Nine Lives Playing Cards – preview and update

The artwork for Nine Lives Illustrated Playing Cards is completed and the designs are now (most excitedly) in the hands of the printers… I am hoping to have them available on the website within a week or so… so stay tuned :)

My art projects do tend to be quite focussed and ‘head down’ during the finishing stages, which unfortunately means fewer updates & WIPs … To remedy the recent lack of posts, this post is an update and a pre-press-preview of the deck.

artwork by Annette Abolins

I have enjoyed working on this little deck, which combines the symbolism of Tarot and Playing cards. It has allowed me to further explore some of the artwork (Kings, Queens & Knights) from Nine Lives Tarot, while delving deeper into the fascinating history of Playing cards and Tarot.

Royal Artwork … Cards of the 4 Courts

The artwork for the deck began with the court cards from Nine Lives Tarot. Each character has been redrawn and mirrored (or reversed), while dressed to match their corresponding suit. Playing card symbols were introduced to the printed (painted) fabric, which naturally required approval from the royals… The colour scheme follows the emphasis I used on the suits in Nine Lives Tarot: Hearts/Clubs = Red, Clubs/Rods = Yellow, Diamonds/Pentacles = Green, Spades/Swords = Indigo.

Artwork by Annette AbolinsThe Knight, Queen & King of Hearts – connected to the suit of Cups

Artwork by Annette AbolinsThe  Knight, Queen & King of Clubs – connected to the suit of Rods/Wands

Artwork by Annette AbolinsThe Knight, Queen & King of Diamonds – connected to the suit of Pentacles

Artwork by Annette AbolinsThe Knight, Queen & King of Spades – connected to the suit of Swords

Aces, Card symbols and Back of cards

It is a fair assumption that the four playing card symbols are simple and almost generic in nature. One heart is the same as the next one, right? Well, once I started drawing these ever so simple symbols (first in pen, then scanning and enlarging them on the screen), simplicity as I knew it went out the window. I tweaked and redrew these symbols multiple times until I got to the point where I felt the four belonged together; different, yet speaking the same language :).

Artwork by Annette Abolins
The combined suit symbols of playing cards and tarot are incorporated in the illustrated Ace cards:

Artwork by Annette AbolinsThe four Aces in Nine Lives Playing Cards

The back of the cards incorporates playing card symbols and a visual reference to the name of the deck :)

Artwork by Annette Abolins

Some interesting things I’ve discovered about playing cards and their symbolism:

  • Playing cards (especially the French) were originally depicted with the same suits as the Tarot: Cups, Rods, Pentacles & Swords.
  • Some of the earliest suit symbols included a rich variety from flowers, bells, animals, shields… to birds, pennies and rings …
  • Early playing card decks included 4 court cards in each suit (same as the tarot).
  • For a long time, backs of cards were not printed – these blank backs became a useful source of paper; a canvas to pen love letters, coupons, notes … they were even used as currency.
  • The 15th century parliament in England banned card games on all days except the 12 days of Christmas.
  • Reversible court cards became popular after the 1750s – before this time the court cards were drawn in full figure.
  • From the 18th century, there are stories of mothers leaving half a playing card (often with a message), tucked into the swaddling of a baby or child they were forced to abandon. The mother would keep the other half of the card, hoping to return and identify her child once circumstances changed for the better.
  • Cartomancy – the use of playing cards for readings and divination – is commonly used to this day. The 52 cards closely relate to the minor arcana in tarot, where some readers incorporate jokers as specific or ‘wild cards’ from the major arcana.

The following lines on describe the world of playing cards better than I could hope to :)

Decks of playing cards are simultaneously simple and complex. They are small, easy to carry, and colorful. They connect with the fact that people love secrets. When playing a game, only you know your hand, so you hold a secret.  The thought that you will beat your opponents appeals to desires of control. The romantic interpretations of the cards have increased the mythology surrounding them. Cards can be used to connect friends, swindle enemies, and amaze strangers.  Cards can be whatever you want them to be.

Nine Lives Illustrated Playing coming very soon!

Thank you for visiting and take care!
Annette :)

1 thought on “Nine Lives Playing Cards – preview and update”

  1. That was so interesting; I doubt that I will ever be able to look at playing cards again in quite the same way. I LOVE your cards, and I am really looking forward to purchasing my own set/pack/deck (I’m not sure what I should call them). It is lovely that there is a connection to the tarot cards, while, at the same time, the playing cards seem to have their own very special identity. Congratulations and thank you so much for all the information.

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