Featured Artist | Emmanual José

I am happy to introduce to you Emmanual José, a creative soul with a knack for paper-cutting, photography and all things art. We actually met for the first time this past Halloween through mutual family friends and from then I just knew I had to share his unique talent! If you live in Raleigh, you have probably seen his artwork displayed at Jubala in Lafayette Village or Busy Bee in downtown. If you want to see his art, check out Cafe Helios! What I love most about this work is his dedication to create a new card each week and took something standard like playing cards and turned them into his own canvas. I'll stop boring you with my praise and let you get to know him yourself :)

Be sure to follow him and watch his progress!

1. Introduce yourself. Hobbies, interests, quirks, favorite quotes? Anything!
Hi, I'm Emmanuel, and I'm a whole lot of P's: Pinoy, Painter, Photographer, Papercutter. I love art, I can eat anything, and capuchin monkeys scare me a little, haha.

My favorite quote is: 

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. What sparked the interest to create one playing card a week?
In college, I started a series of playing card paintings, but my professor disliked them and I ended up painting other subject matter. After college, I ended up in a job that wasn't conducive to my creativity, and I was hungry to have art in my life again. I still wanted to do a playing card series and so as a personal challenge, I decided to make one card a week.

3. Recently your art has become your full-time commitment. How is your transition so far? Challenges?
The transition has been liberating but also admittedly scary since this is all new to me. I finally have the time to pursue art as a passion and as a career, and while I don't know yet how the future will unfold, I know that I owe it to myself to do what makes me happy. 

4. Where do you find your inspiration for creating each card for each deck?
More often than not, I have found inspiration when I'm away from home. I could be anywhere, but I get more ideas when I'm simply walking around, taking in all the sights around me. My mind has to wander figuratively and literally away from my normal surroundings for inspiration to arrive.

5. Can you walk us through a little bit of the process from brainstorming an idea of a card to actually creating it?
Sure. I usually begin by taking out a normal deck of cards and my sketchbook. I take a look at the card that I'm going to create and I mentally "fill in" the negative space around the pips (the suit symbols) to create a context. If I already have an idea for that specific card, the sketching and drawing process happens pretty quickly. If I don't know what I'm doing (which happens a lot), I make up stories or situations that occur within the world of that card, so to speak. 

I draw everything on a newsprint-like draft paper, and when I'm happy with the drawing, I overlay the draft paper over the black, white, or red paper that I want to cut. Sometimes I draw directly on the black, white, or red paper, but I prefer drawing on the draft paper since I do a lot of erasing and editing.

For the card itself, I make what I call the "base" first. The base is the white component of the card, and I trim the white paper and round the corners. I've made paper stock templates for all the index characters (the numerals and letters), and once I make the indices I affix them to the base. I create the "face" of the card last, and the face of the card is comprised of the larger pips and the idea for the card. I use a brand of double-sided tape to affix everything since wet adhesives will warp the paper.

Examples of his work. Rest of the interview below.

6. Besides paper-cutting and design, do you have any other art-related hobbies/interests?
Yes, painting is a longtime love of mine, and I'm excited to be able to do more of it. I only started photography in my last year of college, but I find it incredibly fascinating. There's still so much about the technical side of photography that I know nothing about, but it's a world I'm eager to explore.

7. What are some of your goals for your art?
I want to create art that is accessible. I wouldn't call my playing card art esoteric at all, because it's not meant to be. The original cards may be framed and hanging on walls, but the decks they become end up being held, shared, and played with. The meaning they take on in other people's hands go far beyond any meaning or idea I've presented on the cards. 

8. Do you listen to certain music while you're in the studio?
I listen to all genres of music, but I usually listen to slow to mid-tempo songs while I'm making art. I tend to create art slowly, so I like music that matches my pace. An example of a go-to musician for me is Oliver Tank.

Thank you for stopping by the blog and letting us peek into your creative process! I am absolutely blown away by each card and the concepts behind each one. I feel as though people can take something that they are used to (because we've all played with a deck of cards at least once in our lives right?) and get a chance to look at it in a different light. I wish you the best in all your future endeavors!

For more examples, please visit his website and follow him!