A fragmented, frantic, retrospective glimpse into the process of creating Fulton’s Chinatown Playing Cards.
Chinatown was always in my mind. It was an extension of Fulton’s Clip Joint in many ways. It’s hard to understand for those not local to Los Angeles, but Chinatown is architecturally situated quite close to Clip Joint… yet light years away in atmosphere.
The deck was not conceived to be an accurate or culturally perfect representation of Chinese Astrology/History/Culture. If you were looking for that you really missed the boat so to speak; and cheated yourself out of a transcendent experience into a beautiful place in time.
I created the Chinatown of MY youth. Of MY dreams… and YES… some of that includes the remnants of LA Chinatown before I was born that still can be felt on a rare night walking in the mysterious dark, dingy alleys at 3:00 AM… something I still find myself doing from time to time.
If you follow my work you understand my obsession and undying bond with Film Noir and Vintage Los Angeles History. For those familiar with this period and feeling I think you can tap into a bit of that within the deck…
I can still find myself dreaming some nights of receiving the Lai See (red money pouches) Envelopes from Aunt Kareen and Uncle Dennis. Each year it was such a highlight… to see the bold red and gleaming gold… unwrap that stack of two dollar bills… I wanted those who purchased the deck to relive MY joy.
When production began I gathered my typical image folder consisting of HUNDREDS of varied and travelled images, film clips etc. to hand off and discuss with Illustrator Dan Phillips. We also took trips to old run down Chinese Restaurants, and soaked in the vibe of Lunar New Year gone by. Dan and I drank our fair share of cheap Jasmine Tea, and soaked in enough gold foiled calendars and menu graphics to last a lifetime.
I crafted a story to kick things off about the dragon (Year of the Dragon 2012) returning from a deep sleep to find a society brow-beaten by a poor economy and depression. But the dragon is fearless; awe-inspiring and ready to show the power of the human spirit and shine above this portal of darkness…
It sounds lofty but it got the ball rolling uphill… and following many drafts, revisions, and terribly difficult decisions we had the final.
A note on revisions: At Magic Con 2012 this past week Dan Phillips brought a select stack of original pencil and ink sketches from both Clip Joint and Chinatown. A few even I had not seen. In hindsight I am always shocked at just how many hours go into each little corner of our decks… (maybe we’re having too much fun and don’t want the process to end).
I am also certainly surprised at how many “little secrets” we hide within a deck.
Hopefully you all enjoyed the holiday, took in a dragon dance or two – and lit off a string (or three) of firecrackers.