Digital Art Poker

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Reimagining poker through digital art

Visual artists come together to create digitally-rendered playing cards

Since the 1800s, poker has been illustrated in numerous paintings and graphic designs. The interest of visual artists to the card game is sparked by the action that takes place around poker tables, which can be translated into rich 2-D scenes. As the technology progresses, poker art catches up with digital illustrations of cardshark action that are created by contemporary visual artists.

As a backgrounder, poker art traces its roots from the pioneering work of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge in 1903. Collective known as Dogs Playing Poker, these set of impressionist paintings commissioned by Brown and Bigelow were originally meant to advertise cigars. As it turned out, the anthropomorphized St. Bernard dogs symbolized the increasing dependence of ordinary Americans – saddled by the harsh conditions of the Great Depression – to poker. Coolidge’s works would later become an inspiration for visual artists to perpetuate poker art. For instance, Lisa Jane took up the partypoker-sponsored WPT London Poker Classic as the central focus of her work. Incorporating poker scenes with heavily hued situational imagery and postmodern surrealism, Jane was able to complete an oil and charcoal collection that features world poker champions like Phil Ivey and Phil Laak.

As modern techniques of graphic designing emerge, more creative forms of poker art are also being created by visual artists. Digital graphic designers are pushing the envelope of postmodern art further through their renditions of playing cards. Barcelona-based online magazine Digital Abstracts has been leading the charge in digital poker art through their card design projects – Creative Cards and Playing Arts. The two projects, launched in 2012 and 2013 respectively, enlisted the help of 54 freelance graphic designers from all over the world to create their own poker card designs.

Since they aren’t competing against each other, these digital artists were able to illustrate each card freely. The result: 54 unique playing cards from the two of clubs to the ace of diamonds, which represent 54 different styles and interpretations of poker. When asked why she volunteered for the Digital Abstracts project, New York City-based illustrator Sara Blake said, “It’s especially nice to cull together illustrators from all over the world and then have a physical object to show for it. It feels really nice to hold cards in your hand, not just scroll through their designs on a webpage.”

As more people gain access to more modern techniques in visual arts, poker scenes will certainly be replicated and preserved through digital art forms. As long as it remains a popular and action-packed card sport, more graphic designers will take interest in reimagining poker through the arts.

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