Charlene Eldon


The Rainbow Deck

This deck of cards, lovingly called “The Rainbow Deck”, was inspired by the queer community of San Francisco, where I was born and grew up. The city has changed a lot since I was young, but those of us who knew it in the old days miss the weird and spirit of San Francisco before the tech days. I was inspired by LGBT: San Francisco: The Daniel Nicoletta Photographs, which is a series of photos of the queer SF community dating back to the first days of the SF Pride parade and Harvey Milk. The challenge was to create a unique piece of artwork that was still recognizable and functional deck of cards.

To get everything to look cohesive and be user-friendly, I did every part of this project by hand. The characters of the Jacks, Queens, Kings, and Jokers are all hand-drawn. I sketched them on paper, then traced them in Illustrator, then very carefully flipped each person at a precise angle to create the classic two-headed royal card effect. All of the letters and numbers are from the typeface Fairwater, which I outlined and manipulated in Illustrator. I then created a grid system in InDesign that I used to place every item in the exact same place for all 56 cards. 


This drag king is Mad Dogg, champion of Bay Area drag king competitions.

This grunge gentleman was inspired by one of Daniel Nicoletta's photographs.

Inspired by the SF Drag King Contest

Inspired by the SF Drag King Contest

Another inspired by one of Daniel Nicoletta's photographs


This sexy Mexican (his words) is based on writer and stand up comedian Baruch Porras Hernandez who can be seen monthly as the Voice of Shipwreck Erotic Fan fiction show at the Booksmith.

From Daniel Nicoletta's anthology, the great Divine.

This lovely gal is based on Honey Mahogany, who can be seen regularly performing at The Stud.

This beautiful lady is one of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.


It turns out the Jacks in a card deck has actually historically been a sort of hermaphroditic character, so I thought that would be perfect for trans people of SF. 

Inspired by Daniel Nicoletta's photography.

Inspired by an SF Chronicle piece on elderly trans people

Inspired by Asia SF

Inspired by Daniel Nicoletta's photography.

Charley Eldon