My short bio:

I am a lifelong artist now expressing myself as a playing card designer! I am a filmmaker, a serious composer of orchestral music, and was a wandering minstrel for 12 years.

Being a playing card designer is very compelling to me because it combines traditional art work, with something practical that everyone loves. But the standard cards are so… standard! So I see them as a canvas just waiting for new ideas to flow upon.

This is how I made my way to Leonardo | Art Playing Cards. Leonardo da Vinci is a lifelong inspiration to me, as the metatype for the Artist / Inventor. That’s me!

If you have any questions about anything really, card wise: like why the King of Hearts is always depicted with a sword in his head (!), or how to thrive as an artist, or about any of the other projects I’ve worked on - Like SNIFE my custom Swiss Knife - then feel free to ask! Here are some pictures of the cards on imgur!

My Proof:

Here is me!

Here is the post on my twitter account about the IAmA!

Comments: 93 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

Itsthejoker13 karma

Okay, I'll bite. Why is the Suicide King always depicted so?

Dent-de-Lion19 karma

The four kings, are based on real rulers: Julius Caesar; Alexander the Great; David of Israel; the king of Hearts represents the emotionally disturbed Charles VII of France.

Charles’ face was put on the king of hearts at the very beginning of his rule. Many years later when he became very ill with a fever and was informed that he would be in bed for the rest of his life, he began learning card games to pass the time.

Charles lay in his bed for two years. As time passed, there were reports that Charles was obsessed with the idea that the king being the 13th card was causing him bad luck. He talked about how he was starting to see the number show up everywhere and that he was close to figuring out its secret.

One day, one of Charles’ physicians went to his chamber to find the frail old King standing in the middle of the room with a large sword. Before the doctor could react, the king said, “They have shown me the truth of thirteen, and it is not meant for mortal eyes.”

Without hesitation the King rammed the blade through the left side of his head until it came out the other side. He collapsed on to the floor, dead.

After the incident was announced and it was made public that the king had gone mad, the card was altered to show his suicide!

Dent-de-Lion19 karma

Facts should never get in the way of a good story. ~ dandiananda

Just_Kos8 karma

What is your favorite card back not designed by you?

Dent-de-Lion5 karma

One particular favorite is Pagan... Uusi does very good work. I like decks with craftsmanship, fine detail and artistic integrity. Thank you for your question! kind regards, Dent-de-Lion

altoidsarethebest2 karma

They do ship good work, I have collected all their decks. Definitely nice!

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

Which of their decks is your favorite, if I may ask?

TemptThePuffin6 karma

and was a wandering minstrel for 12 years.

12 years sounds awfully long for a minstrel period. Are you getting enough iron?

Dent-de-Lion4 karma

Like all beauty, it passed all too quickly

Thank you for your concern! I zinc I get enough iron! They really help my memory! now... what was your question?

TemptThePuffin3 karma

I'm not exactly certain, but I think I offered to do your ironing.

Dent-de-Lion3 karma

how ironic!

TorrenceTheTurtle5 karma

I have two questions:

  1. What are some ideas for decks you have been thinking about but have not attempted?

  2. Do you have any say in the material/ construction of the cards?

Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Oh, I have many ideas for new decks, most of them are based on Fine Art, Literature, Philosophy... I'm a classicist at heart :-) I would like to do a deck featuring the Pre-Raphaelites, whose work across many mediums is very inspiring to me.

I am an independent designer, and have complete say about everything to do with the cards. That's very important to me as I see the work all my Art and not commerce.

Beautiful questions, very much appreciate your interest! ~ Dent-de-Lion

Dexter_Jettster3 karma

Dent-de-Lion, I'm so glad to see you here. My youngest son loves collecting decks of cards, and his birthday is coming up. What is one that you suggest that I could get for him that would be awesome to add to his collection? I would love to get a response from you, as well would I love to get him something that would be meaningful, and something that he can be proud of. Thank you in advance for your response, I do hope I get one. :)

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

And I am glad that you are here!

Before I can answer you properly, and suggest an appropriate deck, I would need to know how old is your son?

thank you!

Dexter_Jettster2 karma

He will be 15, however, you don't have to worry about being too reserved in any suggestions, he's a pretty good kid, and as a teenager, there's really not much I could hide from him these days anyway. Thanks again and your response is much appreciated.

Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Thank you. If he is a serious collector, then I would search out an historic deck that is outside of his price range that would encourage his desire to deepen his collection. There are vintage decks that come on the market (even on eBay) that are worthy, and choosing one that you know would appeal to his specific tastes would be truly meaningful.

It would be inappropriate of me to suggest my own deck Leonardo, but if you want something modern, a 15 year old young man would certainly appreciate Heretic, if he has not already acquired it.

The very best to you ~Dent-de-Lion

Niacain3 karma

Have you ever heard about the Legends Playing Card Company? They're really nice people and make quality playing cards. Maybe you could collaborate with them. It says this on their site: "We discovered the talented young artist @NickVlow on social media and took an instant liking to his work, offering to print one of his artworks immediately. We now work very closely with him, and have other projects in the works. We are always looking for new and talented artists with a passion for playing cards. If you are a designer and have some artwork you would like to showcase, please let us know!"

I even got a personal email from Lawrence Sullivan when they accidentally sent me a wrong deck (and a deck of the rare red 'Sharps' as compensation!) Your design looks really intriguing and I think you could give it a shot!

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

Yes, I certainly have! I look forward to working together with them on upcoming projects. They have a stellar reputation, and produce some of the finest work in the field.

It's lovely when a company owner reaches out like that to you. Wonderful!

Thank you for your kind comments about my design.

all the best! ~ Dent-de-Lion

digital_matrix3 karma

Do you happen to know much about the print production side of your cards? Stock and coating?

Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Quite a lot actually, as I have been involved in the nexus between Macintoshes and the printing world for many years.

Leonardo was completely designed in CMYK so that it will print to a very fine standard first, then optimized to present well in RGB for the web, not vice versa.

Stocks and coatings of playing cards are very familiar as well, as part of my research whenever I engage in a new media. The stocks are slightly unique as playing cards have a few particularities that must be addressed, such as playability and hand-feel.

Thank you kindly for your excellent questions! ~Dent-de-Lion

uberlad3 karma

  • Favorite card game?
  • What's your very best life advice?

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

Strangely enough I am so busy with my Art, that I have no time for card games. Such is the price of dedication.

But I do enjoy the idea that everyone else who has the time might derive pleasure from my work, while at cards.

I do remember as a child liking Pinochle - but only because I liked saying that strange word so much!

Best life advice? that's easy - Never give advice!

Thank you for your two questions! ~ Dent-de-Lion

antant542 karma

Have you ever thought of designing a themed deck of cards, like say Star Wars or Lord of the Rings? And what is your opinion on themed card decks?

Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Theme decks like you mention, are branded decks, extremely commercial, and to me seem a form of entertainment, and perhaps at best a few might approach pop art.

As a classical Artist I am so far removed from that world, that I really have no valuable opinion. These commercial offerings are part of the background noise I am barely aware of. Like Hollywood films compared to serious independent cinema, or pop music in relation to Beethoven.

hmm, perhaps that was an opinion :-)

thank you so much for your thought provoking question! all the best ~Dent-de-Lion

Fachow2 karma

Favorite card game to play on your cards?

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

I am so busy with my Art, that I have no time to play card games... I am the poster child for The obsessed Artist.

Can you think of a card game you would like to play on my Leonardo deck? I would love to hear your ideas!

kind regards, Dent-de-Lion

Fachow1 karma

Bridge fo sho.

And wow. Take care not to take the obsession overboard though. The Artist needs to step out, enjoy life, and put it back into the art.


Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Thank you. I have heard from quite a few bridge players interested in my Leonardo deck.

Stepping out now. :-)

RomSteady2 karma

Phil Ivey was busted for cheating at cards using a method called "edge-sorting."

When you are designing your cards, do you worry about their use in play, or are they only a canvas for artistic impression for you?

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

I have no opinion about Mr. Ivey as I haven't read the news... this century! I find news provides meager inspiration for my creativity. I am a student of history though, when events are old enough to be properly understood in the greater context. Perhaps this wonderful quote is appropriate:

"He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year." ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Moving along to your second question... Both. I am concerned about my cards playability but certainly equally interested in their artistic value. The latter comes as naturally as breathing, while the first has required an acquisition of a significant body of specialized knowledge.

