Surreal Games

by Sor. K115

The following games and techniques have been taken from the book 'Surrealist Games'; Redstone Press, London. Everyone can experiment with them, no 'artistic talent' is needed, they are fun and can be used in artistic, magical and playful contexts.


The 'cadavre exquis', whether visual or verbal, was a favourite game with the surrealists.

Rules for the verbal form:

Minimum of three players

The players sit around a table and each writes on a sheet of paper a definite or indefinite article and an adjective (neighbours cannot see what's written). Sheets are folded to conceal the written words and are passed to the next player. Each player then writes a noun, conceals it, verb, definite or indefinite article, adjective, noun. Sentences are read on after a further passing on of the papers.

More complicated sentence-structures can be agreed upon.

The game acquired its name from the first sentence obtained in this way:

The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine
('Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau').

The game in its visual form is played very similar: The participants complete a figure without seeing what has been done already. If for example you play the game with three players you agree that in the first stage the head is drawn, in the second the belly and the final stage will consist of legs (or tentacles).

As with automatic writing, get yourself in a receptive frame of mind and draw without thinking, avoid conscious control over the image. Keeping your pencil on the paper can help the flow. In fact, automatic drawing is a sort of accelerated or intensified doodling, in which unexpected and unpredictable images can be made to appear, and used as the basis for further visual play.

A method of creating images or effects by passing paper or canvas over a smoking candle or petroleum la p. The image is then fixed and perhaps worked on.

In another reference 'Fumage' is described as passing a canvas with wet oil-paint over a flame so that the image or colours become modified.

A sheet of paper is placed on any natural or manufactured surface possessing a relief or incised pattern. The paper is rubbed with crayon, a soft pencil, charcoal etc. By combining frottages from different surfaces complex effects can be achieved within one drawing. the pattern or image obtained can be coloured, cut up, or combined with other material in collage.

DECALCOMANIA (with no preconceived object)
Spread gouache, ink or oil paint, diluted in some places, on to any suitable non-absorbent surface (coated paper, glass etc.), press onto this your sheet of paper or canvas, then lift or peel away.

Decalcomania is related to other games/ procedures that resemble the Rohrschach Test used by psychologists, in which an ink-blot is folded in two to create a roughly symmetrical image and then is interpreted by the client.

The game 'ghosts of my friend' works as follows: a signature is folded in two while the ink is still wet. The resulting image gives revelations about the signatory.

This is a form of 'marbling'. An image is drawn into an oily liquid with water-based pigment (or vice versa). A sheet of paper is then placed upon or made to slide across the surface, and the image is lifted or 'creamed' off the liquid.

This form of collage was invented by Hans Arp. Paper is torn or cut up, randomly or into shapes, and the pieces are then dropped onto a sheet of paper. These random configurations are then fixed with glue.

Variation: the torn paper already bears an image, which is thus dislocated and re-assembled unpredictably according to the fall of the paper. It can then be 're-interpreted' by subsequent working over wit pencil or brush.

Process of scraping wet or dried paint (or a mixture of both) from a canvas or another surface with a blade.

Glue is first randomly smeared on the canvas, then sand sprinkled upon it. It may be left to dry as it falls, or further manipulated with brushes, knives etc.

A sheet of paper is screwed up, then smoothed out again. When soaked in coloured inks, the creases take up the colour, creating a veined effect.

3D decalcomania done by pouring molten metal/ wax into water. The material then solidifies. The resulting shapes can then be interpreted. This process is actually used in Austria and Germany when the New Year starts and is known as 'Bleigiessen' (leadpouring). Molten metal is poured into water and the shape can then be interpreted as to what the future of the next year holds for you in store.