Bringing the Exquisite Corpse to Life: Access Your Subconscious and Practice Illustration at the Same Time

Exquisite Corpse Drawing Example

The Exquisite Corpse is a method of drawing made famous by the Surrealist movement of artists in the mid-19th century, which relies on the unexpected contrast of subject matter to produce jarring images. The idea is to collaborate with multiple people with a variety of imaginative approaches on a single drawing, resulting in subtle connections that would not be made visible by a single artist.

Exquisite Corpse Drawing Technique

The process begins with three to five people sitting around a table, each with their own piece of paper and drawing utensil of choice. Folding the paper into vertical thirds beforehand will help simplify the process later. Each person then draws the first thing that pops into his or her head in the top section of their paper, with as little or as much detail as they like. Some people prefer to use a timer set to five or ten minutes, in order to encourage the freedom of creativity and prevent the paralysis of overthinking.

When the time is up or each person is finished, they proceed to fold the paper on its predetermined crease and cover the drawing they’ve just completed. The drawing should extend only an inch or so into the middle section, which will give the next person a place to start. Everyone proceeds to pass their paper in the same direction, so that each ends up with a new page that is folded once to hide the drawing of the previous artist.

Working off of the overlapping line, the timer is reset and each person draws a new composition. It’s important to remember to leave your form open at the bottom as someone else will have to finish off the drawing. The process is repeated until all three sections of the paper are filled, each page having been created by three separate artists. This leads us to the best part in opening up the paper and seeing the results of three separate imaginations working together subconsciously on a single cohesive image.

Why Use the Exquisite Corpse Drawing Technique?

The Surrealists found this exercise to be valuable in many different ways. By working from unknown inspiration and hiding the previous drawing from one another, this process relies on similarities of experience such as occupying the same room at the same time in order to connect each piece of the three-part drawing. They often found that upon examining the juxtapositions in detail, it was possible to find the connection between each disjointed idea; whether the drawing was of an object or person in the room, had to do with some current event or bit of news, or was taken from a previous conversation between two individual artists.

The second benefit to this type of drawing is the balance between the pressure of time and lack of critical development – a creative activity taking place within a social setting takes the seriousness out of making art and helps to encourage free association as well as uninhibited creativity. The pressing matter of time further helps to avoid overthinking and simply draw without necessarily caring whether it’s “good” or not. Many of the Surrealist artists to helped develop this kind of gathering took that creative momentum and applied it to their own individual paintings and prints, using the same kind of jarring contrast as a tool for making surprising images.

A gallery of these Exquisite Corpse drawings can be found in the MoMA’s Online Collection, which further emphasizes the incredible potential of this process.

As they say, two heads are better than one!

Cheers, Mark.

How to Teach Yourself to Create Visual Word Art

Rhino Drawing

A lot of my friends ask me how I come up with my visual word art designs.  it can be difficult to explain, but I thought I would try to explain my process to create visual word art.

A key part of being an artist of any kind is to have the right mindset where you allow your mind to be creative.  It is hard to explain, but a good example is that if you decide you want to be creative, the best way to get started is to draw anything you like every day.

Rhino Drawing

Once you get into the habit (and it can be difficult some days just to get started), your sub-conscious mind then starts to come up with creative ideas at random times.  If you reward these creative ideas (through recording them and then acting on them by creating the art) you will create a positive feedback loop which will further feed your mind to come up with even better ideas.

When I walk through the world I see the world through this creative mindset and am constantly inspired to create new art ideas.  Some work out well and some do not, but that doesn’t really matter.  The key point is to get my pen or pencil on a sheet of paper every day and as the inspiration strikes, and I then find that I reach a creative ‘flow’ mindset where I can constantly come up with new ideas to try.

I definitely recommend that you give it a try.  Buy some basic art supplies and try drawing something every day for a month and see what difference it makes – I think you will be amazed and how many drawing ideas you will have brimming from your subconscious!

I certainly amaze myself sometimes in terms of some of the ideas i have which just seem to pop up from nowhere!


My Favorite Visual Word Art Drawing Tools, Resources and Inspiration

Poetry Visual Art

After a lot of trial and experimentation over several years I have my visual art drawing kit of preferred items that I wanted to share with you, as well as some online resources to help you get started with drawing, and visual word art inspiration.

