Digital sketch for my WIP Don't Shoot the Muse based on the Artist's Book Ideation Cards
© Cherry Jeffs 2014
If you're anything like me, sometimes you need external motivation in your creative practice.
This year for my personal Home Art Retreat weekend, I followed a series of prompts from my newly acquired set of Artist's Book Ideation Cards.
It's the first time I've worked from someone else's prompts and I can't recommend enough for the fresh stimulation it provokes.
If you'd like to try working from prompts in this way, buying the Artist's Book Ideation Cards certainly aren't the only way: One of my online friends, Dan James, told me about Oblique Strategies: Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas.
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Creative Prompts
The Oblique Stategies deck was the result of a joint project between musician Brian Eno and Berlin-born, British artist/composer Peter Schmidt (1931–1980) who had just finished a set of 64 drawings based on the I Ching.
First published in 1975, the deck of 115, 7 x 9 cm cards was printed with simple black text featuring an aphorism to help artists break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking. Though the deck was in itself a conceptual art project, the cards were also a practical tool for generating ideas and breaking free of stale thought patterns.
Oblique Strategies clip from the film Slacker
Oblique Strategies in Popular Culture
The aphorisms of the Oblique Strategies deck have made their way into many areas of popular culture especially music: Coldplay are said to have used the cards when recording their 2008 Brian Eno-produced album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends and Eno himself used them whilst recording the song Sense of Doubt on David Bowie's iconic 1977 album Heroes.
The Oblique Strategies deck also appears in the film Slacker - in which a woman offers cards to passers-by.
(The first card drawn in the clip - "Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy." - came to be seen as a summary of the film's ethos though, in fact, it was not part of the official set of Oblique Strategies.)
While the original Oblique Strategies cards were limited edition, there is now a new non-limited edition available.
The Avant-garde: Fluxus
Eno's ideas for the Oblique Strategies cards were probably influenced by similar decks coming out of the avant-garde at the time of his visual arts education in the 1960s - which developed in tandem with his growth as a musician - in particular the Fluxus movement.
Water Yam - a 'multiple' by American artist George Brecht, originally published in Germany in 1963 is considered one of the most influential artworks released by Fluxus.
The box - designed by George Maciunas and typeset by Tomas Schmit - contains a large number of small printed cards, containing open-ended instructions known as event-scores, or 'fluxscores' for a musical performance, 'temporary assemblage' or 'abstract action' and which leave space for chance as well as interpretation by performers and audience.
Online Art Prompts
Of course, with the advent of the internet, came lots more possibilities for generating prompts online without the need for printing cards. Here are a few that I found:
Try working with random prompts
So next time you're feeling a bit stale and need a new form of creative inspiration, why not try working with one of these kinds of prompts?
You might be surprised by the results!
More ways to improve your knowledge and practice
Free online resources to expand your art technique and art history education.