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Suits of crows, rabbits, foxes and sheep evoke lessons from the past with this hand-drawn deck.
Suits of crows, rabbits, foxes and sheep evoke lessons from the past with this hand-drawn deck.
178 backers pledged $8,551 to help bring this project to life.

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The Deck of Many Fables is a set of illustrations that bring to life the timeless characters from Aesop's Fables and their countless retellings. Each suit exalts a different species from the stories: crows, rabbits, foxes, and sheep. These common animals remain just as familiar today as they were to Aesop and his fellows in Ancient Greece, but through the magic of the stories, they are transformed into moral heroes and villains, struggling to coexist despite competing needs, ambitions and approaches to life. In similar fashion, these carefully drawn and richly painted cards invite existential wonderment and transform ordinary card games into a deeper experience.

Each face card is meant to convey a psychological weight, evoking the particular needs and abilities of the species, whether it be the quiet dignity of the sheep, the beauty and cunning of the foxes, the pride and self assurance of the crows, or the desperate passion of the rabbits.

 

Queen and initial ace concept
Queen and initial ace concept

The first suite I started developing was rabbits, which I decided to use as hearts in honor of their prolific nature. My plan was to get back to basic drawing fundamentals and the immediacy of pen on paper.  I wanted to remind myself that creating mood and atmosphere can be constructed from simple and spontaneous lines.

I see rabbits as the consummate underdogs, with persistence and sacrifice marking the species. So I wanted to exalt them as heroes, despite the damage they do to my own small garden.

 

Nobility and deciet
Nobility and deciet

If there is an opposite of rabbits, it may as well be foxes. Smart, tough, beautiful, yet somehow they don't infest my back yard the same way rabbits do. Evolution is a cruel mistress.

My pen and ink version of the fox king I see as one of my strongest pen and ink drawing, but I am still working on getting the full color version in the card to stand as proudly. I won't have fixed that for the XMas decks, but will get it right before the final release.

 

The lamb and his mother
The lamb and his mother

Often maligned for their preference to live in herds, I sort of love sheep. Sheep provide a lot of utility. Here again, the initial drawing of the queen, perhaps stronger than the final digital painting. It will receive more work before the final deck is released.

 I mean to portray the king as being a stalwart force against nature. For all my sheep I am mixing wild and domestic species a bit, but I wanted to paint the ram as a sort of Hemingway man amongst animals. The sort of beast who could deliver your mail, if it weren't electronic.

 

...or murder or ravens
...or murder or ravens

Who likes crows?
If you call them ravens, does that help? 

Here again, I am mixing the biology a bit. The pen and ink drawing of the king is a raven. The queen could be a crow. The jack is definitely a raven, as crows don't have neck bulges. I am not convinced Aesop knew the difference, and if he did, that it would have translated from the Greek.

 By-the-way, I don't speak Greek, much less Ancient Greek.

What I like about crows, in addition to the fact that they use smarts and numbers to drive off larger birds of prey, is that like the rabbit, they exist in numbers in my Bothell community. The more the creatures are common and relatable to me, the more I like their story.

 

The diner and the dinner
The diner and the dinner

The jokers were my opportunity to get back to the animals that both fit Aesop's stories and my own hometown. Bothell, WA, enjoyed a population of feral chickens for a handful of years. Right around their final year, the backyard coyotes became a common visitor. The latest species is the town home developer. The coyotes are fewer and the crows and rabbits are flourishing. 

 

"Would you perch on a fox?" Responds the crow, "you are not a fox."
"Would you perch on a fox?" Responds the crow, "you are not a fox."

I want the deck to have a primitive and pre-industrial feel. Unlike most decks of cards, I am willfully sloppy with the strict geometric symmetry and clean linear elements. Instead, every card should feel very painterly and hand worked.  

 This isn't to say that they do not function as clean and readable playing cards. Symmetry and regular pattern repetition is carefully minded in both the number cards and card backs, but each card is meant to feel hand painted. 

My hope is that the cards feel reminiscent of a time in which repetition was difficult and hand crafted was just the fact of the matter. 

The hand feel for the cards will need to match this spirit. For the Christmas Miracle cards, I will be bound to Shuffled Ink's black core 310gsm card stock with the linen finish. For the finial deck, I will have an opportunity to evaluate cardstock and finish and will use Bicycle decks as my baseline.

 

A handsome home is a happy home
A handsome home is a happy home

Though painterly in approach, I have designed each card to work well at a variety of scales from 2.5 x 3.5" to 2.5 x 3.5'.  The illustrations should feel as much at home in a formal living room as they would in well equipped man cave.

In addition to offering a limited number of uncut press sheets, I will also offer a selection of prints from the original work developed for the face cards and aces. A limited number of backers can choose the cards that most apeal to them.

Risks and challenges

Shipping fulfillment will be my largest challenge. I want to be able to get decks and prints in people's hands before Christmas, and I know my time is tight. Thus, I am offering a limited number of rushed decks from Shuffled Ink. I have ordered them ahead of the my Kickstarter campaign to ensure my ability to fulfill the order. I will have the cards in hand before
the middle of November, and thus able to get them to you by Christmas.

This will cost a little extra do to the small lot number and will go to backers before I have had a chance to fully examine the cards and get reviews from my early supporters.

But fear not!
If you are an early backer, you will also receive a final deck in 2018.

I am also offering a small number of prints of the art work. These are a special thank-you gifts for my supporters here on Kickstarter and may or may not reflect how I price my art in the future.

The initial round of card illustrations are complete and I am excited for you to start enjoying them. As mentioned, I have a few cards I would like to make better and will continue to take feedback through the course of the Kickstarter program. To see the deck's creative journey, check out https://www.facebook.com/deckoffables.

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    The deck

    The Deck of Many Fables, finial production version, printed on Bicycle "Bee" stock card or better in a custom tucked box.

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    Christmas miracle deck

    Printed by Shuffled Ink on their best quality 310gsm with a linen finish, these are a limited proofing deck that will be marked as such. You will also receive a second deck when the final run is produced and distributed some time in 2018.

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    Christmas miracle small print set

    4 cards or illustration details of your choice printed on 8.5x11" quality photo paper.

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    6 - The half brick

    Make sure you have enough for repeated play and gifts for friends.

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    4 Pack of Xmas rush cards

    Want to buy more than one Xmas deck, with final deck to follow? No problem. If 4 is the right number, buy them here, if not use the top option to pledge a custom amount @$20/ xmas rush deck and look for the survey at the end of the campaign.

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    Christmas miracle uncut proof sheets

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    12 - The full brick

    Use them like they were meant to be used, easy and comfortable in regular card games. Easy to look at and fun to share.

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    Christmas miracle large print set

    4 card or illustration details of your choice printed on 13"x19" archival cold press watercolor paper.

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Funding period

- (30 days)