Thank you for your questions! ~ Dent-de-Lion

alienchen2 karma

did you do this in photoshop? I like the spade jack - is it like a collage?

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

Leonardo is a blend of both the analog world and the digital.

Photoshop work is of course key for me, but only after I have thoroughly researched the subject for the card. While I can be inspired while working in pixels, I find that the best cards come to me while out walking, or in my waking dreams.

The Jack of Spades is made up of many parts and layers. All of these come from a diverse assortment of original Leonardo works that must be seamlessly blended together and carefully balanced.

Leonardo was blissfully unaware that 500+ years later I would want to collaborate with him :-)

In a sense it is partly a digital collage. There is also a great deal of original painting on some of the cards where Leonardo's work is incomplete or lost to us.

Thank you for your wonderful question! ~ Dent-de-Lion

SlCDayCare2 karma

Would you ever consider doing a deck designed for divination? I'm into cartomancy mostly tarot but I can use playing cards as well. Creating a tarot deck is a major undertaking what with the 78 cards, but your design seem so perfect and archetypal.

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

Yes, I have oft considered designing a Tarot deck as an Art project. As a child of the enlightenment and an orthodox atheist, I don't subscribe to divination and other pre-scientific understandings of reality... but I'm fascinated by arcane symbology and it's place in ancient and medieval thought.

Thank you for sharing the idea of a Tarot deck! kind regards, Dent-de-Lion

SlCDayCare1 karma

I actually bought my first tarot deck for kabalistic meditation but you can only have a deck for so long before you decide to divine with it. At least was the case for me. I collected playing cards as a kid so at least part of my interest is just because i like cards with neat pictures. The symbolism is def. Mind blowIng.

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

Tarot decks are so visually enticing, the symbology so tuned into human behavior (centuries of development!), and the experience of divination so entertainingly mystic, it's not surprising that they appear to work!

Like yourself, I love the imagery. The strangeness of the decks, the blend of dark and light, the elongated aspect ratio, the pre-surrealist surrealism...

perhaps I am fated to make a tarot deck!


adequatepipe2 karma

Have you heard that the "suicide king" was actually killed by the queen of spades? On classic depictions of the king of hearts, his sleeves do not match. and the sleeve on the sword bearing arm matches the queen of spades

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

Yes, this did turn up in my research, and will actually play a role in an upcoming deck I am planning. There are such amazing stories in the cards!

I'm pleased that you brought this up for the community here.

Thank you! ~Dent-de-Lion

adequatepipe1 karma

A magician name Kostya Kimlat first showed me this. He has a fantastic "who dunnit" style mystery, magic effect that uses this knowledge. You should reach out to him as I believe he's done a lot of research on this.

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

thank you kindly for this, I will indeed.

adequatepipe2 karma


I would also recommend Bill Kalush at the "Conjuring Arts Research Library" in NYC. Really great people there.

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

I will stop in next time I am in New York.

Unless they disappear before I arrive! :-)

oh_cait2 karma

I had one of your Swiss Army knives, how cool to see the face behind the design! What inspired you to use playing cards as the medium for your newest artwork?

Dent-de-Lion3 karma

That's incredible! Although SNIFE was very popular, it's still an amazing coincidence! Which model did you have?

My daughter made a deck GLITCH which really was the spark to take my lifelong obsession with all things Leonardo and express it in the playing card format.

thank you for your wonderful question! ~Dent-de-Lion

oh_cait3 karma

Thanks for replying! In the photo you posted of the knives, I had the second one in from the left side on the top row!

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

lovely! that was Gems, one of my favorites!

jackbauer6162 karma

To clarify is it just the artwork you design or do you have say in what the card does ?

Dent-de-Lion7 karma

I'm an independent designer so I have a lot of say :-)

The artwork on Leonardo is a collaboration between da Vinci and myself, he was very easy to work with!

thank you for your interest!

Kuch112 karma

What's your favorite deck that wasn't made by you? This includes the back, faces, box, etc. :)

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

I think that must be Pagan at the moment! and yours?

smashbrief2 karma


Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Thank you sincerely for backing!

The biggest tip to succeed on Kickstarter is preparation. Create something truly exceptional! It is best to see Kickstarter, as a means to an end, not as the primary goal.

