Since early childhood, artist Jackson Robinson has always wanted to do something artistically inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Recently, he’s finally been able to turn that dream into reality with a wildly successful Kickstarter project launching a deck of The Lord of the Rings-themed playing cards featuring his own hand-drawn art.
Over 6,400 people have backed his The Fellowship of the Ring deck of luxury playing cards in just under a month. It’s now 25 times more successful than its initial goal.
“I knew it would succeed just from the love of the IP and my followers, but I had NO idea it was going to be as successful as it has been,” Jackson told TheOneRing.net.
Robinson says that he’s worked as a professional illustrator for more than 20 years on big brand names and franchises ranging from Star Wars and Marvel Comics to Disney and Coca-Cola, but he’s always loved The Lord of the Rings. His favorite artists working in Tolkien’s milieu includes John Howe and Alen Lee, but he also loves the work of Donato Giancola and the woodcuts of Tolkien Society best artwork category award-winner Tomas Hijo.
“Like many others, the richness of the story and characters within Professor Tolkien’s work drew me in. I also always found it fascinating that I could never seem to be at the bottom of the well of creativity in any of his works or worlds,” Jackson says.
He says that the first significant piece of Tolkien artwork he made was a map of Middle-earth.
“I did this over 20 years ago, during my undergraduate years at the University of North Texas. The map still hangs in my office today.”
However, his interest in playing cards dates from around 2013. He says he only fell into it by accident while working in the videogame industry in Los Angeles.
“I did my first playing card Kickstarter to earn some extra money. It went viral, and I haven’t looked back. I was able to start designing playing cards full-time,” Jackson says. This was the basis for the company he founded — Kings Wild Project.
He says that ever since he started Kings Wild Project, a Lord of the Rings deck has been on his bucket list, and he immediately began researching the requirements for an official license from Middle-earth Enterprises. One of the prerequisites was that his business needed to have been operating in its industry sector for a minimum of five years.
Jackson says the day after Kings Wild Project reached the five-year-mark, he contacted Middle-earth Enterprise requesting to become a licensee to design The Lord of the Rings-themed playing card decks.
He typically begins his creative process with a lot of reference gathering, looking for materials and art styles to draw inspiration from.
“Then I start sketching a character or court card. I usually start with the King of Spades. I will work on one court card or back design until I feel I ‘find it’, and continue the same process with the other characters and cards,” Jackson says. “So many things I deliberately DON’T plan… It is as if the story is being retold for the first time as each new character is revealed during the creative process.”
Jackson says he typically doesn’t need to iterate designs very often.
“But I went through a massive restart with [the deck for] The Lord of the Rings. I had almost finished almost half the deck when I wanted to try something different. I ended up going with the new direction but, in the process, created two decks that have the same character lineup but are done in two very different styles.”
His favorite cards from his Fellowship deck are the Glorfindel card for the deck that’s now up on Kickstarter, and the Frodo card from his initial “scrapped” deck. He says he plans to return to that alternative deck at a later date.
Plans don’t stop there. He also has a deck themed on The Two Towers tentatively expected to launch on Kickstarter in late Fall, and one for The Return of the King in early 2023. He hopes to produce a deck themed on The Hobbit in the Spring of 2023. He told TheOneRing.net that he was also recently granted a license to produce two-sided The Lord of the Rings jigsaw puzzles. Look out for a Fellowship of the Ring puzzle in time for the holiday season this year.
Readers can visit Kings Wild Project to find out more about his playing card projects, including his Fellowship of the Ring-themed deck. At the time of publishing, the Kickstarter for The Fellowship of the Ring deck has 50 hours before it closes. You can check it out here.