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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Dark Art decks (Noir Arts) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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*** Unique Playing Cards from Noir Arts ***

The name Noir Arts already indicates that this publisher of playing cards appreciates art, which is confirmed by their tag line: "We are Arts! Unique playing card designs". Based in Ukraine, the people involved with Noir Arts have been producing beautiful playing cards for the local Ukrainian market under the label Noir Playing Card Company (NPCC) already since 2005. Noir Arts was officially formed in 2014, when they expanded to begin producing playing cards for the worldwide community. Under the leadership of Roman Kotiv, they began by designing their own decks, and soon began cooperating with talented independent artists and design studios from around the world. Noir is French for "black", and so quite a number of their decks are more dark in theme, but you will also find more playful decks in their portfolio as well. They have a diverse portfolio of custom playing cards with varied styles, but what they all have in common is that they are artistic.

In addition to creating an impressive range of playing cards under their own design, Noir Arts offers a printing and fulfilment service under their original name NPCC, to create and print custom decks of playing cards for other designers and creators. In this series of reviews, I am showcasing some of the custom playing cards Noir Arts has produced, to give an overview of their work and style, and a glimpse of the artistic talent that is evident from their portfolio. In the final installment of this series, I will also offer some lengthy concluding comments about their card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers. But for now, let's show you some of their lovely decks!

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*** DARK ART DECKS ***

Memento Mori Playing Cards (2016)

Memento Mori is derived from the Latin expression meaning remember that you have to die. It was commonly associated with reflection about mortality, and thinking about the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits, and considered to be a way to perfect your character, by encouraging thinking about the immortality of the soul and the afterlife.

The series consists of two decks, the first entitled Memento Mori Carpe Diem, and the second entitled Memento Mori Vanitas. The artwork for both decks was created by Moritz Schaaf.

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As mentioned earlier already, Dark Art is a style in which artists communicate ideas in a mysterious/bizarre style that can include depicting morbid/disturbing/nightmarish subject matter in a fascinating/beautiful way, and at times draws on related genres like Gothic/surreal/horror.

The Memento Mori deck fits loosely within this genre, as is immediately evident from the black and white colours and macabre style of the Carpe Diem deck. Carpe Diem is Latin for "Seize the Day", and signifies the importance of seizing the moment.

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As further examples of the style of this deck, here are some more court cards, featuring the traditionally red suits of Hearts and Diamonds. Aside from these glimpses of red, the remaining artwork fits squarely within the dark art genre.

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The number cards are a little more tame, but still feature heavily customized pips that are stylized to complement the rest of the deck, by incorporating tiny skulls into the oversized shapes.

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As we've noticed on several occasions already, the tuck boxes produced by Noir Arts are particularly superlative, and are often worth a second look. In the case of the Memento Mori decks, they are exquisitely decorated with a richly decorated design that is foiled and embossed, and they also have an oversized and heavily customized seal to add an additional touch of glamour.

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Both decks also have full interior printing, the Carpe Diem deck depicting a Philip Galle print entitled "The Triumph of Death" (~1565 AD), and the Vanitas deck shown here depicting a corpse lying in a landscape from an anonymous French woodcut (~1580 AD) that.

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The title of the Vanitas deck is derived from the Latin word vanitas, meaning "emptiness". It refers to the worthless nature of earthly goods and pursuits, and has its origin in the "vanity of vanities" mentioned in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes.

This deck features a more antique looking earthy colour scheme, and thus has cards with brown colour card-back.

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The Memento Mori decks won't appeal to everyone, in view of the dark art style, but most collectors will find the exquisite tuck boxes hard to resist. The thematic material that this deck is somewhat macabre, but it does try to deal with deep themes relating to the significance and frailty of life, and so there is thoughtful content to be found here. In the end, this pair of decks will primarily appeal to those who already have an interest in the dark art genre.


