the option I had no particular card in mind so I was assigned one at random, the 2 of spades.

I began by researching where playing cards came from and what they represent. This journal taught me about the tarot deck and the role it played.

When I started out sketching out random ideas I focused on the idea of the 2 the most. Trying to find an interesting composition that I could take further. I also looked into the ‘2’ for each of the tarot suits and got very interested in the 2 of Swords, which is the originator of the 2 of spades. I started out making designs similar to the famous 2 of swords design by Pamela Colman Smith. However I soon started changing the idea around by having different figures holding 2 swords. I liked the direct where this was heading so I began doing research into dual wielded weapons from across history and sketching out these fighters from references, seeing if any in particular looked visually interesting enough to take further onto a further development stage.

During the stage I continued my new technique of colouring my illustrations with watercolour, ink and whiteout which I think looks really effective. After looking at all the sketches I decided to continue further with sketches of Japanese samurai, Chinese hook-sword users, Old west cowboys and ancient roman Gladiators. From here I was looking for a strong composition that I could take forward.

I ended up going with the cowboy designs as I found them to look really interesting with my composition, as such after I found a design I liked I began experimenting with colour. I wanted the card to be very vibrant and colourful, using lots of unexpected colours for things, much like Hirohiko Ariki’s artwork. Additionally I decided that I wanted to make the card as pixel art, as firstly it would help my work stand out and look unique and secondarily I felt like it is what the people behind the project chose me for.

Now this design was ready to be created digitally however as I need more work to complete the project I decided that I would do a 2 of each suit. With spades representing warfare, Diamonds represent powerful figures, hearts representing medicine and clubs representing the working class labourers. After sketching out a few ideas I had a design for each that I was happy with, that also showed a sense of history due to the disparate time zones they are from. When creating this designs I tried a new approach where instead of using ink I use black watercolour which gives a softer, less harsh transition that I like.

Now that it comes to finishing them as pixel art, I uploaded them onto my ipad and worked on them, mainly focusing on creating a legible image and creating an interesting colour scheme. I decided to have each character inside a border of the suit that he was from.

I also decided to experiment with bead art as many pixel artists make a living doing. Here they take what is generally a toy for children but are ideal for creating pixel sprites that can look great.

As such I wanted to try this for myself, firstly I created one based off of one of my fighting games characters though as it had to be scaled down it lost readability and didn’t work out too well. However as my cards were smaller I could work at a one to one scale and it turned out perfectly. Definitely something i may pursue further.




Overall I am very pleased with how well this project turned out, I love each of my designs and feel like they work well separately as well as together. however each of my cards have flaws that I had to overcome. For the priest card it took me a lot of working on the robes to get to the point that it was visually recognisable, additionally as the cowboy had already set the standard for the pixel rate it proved too small to create a face which I don’t know if it works to its benefit of detriment. For the surgery card I found it very difficult to actually depict the operation though I feel i succeeded in the end, I’m very pleased with the colour scheme for that image as I wanted it to look dirty, as it was based off of a Korean war Mash unit. For the farmer image it took me a while to work on the figure for the same reason as the priest, low pixel rate. Though I think I got that resolved and I really like the vibrant hues in this image. Another hurdle with this image was the strange shape due to it being based around the club emblem.  Finally for the cowboy image I only realised after submitting the image that I had made a few mistakes that were too late to be amended. This really upset me and will stick with me as a reminder to always triple check work before it is submitted to a client. Overall though I am very satisfied with this project and feel like my visual style is really coming together. On aspect I have to consider now for exhibiting is whether they would look better as individual images or as a collection of four. I feel the grouping of 4 will be better as the themes should hopefully be more obvious. It could be fun to continue this project as a personal project. Perhaps creating 1 each year until I have a full deck.

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