The community there has been so welcoming to me in embracing Leonardo to heart and backing it. It's been a wonderful experience!

I hope you have success there one day too! ~Dent-de-Lion

altoidsarethebest2 karma

How long does it take you to these designs?

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

much too long :-)

But to allow myself a moment of unbridled seriousness; it took me about a year of work to realize Leonardo. There are a lot of cards in a deck (!), there are a host of dead ends to explore (one of the great joys of creating) and there are many detailed technical aspects to master.

Thank you for your interest, truly appreciated! ~ Dent-de-Lion

trorer2 karma

Dandi, I have a hook in my swing I just can't seem to get rid of - any suggestions? :-)

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

You have confused me for Dent-de-Lion, the famous golf teacher, and the world's finest Vegan Artist Lightweight Amateur Golfer.

But if I were to take a look at that grip of yours...

Lobedanz1 karma

Dent-de-lion, There has been some controversy concerning Da Vinci and the secret society Priory of Sion. What is your take on that? And in what way has it affected your work?

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

I am very skeptical on secret societies... there is a famous quote :

If two people know it, it's not a secret. ~ dandiananda

This goes hand-in-hand with conspiracies and the like. So no effect on my work, I live in a simple world where Leonardo made Art and he was not the basis for world domination :-)

StickManMax1 karma

Will you design a skateboard deck for me?

My favourite artists in the skate world are Jacob Ovgren



Dent-de-Lion2 karma

I am not overly familiar with the world of skateboards. Perhaps you could write to one of your favorite skateboard artists and he could design you a deck? Then the style is just how you like it and is truly authentic.

Thank you so much for your interest! ~ Dent-de-Lion

danhague1 karma

Have you ever worn odd socks?

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

no, but Odd Nerdrum does! :-)

mt1rdt1 karma

How do you plan against or prevent issues like edge sorting which has had recent legal issues surrounding it?

If you are familiar with the specifics of the Phil Ivey edge sorting case do you believe he should have been paid his winnings? The courts ruled in favor of the casino.

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

sorry, I'm not really familiar with this area, which seems more about standard casino decks.

Dirtpig1 karma

Wow! You must make tens and tens of dollars. Kidding aside, I like your work.


Dent-de-Lion3 karma

Thank you for your kudos, I am glad you like my work.

and kidding is the best :-) ~Dent-de-Lion

frozu1 karma

Which is your favorite Leonardo da Vinci painting and did you put it in your Leonardo deck?

Dent-de-Lion0 karma

That's a very good and difficult question.

My favorite work of his would be Lady with an Ermine from ca. 1489. This beautiful woman was the mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. It's on display right now at Wawel Royal Castle on loan from a museum in Poland. So if you are in the UK - go see!

This work is not (yet) in my Leonardo project as a card, although it does appear in some of the supporting materials, like the book.

thank you for your interesting question! ~ Dent-de-Lion

Lobedanz1 karma

Artist, inventor and thriving??!!! Are you for real? :-) What is your secret? ... oh and not to forget... are we going to see any high quality Lego playing cards anytime soon?

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

Yes, thriving! Yes, real!

The secret? that's easy. Do what you love!

I believe LEGO already has playing card decks. I will check to see they quality and get back to you.

Thank you for your wonderful questions! Kind regards ~Dent-de-Lion

lobsterate1 karma

What's your favourite colour?

Dent-de-Lion1 karma

true ultramarine Lapis Lazuli blue.

sigh... she is out there somewhere...

polkaspot1 karma

I'm really interested in how you got your start in the industry. Designing playing cards has become my hobby recently and it might be something I want to pursue in a more professional environment.

When and how did you get your start in the industry? Why playing cards, what are some of the reasons behind your fascination?

Dent-de-Lion2 karma

I think the best entrance to any occupation if to just jump in.

Whataver it is, if it is your passion, then just do it. In today's world it is not necessary to work for a big design company, in fact it's probably a great asset to be independent, small and nimble.

Playing cards fascinate me by being small "theatres" or "miniature canvases" on which to express my thoughts and emotions. They are a wonderful mixture of practicality and art, and they are affordable to all.

thank you so much for your interest! ~ Dent-de-Lion