If you’re a fan of playing cards, Jackson Robinson should be a household name. He’s an incredibly talented illustrator and designer who took his love of currency to playing cards. His best-known deck, the Federal 52 Deck (were you one of the 2,798 original backers?), exceeded its funding goal on Kickstarter by $141,166. We credit the striking intricacy of the design and the care in every minute detail.
Club 808: It sounds like you’ve been drawing and playing cards since you were very young. What pulled you to art as a kid? What kind of things did you draw back then?
Jackson: I have been drawing all my life. There is a very weird and funny story most people don’t know (and also don’t believe at first) is that when I was two years old I choked on a corn dog, lost my right lung and ended up being hospitalized for around 8 months. That was when my drawing started because I didn’t have much to do in the hospital and coloring on paper was really the only thing that kept me still and calm.
Since then my art has been one of the foundations of my life both personally and professionally.
I have always been fascinated with playing cards and the art and design from a very early age. My passion for playing card design stems from my love of intaglio printing from the late 1890s, the same time The United States Playing Card Company emerged and also when some of the most beautiful bank notes were created. These bank notes were the main inspiration behind the Federal 52 Series, and much of my own personal style.
Club 808: Did you go to art school, or was it something you kept with on the side?
Jackson: I graduated from a school of art with a drawing and painting degree, then later was a professor at a school of art as well.
Club 808: Has playing card art turned into a full-time job? If not, what do you do when you aren’t drawing for cards?
Jackson: Absolutely, designing cards has become my full-time job. I recently formed the Kings Wild Project, which is my playing card company.
Club 808: Do you have the time to play card games with your friends and family? What games do you like to play?
Jackson: I’m still trying to teach my two daughters Claire and Scarlett how to play poker, but my 4-year-old wants to play “go fish” and I end up playing “52 card pick up” with our baby.
Club 808: You’ve talked about how the designs on money—no matter the country—really appeal to you, in the intricacy and detail. Which country has your favorite bills?
Jackson: I may be a little biased but the US currency, especially bank notes from the late 1800s hold a very special place in my heart. But aside from US bank notes, some of my favorites are some modern notes from the People’s Republic of China and also various European notes. Some of the notes out there today are stunning in both design and color.
Club 808: Have any ideas for redesigning US currency?
Jackson: My wife and I have joked about this many times before. I would love to be a part of the design process of designing US currency. I just need to find out where to fill out the application.
Club 808: The Federal 52 deck is one of the most incredibly detailed decks we’ve ever seen, if not the most detailed. How long did it take you to design from start to finish? Were there other people on the crew, or just you?
Jackson: All in all the Federal 52 series took around 250 hours to complete. The entire series consisted of 10 unique tuck cases, 10 Jokers, 5 Ace of Spades, and around 24 custom court cards. During my Kickstarters, I had a small group of loyal backers who I enlisted to be a part of what I called the “Fed52 Crew.” These people helped me communicate with supporters about the progress of the projects. As for the actual design of the cards themselves – it was only me.
Club 808: What was your favorite part of the process?
Jackson: My favorite part of the process is just the creation of something new. I know it may seem very vague but starting with a black piece of paper or a white screen on my computer and then after hours, days, and even months of work you end up with not just one image or card but a huge body of work that ends up being about 3 inches tall. It is amazing how a little box with 56 little rectangles of paper can mean so much to you.
Club 808: Tell us a bit about the Kickstarter launch of Federal 52. Did you meet nifty new people? Were you surprised to see it far (and we mean FAR) exceed its initial goal?
Jackson: I have met so many incredibly interesting people through my Kickstarter projects. I was dumbfounded at the positive response of my projects. I never did any marketing at all for my projects and it was amazing how backers spread the word for me. It is an amazing feeling when you know you have thousands of people out there that are behind you and want you to succeed.
Club 808: Our members are also familiar with your Sherlock Holmes quartet of decks. Why Sherlock? And do you have a favorite of the four?
Jackson: All of my decks to this point have been “themed” decks. I have done this mainly because I enjoy the continuity it brings to a deck. I chose Sherlock Holmes specifically because much of the original illustrations created by Sidney Paget were engravings and inkings. These illustrations were also created around the same time as all of the bank notes that inspired my Federal 52 series. This love of printmaking originally pulled me into the Holmes stories. Besides the original Sherlock illustrations, there are so many interesting characters that make perfect court cards for a deck. It was also a rewarding process working closely with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate in the design of the cards. I got to speak with some Sherlockian experts that were more than fascinating.
I think out the entire series The Hound of the Baskervilles is probably my favorite deck.
Club 808: Anything else you’d like to promote?
Jackson: I’m currently working on some very exciting stuff with The United States Playing Card Company. I’m also currently developing my first solo project (non-Kickstarter) called The Kings Wild Signature Series. I hope for a spring release, and am excited for everyone to see the evolution of my work. The Kings Wild Signature Series deck is going to be something truly special that no one has ever seen before.
Thanks to Jackson for taking the time to chat with us!
Want to know see more of Jackson and his cards? Check out his company, the Kings Wild Project