“Exquisite Corpse” is a fun and simple game that has been around since at least 1925. Invented by the surrealists, the game requires nothing but two artists, a piece of paper, and a drawing implement. The paper is folded in half “hamburger style,” or horizontally. With the paper folded, the first artist does the upper half of a drawing on the top half of the paper. This first artist then draws a few indication lines on the bottom half, which the second artist then uses to create a continuation of the drawing without having actually seen the first half. Once the paper is unfolded, bizarre, fascinating, and often beautiful drawings are revealed.
This is a fantastic game to play with children ages 6 and up, and is a great way to express imagination. When playing with kids, I find that full-color “Corpses” are more fun. To make sure that they aren’t idle or waiting on you to finish your half of the drawing, I recommend both artists start the top half of a drawing at the same time, then switch papers to each draw the bottom half of the other’s work. This ensures that no one gets too antsy before the paper switch.
To add to the experience, it is sometimes fun to make up stories about your wacky art creatures after they have been completed. Create a whole world for them, and even add it to the drawing if you like!
Exquisite Corpse also has an “Advanced” mode, made up I believe by my brother and me. This mode has been around since at least the year 2000, and is recommended for grown-ups or big kids ages 8 and up. Advanced Exquisite Corpse adds in a bit of Mad Libs! The first artist does their drawing on the top half of the paper, then includes the beginning of a phrase or expression. Then on the bottom half of the paper, along with the indication lines for Artist Two, they draw an underline and write underneath it the part of speech needed to complete the phrase. When Artist Two draws next, he or she fills in the blank and completes the drawing.
Artist One draws a rabbit head on the top half of the paper, then draws neck lines that extend down slightly onto the bottom half of the paper. On the top half, Artist One writes “What’s up….?” And then draw a line on the bottom page, under which is the word “noun.”
Artist Two takes the paper, without looking at the top half, and draws a body based on the indication neck lines left by Artist One. Let’s say Artist Two draws a car. Then on the blank line above the word “noun,” Artist Two fills in a noun– let’s say Artist Two writes in “NASCAR” (although the word doesn’t need to match the drawing).
Now, when the drawing is revealed, there is a rabbit head with a card body that says, “What’s up… NASCAR?”
Here are some examples of Exquisite Corpses drawn by me and 9 year old Sophie:
Written By Zoë
Zoë moved to Vancouver in 2007 to attend UBC, and has lived there ever since! Her BFA is in creative writing with a focus on screenwriting because she is a big movie fan. She particularly enjoys children’s movies, and hopes to someday write them herself. She has plenty of her own experience as a nanny and believes that keeping in touch with one’s inner child is crucial to happiness!