King of Hearts

I had had the idea for some time to make a mosaic of a playing card. In fact I had decided to make one of the King of Hearts back in autumn of 2000. It's funny what triggers an 'inspiration'. Obviously, a face card of a playing deck lends itself well to LEGO colors, but what really got me hooked on the idea of doing this project was when I was fooling around with a few 4x4 yellow quarter round bricks that I had.

"Hmmm," I thought, "these would be perfect for the rounded edges of a large playing card..."

And that's all it took. A card is white, of course, so I ordered four white quarter round bricks and started thinking more on the project.

Again, this was back in autumn of 2000.

A year and a half later I finally got around to clicking bricks together. I had had many other projects (both LEGO and otherwise) which had keep me busy (and distracted from the King of Hearts), but I would guess that the really reason I finally started this mosaic in February of 2002 was that my LEGO studio was a mess. I figured I had two choices: 1) I could actually try to straighten the mess up, or 2) I could start on another project (and create even more of a mess).

The latter option prevailed, and I decided that it was time to finally start The Suicide King.

Now, by this time, LEGO mosaics were not a new thing to me (and for that matter they have been getting ever more popular (a quick search of LUGNET's news groups turns up many examples). Certainly I had been getting more and more inquiries about when (or if) I was going to rerelease my Pixelego program, an application I had written that helps design and build such mosaics (see my FAQ for the answer to those queries).

This mosaic turned out to be different, however. I actually did not use a program to build it; I just placed a King of Hearts playing card on the table and started clicking pieces into place.

Of course, I really only needed to design the upper half of the face card since the lower half is identical, simply rotated one hundred and eighty degrees.

I choose to build this one 'freehand' because the picture did not really adapt well to 'pixelization' by a computer program. At least not to the final size I wanted (2-by-3 extra large 48 stud grey baseplates). The sharp lines within the figure of the King did not work well with Pixelego, so after a few attempts, I just thought, 'screw it, I'll do this on my own.'

Designing and building actually took less than 2 days. It was quite fun mapping out all of the colors and lines in bricks and then filling in the blank areas. I would readily recommend this as an exercise to anyone who wanted practice trying to work with visualization of slopes and lines and such.

I mainly used 1x2 bricks through the mosaic (I'd estimate at least 90% of the bricks are that size). The border uses thousands of such bricks of white. It was while completing the border that I ran into a bit of a snag...

As I approached the first corner, I wanted to place a quarter round brick on the baseplate.

I couldn't find my white quarter rounds.

I looked and looked.

The mess in my studio was taunting me.

I checked all of my bins and tubs (which were much more out of order than in those pictures).

I check all of my stray boxes that might have LEGO bricks.

No white quarter rounds.

Over the course of the mosaic building I would occasionally get up and search again.

No luck.

I know I had ordered them 18 months ago, yet now, the very pieces that had inspired this whole project could not be found.

I had finally resigned myself to the belief that I must have traded them or given them away during the past year (thinking that I would never get around to bulding this mosaic after all).

Stupid, stupid.

I started perusing Brick Link for additional quarter rounds.

All of this had frustrated me greatly (I knew I would have this project done in a couple of days -- save the four stupid corners).

Then as a respite, I decided to take a break and go out to the bookstore.

On my way out I past by the statue from Princess Mononoke which 'guard my parlor door.

One might notice the earrings on that statue.

Each earring is made of 4 white 4x4 quarter rounds.

Heh. There they were.

So I removed on earring and used the corners (I still ordered more quarter rounds so as to have complete models).

With all of that over with, I soon had the King of Hearts mosaic completed.

Here are a few more pictures:


Did you know that traditionally the face cards of a playing deck were referred to by particular names? One source gives them these monikers:
King       David    Charles    Cesar    Alexander
Queen      Pallas   Judith     Rachel   Argine 
Jack       Hogier   Lahire     Hector   Lancelot
These names are in addition to certain nicknames that have evolved through the ages ('Suicide King' refers to the King of Hearts because of his sword stabbing his own head). Much more information is available out on the Web, of course.

You can learn something useless every day.

If you know of more card nicknames, let me know; I'll add them to this list:

King of Hearts: Suicide King
Queen of Spades: Black Maria (from the game of the same name)
Nine of Diamonds: Curse of Scotland
Seven of Diamonds: The Drinking Card
Jack of Clubs: pam (from the card game 'pam', in which this card is high trump)
Four of Clubs: Devil's Bedposts
There are also more common alternate terms for some cards. Examples: 'Dueces,' 'Treys', 'Knaves'.

Certain combinations of cards also have names. For example, there are several named Poker Hands. And of course any Pinochle player knows that name indicates the Queens of Spades paired with a Jack of Diamonds.

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