Creative Activity: Exquisite Corpse Drawing

Example of an Exquisite Corpse Drawing

Example of an Exquisite Corpse Drawing

I frequently receive requests for creative activities so I thought I’d attempt to post one creative activity I use with clients (and myself!) once a week to inspire the rest of you to get out and create.

Today’s activity is called “Exquisite Corpse Drawing.” I can’t remember how I learned about this activity but it’s awesome! Also for the longest time I didn’t know how it got its name but recently I got a history lesson so now I do. Apparently Surrealist artists played it as a parlor game, calling it Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse). Why exactly this name I still don’t know but I’m into it.

“Exquisite Corpse Drawing (I just love saying its name!)” is a group game, typically with four players. Each participant receives a letter-sized blank sheet of paper (color doesn’t matter) and folds it into four equal section.

Everyone then draws a head of some sort (animal, human, extraterrestrial, whatever, anything you can imagine) on the sheet of paper, folds the paper over to mostly conceal their contribution (leave a little showing so the next participant has something to go off of), and passes it onto the next participant.

The next participant then draws an upper torso (again human, animal, inanimate object, whatever the heck you want), folds the paper over leaving a tiny bit of the drawing exposed, and passes it to the third person.

That person then draws the lower torso, folds it over leaving a bit exposed, and passes it to the fourth, and final person.

The final person draws some feet or some sort of conclusion to the drawing (fins, skateboard, whatever is on the bottom of something, get creative) and then reveals what was drawn. This always, always, ALWAYS causes the group to break out into fits of giggles. And I’ve done this activity with all ages in any setting you can think of (even jail), always with the same response.


Instead of drawing you could also paste images from magazines.  

If you have more than four participants you can simply work it like a round robin with everyone drawing, folding, and passing for four rounds.

And play it over and over and over. You'll never get sick of it! Okay, maybe you will at some point but give it a few rounds.

I’m a big fan of this activity for a few reasons.

It’s a great, non-cheesy ice breaker and we all know how hard it is to find one of those. And like I said before it works with any group. Every time I use it, it’s a big hit.

Along those same lines, it encourages collaboration through genuine connection. Whether you’ve just met or are BFFs, this game often shows one another a different, lighter, goofy side of people, which is helpful in letting our guard down and letting others in. There’s often a trust that develops that lasts beyond this one game.

Also, it helps people get out of their comfort zone and draw without shame. It can be really difficult to get people who don’t consider themselves to be artists to artistically express themselves due to fear and shame around their abilities. But when you create art in a fun, silly  way, people let their inhibitions go and often rediscover how much they once enjoyed art.

So grab some friends, co-workers, cellmates and get to drawing your exquisite corpses!