Tessa Wessels’ Playing Cards

tessa wessels

WORDS Biddi Rorke


Schoolgirl morning doodles on the back of train tickets are now unique playing cards.

As a youngster, Tessa Wessels spent hours commuting by train between her home in Muizenberg and her school in Newlands. To while away the time, the now-25-year-old freelance concept artist would whip out her ballpoint pen and sketch rough portraits of fellow passengers on the back of her train tickets. “I’d pick anyone with interesting features,” she says. “There were so many people to choose from on the 6.45 am train – from hung-over teens to distracted businessmen.”

In the evenings, Tessa would work on her drawings with red pen and black markers, adding intriguing layers to the collage of memorable faces. “Eventually I had so many sketches they were spilling out of my blazer pockets,” she says. “I scribbled numbers, words and characters on them, and eventually my friends and I used them as playing cards during break.”

Wanting to surprise her (then) boyfriend, Tomas, with an unusual 18th-birthday gift, Tessa planned to give him her unique pack. “But my gran persuaded me to keep the originals and to make digital prints instead.”

Her A Face on a Train collection was soon followed by the Mafia Pack, featuring the shady faces of the Italian underworld. She now sells her one-of-a-kind playing cards at her parents’ art gallery, Artvark, in Kalk Bay.

Both series are available as packs of cards, R250, and 30 x 18 cm limited-edition individual card prints, R75.