My drawing style is to go with budget options where possible, but if it is worth spending more money on an expensive drawing tool then I will usually invest in these tools as it makes the whole drawing experience so much more pleasurable.

For resources there are quite a few free options to help you get started, and finally some sources of visual word art inspiration to see what is possible and to trigger your own creativity.

1.  Drawing Surface

I like to be able to draw anywhere when inspiration strikes me.  As a result I usually pack an artist sketchboard (like this one!) in my backpack for when I am out and about – I find a board of around 13″ x 17″ to be a good size to carry (without being too big) but also not too small. I also prefer to have a clip to hold my paper in place.  An artist sketchboard is also a good cheap option to purchase if you are just starting to get into drawing.

When I am drawing at home my preferred drawing surface is an angled drafting table with a large drawing surface.  I must admit that my parents bought my drafting table for Christmas two years ago, and I am very thankful for their thoughtfulness.  It was the perfect gift!

There are quite a few drafting table options out there, including some angled drafting modules which you can sit on your desk or kitchen table.  I suggest you check them out to find one which will suit you best.

2.  Drawing Paper

When I am out and about in conjunction with my drawing board I carry a pad of 11″ x 14″ drawing paper – like this one.  The individual sheets fit nicely onto my drawing board and is of good weight for both pencil and pen drawing which is my personal preference.  I also carry a plastic document wallet – I use it to hold both my drawing pad and my drawings so they do not get damaged in my backpack.

At home I mostly use medium weight paper in a range of different sizes.  Like most artists I have collected a large range of pads over the years (both through purchasing them myself and as gifts…) so am usually able to find what I am looking for after rummaging through the drawers on my drafting table!

3.  Drawing Pens and Pencils

Over the years I have tried many different pen and pencil options.  I usually start by using pencils to make my initial sketch, and I then use  pen for the final version.  I mostly use black ink pens, but occasionally play with some other colors of ink.

For drawing pencils I like to use a softer 2B or 4B pencil, but for the final step my preferred option is to use a fountain pen.  For finer work I like to use an extra-fine or fine nib fountain pen, and for thicker effects I like to use a broad nib fountain pen.  Here is some good information to help you choose a good quality fountain pen.  When you get started a cheaper fountain pen is a good option and once you find which style you like you can then decide whether to purchase better quality options.  i like to have a few fountain pens as I set them up to each have a different ink color – which makes it easy to switch and change my colors as I progress each project.

4.  Visual Word Art Quotes and References

There are some great sites out there which will help you find quotes for poetry – here are some of my favorite sites and there are many more out there:

  • Proverbia has a wide range of searchable poetry and speech quotes and is a great source of inspiration.
  • Cool Quotes Collection is also searchable and has quotes organised by category.
  • Goodreads is a surprising source of poetry quotes, and you can seach by tag which creates a great option to find quotes you will love.
  • Quote Garden is also searchable and has great options to just browse a large collection in a single page and be inspired.

5.  Drawing Technique Tutorials

Sometimes it can be hard to get started as a visual word artist – but you will be happy to know that there are a lot of online tutorials to help you get started right through to becoming an advanced artist.  Here are a few of my suggested resources for beginner artists to get going:

6.  Visual Word Art Inspiration

The best place to get inspiration for visual word art is Pinterest by far.  There are some great boards to follow as follows:

So there you have it – my favorite visual word art tools, resources and inspiration!  I hope this article helps you to get started with word art – it is a fun kind of art and it is great when you produce something where you think ‘I nailed it!’.

Cheers Mark



Welcome to the Writer’s E-Zine

Tiger Burning Bright Visual Poem

I would like to welcome you all to The Writer’s E-Zine – a new blog to share my love of visual art combined with the written word – which includes poetry and quotes.  My favorite kind of art!

Visual Art Capturing Poetry

A great example is below – how can you not feel an immediate connection?  I feel that the illustrator has done a great job to capture the essence of the poem.

Tiger Burning Bright Visual Poem
Tiger Burning Bright Visual Poem

Visual Art Capturing Word Play

I also like playing with words to make them into a visual form.  Below is an example of my other favorite kind of visual art which I like to call ‘word play’.

Poetry Visual Art
Poetry Word Play – done visually!

I look forward to sharing many other great art options and techniques for visual art and hope that you enjoy the journey with me.

Cheers, Mark.