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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Nine Lives decks (Abolina Art) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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INTRODUCING ABOLINA ART

Annette Abolins has nine lives. Actually she doesn't. And nor does her cat. But she certainly does have a remarkable artistic talent. And while that artistic brilliance was already beginning to show in her Nine Lives decks of playing cards, it especially shines in her current project: VIZAGO playing cards (link).

Now I'm always on the lookout for new and great looking decks of playing cards, and when I came across the new VIZAGO deck that is currently being funded on Kickstarter, I knew that I'd struck gold. I was completely blown away by what I saw, and I hope you will be too when I show you what it looks like!

As you can see from the picture below, artist, illustrator, and designer Annette Abolins has always loved creating faces in her pottery and other work. In her VIZAGO project (Vizago is Esperanto for "faces"), she's applied this concept of faces to playing cards - with absolutely stunning results!

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Abolina Art is Annette's professional brand. She has both Australian and Latvian roots, with Sweden being her home for part of her childhood, and Australia's east coast being her current place of residence.

Annette has a wide range of talents, which include art that uses both traditional and digital media. She has the benefit of both formal art training (fine arts and design in Sweden, and National Art School in Australia) and extensive professional experience. The result is that she produces high quality work which is frequently exhibited.

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Her work and skills are very diverse, and include web design projects - her own website is beautifully done! Commercially she does graphic design and logo design, and she's also done many beautiful pen and ink drawings, as well as paintings on canvas and screen. She also actively runs a blog where she shares different aspects of her creative process.

Annette also creates a range of jewellery, including beautiful stoneware pendants like the ones shown below. Clearly she is a multi-talented individual! You can see her full bio here.

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But naturally it is her work in illustrating and designing playing cards that will be of particular interest to us who enjoy playing cards, because of the potential to use these for playing a variety of traditional card games, card magic or cardistry, or even to give away as gifts.

Prior to the VIZAGO project, Annette has produced three decks of cards. The first of these is the Nine Lives Tarot deck, which has full art illustrations. Additionally she has published two companion decks of Nine Lives playing cards (bridge-size and poker-size). It's these which I'll be covering in this review.


NINE LIVES DECKS

What drew Annette to designing playing cards was her love for art, visual imagery, and symbolism. Her Nine Lives series consists of the three decks shown here: two decks of playing cards and a tarot deck.

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Nine Lives Tarot deck

Art can tell a story that connects with the world, and this is especially the case with tarot cards. Annette's Nine Lives Tarot Deck is in effect a reinterpretation of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. Important themes for her are the cyclical moments in life, and the related concept of a cat having nine lives gave birth to the deck's name.

The illustrations for her tarot deck began taking shape in 2010. The deck took more than 3 years to complete and was finally produced in November 2013.

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This Tarot deck consists of 78 cards, all with unique handcrafted illustrations.

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The cards are considerably larger than those in a standard sized poker deck. For comparison, poker cards are 63mm x 88mm in size, whereas these are 78mm x 121mm in size.

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They are borderless, so the full-sized art on these oversized cards looks magnificent!

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The four suits in a tarot deck are rods, cups, pentacles, and swords. Seen here are the Queen and King of Pentacles:

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And here are the Queen and King of Cups.

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A booklet with meanings is also included.

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Now I don't know a whole lot about Tarot cards, and I certainly don't endorse using them as a way of divining the future or even as a guide for making decisions or living your life - as a Christian, the Bible is all I need for that. But even so, I can recognize beautiful artwork when I see it.


Nine Lives Playing Cards

A couple of years later, Annette decided to rework some of her artwork in order to create a deck of playing cards. This was finally printed in 2016 by the Expert Playing Card Company in their Master finish, and produced in both a bridge-sized version and a poker-sized version. This deck bears the distinction of being the winner of the 2015 PCF Deck Design Competition!

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To make the deck, Annette began by modifying the artwork of the court cards from her tarot deck for a bridge sized edition, which has an elongated shape more similar to the tarot cards.

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Using a Poker deck meant having wider cards. Here's a Knight of Pentacles from the Tarot deck, and the corresponding Jack of Diamonds.

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The borders on the bridge sized cards were also removed for the poker sized edition. These wider cards also gave Annette more room to work with, and she used this to add various details to the artwork. Here's a comparison example:

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See Annette's article here for an overview of more differences between the bridge and poker editions.

Let's show you a few more of the cards from the poker deck, starting with the card-backs, which have a very intricate, detailed, and artistic pattern.

All the Aces are also quite elaborate, and you'll notice various symbols and icons are incorporated into the artwork, as seen here with the Ace of Spades.

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The Queen and King of Hearts correspond to the Queen and King of Cups that were shown earlier.

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Here's some court cards from the Clubs suit, which corresponds to the Rods in the tarot deck.

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The number cards don't have customized artwork, although the pips are custom, as you can see here with the nine of Hearts. The Joker, I suspect, pictures our artist friend herself!

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You can find all these decks in Annette's shop here: https://www.ninelivestarot.com.au/blog/shop/

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CONCLUSIONS

Artistry: I hope others will agree with me that the artwork we see here is something truly unique and special. And while I appreciate what Annette has done with her Nine Lives decks, it's really the VIZAGO deck that I'm really wowed by! These faces and designs are the work of a true artist, and it really shows.

Creativity: I really enjoyed reading an illustrated article on Annette's blog here where she looked back on the illustration process for her new deck, starting with ink drawings, and ending up with colourful cards. She's not only a good artist, but also does a lovely job of sharing insights about how this deck came about, and the skills required to produce the artwork.

Style: I particularly love the bold lines and radiant colours of the VIZAGO deck, with its very stylish design. Annette summarizes it well when she says: "Distinct palettes for each royal domain bring the court houses together, while giving their personalities room to shine bright. The clear indices are well suited to play and there is a subtle nod to familiar (standard) court faces in the direction each court character is gazing."

Quality: I'm also glad that Annette's printer of choice is Legends Playing Card Company. I've previously reviewed several of their decks, and the different finishes they offer (see my review here), and really appreciate their commitment to quality, which in my opinion rivals and arguably even exceeds the quality produces by United States Playing Card Company. The Nine Lives deck uses their Master finish, which is their most durable finish. It does have somewhat of an usual feel that can take some time to get used to, but the cards are quite thin, and have a beautiful snap and spring. It also has an embossed finish for good handling (e.g. shuffles, and spreads), and will prove more durable than a regular USPCC produced deck.

Review of VIZAGO deck: Head here to see my review of the new VIZAGO deck on The Magic Café: link

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Recommendation

Are these playing cards by Annette Abolins for you? Some people will certainly find the Nine Lives decks of interest, but let's be honest, the real artistic achievement here is the VIZAGO deck, which is absolutely stunning! These cards have so much charm and character, and an immediately striking visual impact. It's very different from any other deck that I've ever seen, and yet it works because the deck as a whole has an internal consistency of style.

I'm glad to see a true artist applying her skills to the world of playing cards, and am very excited to see her current project become a reality. I look forward to see what Annette Abolins has in store for us next - congratulations Annette!

Want to learn more?
Abolina Art: www.abolinaart.com.au
Nine Lives: www.ninelivestarot.com.au
VIZAGO Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1932537931/vizago-playing-cards

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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
EndersGame
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Reviewer EndersGame
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To read my separate review of Annette's new VIZAGO Playing Cards that is currently on Kickstarter, see this thread:

Pictorial Review: VIZAGO deck (Abolina Art)

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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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