A New Game to Play

Yesterday I was introduced to surrealism. Now, of course, I’ve known about the surrealist art movement and have long been familiar with artists such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Max Ernst. Honestly, I don’t care much for surrealist art. For the most part, I’ve shrugged it off and overlooked it as part of my art studies. Why turn my time and attention to an art form that I don’t intend to pursue?

Good question.

I don’t have a good answer. But I do have a new book — well, a used one, actually — titled Surrealist Book of Gamesand so, here I am ready to play along with the masters of this mind-bending genre.

How did this happen? What stars crossed themselves up in my art heavens to decree that I should begin exploring something so far afield of my personal aesthetics? Why did I purchase this book, and why am I willing to follow along?

I guess in large part I just want to see where this all might lead me. Maybe I can chalk this up to my personal “art therapy” program whereby I’m getting in touch with a lot of deep-down, long-buried feelings. Naturally I’m curious about what might emerge from the hidden depths of my sub-conscious.

Here, for starters, is my first somewhat surrealistic painting, although it didn’t actually start out to be that at all. It began as another Sketchbook Revival project, and then evolved into this colorful — meaningless — combination of shapes and scribbles:

One of the most important things I’ve taken away from the Sketchbook Revival event is that our sketchbooks are not sacred tomes. They’re more like playgrounds, places where we can run as fast as we can, fall and skin our knees, get into arguments with any big bully who tries to shove us down, and climb to the top of the monkey bars to get a better view of the world.

A sketchbook is a place for games, for crazy experiments, for slow, meditative art, or for lightning-quick blitzkrieg art relays. I now have a growing collection of very personal sketchbooks, not ones I’ve bought at any art supply store, but ones I’ve made, ones that do truly reflect who I am as an artist. This, more than anything, is helping me come to terms with the process of art journaling, learning to see it not so much as a means of preserving memories and special moments but as a method of self-discovery, both as an artist and as a woman.

Much of the Sketchbook Revival emphasis was on intuitive art, and I’ve written on the topic before. Through the various workshops offered, participants could explore many different meanings and interpretations for intuitive art. Surrealism is one of the ways in which we can approach this inner muse.

I’m not going too far into the history of surrealism here, just far enough to share these basic ideas:

Surrealism was a cultural movement which developed in Europe in the aftermath of World War I. The movement is best known for its visual artworks and writings and the juxtaposition of distant realities to activate the unconscious mind through the imagery. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes, sometimes with photographic precision, creating strange creatures from everyday objects, and developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was, according to leader Andre Breton, to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality, or surreality.  — From: Wikipedia

Surrealism, by the way, was not — is not — limited to visual arts, but can be found in literature, films, photography, music, and dance. There’s much to be learned, and it is interesting, indeed.

For me, surrealism will be a lot about colors, about shapes, about taking things apart and putting them back together. I do think that working with personal surrealism can be helpful to any artist, and what I mean by that term is a process of creation not with conscious intent but by following the promptings of our subconscious. Only then can we explore the colors and the images and — perhaps — find that they do have meaning for us. It’s an experience of interpreting our own hidden selves, at least that’s how I’m seeing it.

So, yup. I’ve got book in hand, and I’m ready to play a few surrealist games. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I think this could be very enlightening.



  1. Very interesting and inspiring thoughts! Even though I don’t consider myself as an artist, I like to paint from time to time and sometimes feel very frustrated when my sketchbook is not “perfect”. I should really start seeing it as a place to experiment and try new things! Thanks for sharing 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, exactly! I’ve discovered that making my own handmade sketchbooks makes it even more fun. It helps me see that the book is all about playing, doing different things, and just being ME. That really makes it fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Does the surrealist book talk about the “exquisite corpse” game? It’s fun but you’re not supposed to look at what the first artist drew before you add your piece and people can’t resist cheating which ruins the game. So it’s best if the players are all together but it can be done through the mail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, this sounds interesting! After I read your comment I reached for the book so I can browse through the contents, and I can’t find it! I swear it was right here next to my computer. Right now the entire studio is in disarray after the flood. 😦 I’m so glad that nothing was seriously damaged. One old canvas got wet and warped a bit, but it wasn’t a painting I planned to keep, so no real loss there. Some of my drawing paper got damp, and I might have lost a few old art magazines that I’d left on the floor — that’ll teach me to pick up when I leave the studio — but otherwise all is good. The problem is that I had to move everything into other parts of the basement so that I could do all the clean-up. Now I can’t find anything! But this will be a good opportunity for me to re-vamp a bit and re-organize all my supplies. As soon as I locate that book I’m going to look at all the games in it! Right now I’ve been working only with the “written” games — free-writing exercises.


      1. Sorry the flood happened in your studio!
        I thought the exquisite corpse game would work for writing but if you want to do it for a picture I’ll play. The first artist does a sketch then covers up most of the drawing with a blank paper leaving only 1″ showing and a lot of blank paper on top or below the first sketch. Then the second artist has to continue the drawing without knowing what the first artist did because they can only see 1″. So you get things like horses with trees on their heads or some crazy thing. It’s fun because you have to use your imagination. A couple artists in PA wanted to do the game with me but I think they took the paper off to see what I drew and then they never finished it. Then I got one back a year later but I was mad at her because I knew she cheated by looking under the paper and I threw it out. So when two artists send the first step through the mail to each other and finish the corpse you receive, you both get a cool surrealist drawing. Three artists or more can work on one picture if you’re all together, and ideally everyone gets a corpse to take home because you pass them on to the next person to finish. Everyone starts a corpse then they finish another one. I hope that makes sense. I knew a surrealist in VA that organized the game and it worked out that time!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it would be a lot of fun… and maybe we can figure out a way to do it through email where the drawing would be “hidden” as it passes from one artist to another. 🙂 Thanks so much for the suggestion. I would love to get some sort of “art game” going.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you! I’ve never understood surrealist art, so it’s interesting to play with it now. I’m doing it as part of my personal “art therapy”. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How fun!! I look forward to following you along. You made a beautiful start. I`ll put it on my mind to stop treating my sketchbooks as sacred tomes 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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