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Culturae Animalis: Hand-drawn art playing cards (Kickstarter)


Hand-drawn art playing cards inspired by world cultures & wildlife

Cost: ~US$19 per deck
Current funding level: over 100% (fully funded)
Kickstarter ends: Tuesday August 27 2019 11:00 PM EDT.

Creator Jack Brutus Penny is passionate about things. Originally from the United Kingdom but living in Japan, he makes his living as a writer of nonsense literature, illustrator, and English teacher. He even has his own small publishing house. I'm a huge fan of the `nonsense' genre, with famous writers including Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll being personal favourites of mine, so I can appreciate his passion for whimsical and playful word play.

Artistic beauty

But Jack isn't just about nonsense, because he can also be very serious, especially when it comes to the environment. On the surface, his Culturae Animalis Playing Cards project is just another custom deck of playing cards, trying to make a mark in a competitive niche. But there are several things that set it apart from your typical crowd-funded custom deck. To begin with, this deck is a work of art.


The drawings were all done by hand, and took over six months to complete, with hours and hours of work poured into it. Unlike some custom decks being produced these days, such as popular series that sometimes involve a mere recolouring or slight adjustments to an existing design, this is genuinely an original and creative project.

This is especially noticeable with the court cards. These are heavily customized, and the three court cards of each suit can be combined to produce a panoramic image, known in the world of art as a triptych. I love this kind of creativity!

But it's not just the court cards that have been customized, but every single card in the deck, including the number cards.


Environmental passion

Secondly, this deck shows a love for the environment. Living on planet earth is no matter of whimsy, and most of us have an increasing sense of our responsibility to be good custodians of our surroundings. Jack Brutus Penny shares this passion, and it's already evident from the name of this project, Culturae Animalis, which refers to the animal culture. His aim was to share a message of respect and love for the environment and the animals who share our planet.


This is a theme common to most of Jack's written work and illustrations, with a real focus on nature and wildlife themes. The card backs also capture this concept, by depicting a forest styled pattern, in which can be found hiding the four animal suits and the creator's logo. It's similar to the design you see on the tuck box. I personally would have preferred a two-way design for practical reasons, but I admire the cleverness of this idea, which symbolizes how wildlife must hide from humanity to survive, even though we are all part of one ecosystem.


Suits and Cultures

In the case of this deck, each suit depicts a different animal and culture, with the goal of highlighting beauty that can be found around the world, and to promote a respect of all that is different.

Diamonds = Cats: These are based on a traditional woodblock printing style famous in Japan from the Edo period.
Spades = Rabbits: These are inspired by fashions and styles from England and Europe from the medieval period onwards.
Hearts = Birds: These draw on images with Arabic roots.
Clubs = Dogs: These represent various indigenous tribes.

I'm especially impressed by how Jack has done extensive research, and his artwork draws on famous artwork sources true to each era. That makes this much more than a pure novelty work, but one that reflects a love for history and culture, just as much as it reflects a love for the environment. Environmentally materials are going to be used for production as much as possible, and some of the proceeds of the project will by used by the creator to help initiate other positive projects such as a local tree replanting scheme, and a charity that helps care for displaced pets.



The deck is being printed by Expert Playing Card Company, which is a well-known company based in Taiwan, and highly regarded for producing high quality playing cards that rival the quality of USPCC produced decks, especially when it comes to accurate printing. I've used many EPCC printed playing cards, and been very impressed with the precision and colour of their printing, and how durable they are, as well as how smoothly they handle. An artistic project like this deserves to be printed in a quality product, and so I'm pleased with the choice of printer.

For added luxury, the cards will even have gold gilded edges, and the tuck box will also be finished with glossy spot UV printing for an extra touch of sophistication and style. It's clear that Jack has gone all out to produce something superlative and worthy of support.



This is the kind of deck that will appeal to any collector of quality custom playing cards, especially anyone who appreciates fine art. All those who share the creator's environmental vision and love for nature and cultures will also find this deck very appealing in view of its serious message. In Jack's own words: "I want my work to make this world a better place, to use creativity to bring charm and wonder, whilst also acting as a role model for respectful and sustainable practices."

Congratulations Jack, I think that you deserve to be applauded for what you're doing with this project. Not only is this a wonderful opportunity to get a beautiful deck of playing cards, it's also a chance to support a noble aim.

Kickstarter link

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