Bone & Ebon Playing Cards (2016)

These next two decks, Bone Playing Cards and Ebon Playing Cards, both feature artwork by Noah Whippie, a comic book artist, graphic designer and illustrator.

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These decks are an attempt to portray the modern world in dark surreal aesthetics. In the words of Noir Arts: "The deck reads like a 54-page occult manuscript steeped in other-worldly dark aesthetics, with an intense focus on Gothic surrealism. The glyphs or “letters” that was used in the designs are stylized “demonic calligraphy”, a unique phonetic alphabet – to add character and subtext to the art."

In addition, each suit represents a different society "caste":
Hearts = clergy
Diamonds = merchants
Clubs = military
Spades = working class

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To achieve a very unique look, the background of the cards has been customized to look like bone and slate, and the traditionally red and black pips has been customized to look like carved ebony and ivory. For the Bone deck, metallic silver and golden inks are used, and the deck was made with ivory shades, giving the images the look of polished bone. These pictures don't really do justice to how much the design has a "bone" look to it, particularly on the ornately designed card-backs!

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If you can overlook the dark art style, or perhaps even appreciate it, it has to be admitted that these are very creative looking cards. To my surprise, I found myself being more and more taken by this unusual deck, in part due to the uniformity of style within the deck, where all the cards have a bone look ornamented with metallic gold.

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The companion Ebon deck instead uses silver metallic ink and grey shades, to give the images the look of hewn slate, while the use of metallic inks really complements the faux-slade background.

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The court cards have a deliberate one-way design, to maximize the detail of the unusual and unique images.

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Metallic silver is used for all the cards in the Ebon deck, and metallic gold for all the cards in the Bone deck, so the suits aren't easily distinguished at a glance. But this is a deliberate choice designed to enhance the visual aesthetics - clearly this is an artistic deck designed for collectors rather than for functionality in game-play. Here are some cards comparing the two decks, with the Ebon deck on left and the Bone deck on the right.

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Once again special praise needs to be reserved for the tuck box. The Bone deck, for example, has a soft white tuck box, and on this background the bone coloured embossed artwork and gold foil accents really spring to life. The inside has full interior printing, with touches of red foil, while the addition of a stunning custom shaped seal really helps complete a package that feels completely over-the-top in terms of superb quality.

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The Bone and Ebon decks are somewhat unusual, and won't be to everyone's taste, but it can't be denied that they are creative and artistic in their own way. From the moment you hold the luxurious and artistic tuck box in your hand, you can't but be impressed with the artistic merits of these decks, and the amount of craftsmanship that has gone into producing them.


*** Recommendation***

So is Noir Arts (NPCC) for you? I came across Noir Arts and NPCC quite by accident, when exploring aspects the world of playing cards, but I'm very pleased that I did. They have produced some stunning decks of their own, using the artistic talents of creators internationally. In addition they provide what seems to be a good printing service for their many customers around their world. Knowing that this is a source that can be used to produce playing cards and fulfil crowd-funded projects will mean that many designers of custom cards will want to take note of this option they might otherwise not know about. As for the overall quality and handling of the cards, their quality is improving, although it doesn't match the best in the business like USPCC and LPCC/EPCC just yet, but is on par with second-tier publishers like MPC. Look for more extensive comments on the card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers, in the final article of this series. The Noir Arts tuck boxes, however, are typically much more exquisite and impressive than MPC, and are first-rate.

While not geared towards producing playing cards that will satisfy the highest quality and exacting standards demanded by cardistry or card magic, Noir Arts is certainly focused on creating decks with a more artistic look, which they present in very impressive and high quality tuck boxes. Their playing cards cards have an air-cushion style finish and are of a quality that works well for playing card games or for collectors who admire an artistic style of deck. If that's what you're looking for, then do check them, their range, and their services out!

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Want to learn more? Noir Arts: www.noir-arts.com

Web-store: https://shop.trycelery.com/page/shopnoirarts
Printing: https://noir-arts.com/npcc-info/

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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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