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In Jacques We Trust

By Shawn Tinling

Our resident Jack, Jacques

We didn't have to design our own playing cards - which is exactly why we did.

It was the calm before the storm for 21 Nights' event calendar in early fall 2016. The wave of holiday events that typically take over in November and December were still a couple months down the road.

One evening I had the idea (after a drink or two, probably) to have branded playing cards made so we could stand out from our competitors, Something subtle - maybe just cards customized with our logo on the backs of them to go with standard card faces. A little branding never hurt, right?

I took about a day to come up with a design for the backs (I wear many, many hats here in The House of Red and Black!) and ordered a sample deck from the printers. About a week goes by...

My 'safe' first draft

When the cards came back, they did exactly what I wanted them to. They were custom-backed cards with our logo on the back of them. The branding was subtle, and they were good enough to put us a step ahead of our competitors without going overboard. Mission accomplished!

So, natrurally it took me less than a minute with my new cards in hand to go from thinking "these really came out awesome" to thinking "you can do better than these - way better."

There was something about customizing the backs and not the faces that made me fell that I half-assed this project somehow, despite the fact that I chose the way less completely insane design option here.

There was something about the look that didn't sit well with me. The cards felt too... safe. Going against every rational thought I had in my head, I decided to start over. New custom backs. Custom faces. Everything from scratch. Instead of 1 design (not insane) I was looking at at least 53 (totally insane)

21N x J. Breau, 7 of Spades

I started sketching designs and getting to work on the Aces through Tens - the 'pip cards.' Since I can't draw to save my life. I was going to need help on the face cards, but had no idea who to talk to. I suddenly remembered that my cousin in Montréal, Jeremy, was an artist. Well, I didn't remember an 'artist;' more accurately I remembered liking something I saw him draw once when we were both kids - about 18 years ago. It was some anime fan art, which has very little to do at all with playing cards, but I thought it was well done. This ages-old memory popped into my head out of the blue while I was working on what would be the seven of spades. Maybe he could help?

I knew I'd need computer generated vector art for this project, and the only piece of art I've ever seen from the guy was done in pencil, forever ago. To think that Jeremy was my guy at that point was an illogical hunch at best, or a delusional reach at worst. I start chatting with him on Facebook Messenger:

"Hey, do you still draw?"

"I haven't in a while. Why? What do you need?"

I go into details of what I was looking to do, and he said could definitely help. Not only was he ready and willing, but he had the software to do the vector art I was going to need (Adobe Flash - who knew?!) and just like that, we had a collaboration!

from left - Roy, Rena and Jacques

He created Jacques, Rena and Roy - our new face cards - to go with the other 40 cards I designed, and the rest was history.

I've decided that collaborating with artists on custom playing cards in the future could work out well for us both, so expect more from Jeremy Breau and other artists - exclusively at 21 Nights Entertainment's casino events.

(Thanks again, cuz. - we appreciate you!)


Shawn Tinling

Shawn Tinling is the founding president of 21 Nights Entertainment, and generally dislikes referring to himself in the third person.

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Shawn Tinling

Jeremy Breau is a Montréal-based artist. You can say he eats 'pain' for breakfast...

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