Distribute a sheet of paper and pens to each partnership.
Instruct one person to quickly draw any line, object or shape on the paper.
Then, invite their partner to do the same, to complement or add to what is already present.
This process of back-and-forth continues for several minutes.
Encourage everyone to let go of controlling the outcome and be open to something magical.
When ready, invite one or more pairs to share their artwork.
Process as required.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of those deceptively simple, yet powerful experiences that once engaged, people love to do.
Ask your group to break into groups of 2 or 3 people. You could add more people, but it soon becomes cumbersome, and this will start to tear at the success of the exercise.
Distribute a sheet of paper and pens to each partnership/small group. Then, setting-up each group with a hard surface (table, clipboard, etc,) announce that you would like everyone to create a work of art, together.
Already, this will shake most people to their core, because (a) we tell ourselves that we are not artists, and (b) we ordinarily do not engage with others when we create art. Nonetheless, push on…
Instruct one person in each group to start by simply drawing any line, object or shape onto the sheet of paper. It should take no more than a few seconds to complete, and it does not need to mean anything, nor look like anything… yet.
Then, instruct their partner to draw their own line, object or shape to the paper, either complementing what is already there, or adding thereto. It doesn’t matter. Again, they should complete this task quickly.
After each person has drawn their own content, start over. The first person continues to add more to the artwork, and then their partner(s) continues this process, back and forth, over and over.
Impress on your group, that in the early moments of their artwork, it need not look like or mean anything. Just commit to producing, as improvisationally as possible.
You may want to encourage people to let go of trying to control the outcome. Invite them to ‘let go’ and go with the flow and see what happens. Often magic does.
Ultimately, your challenge to each partnership, through their collaborative drawing efforts, is to produce a piece of art they are both happy with.
Time this experience if you choose, or allow the creative juices of each partnership to simply peter out when they are satisfied.
When ready, invite one or more pairs to share their courageous work.
For some groups, this can be a powerful activity, so be prepared to process this experience for them. Take a look at the Reflection tab for some sample questions to keep in mind.
Practical Leadership Tips
Encourage people to not think too hard about what is happening in the beginning. Just draw, quickly.
Sometimes, a quick demonstration can aid a clearer understanding of this task. If not a demo, then show this video to better communicate what your group can expect. Either way, you will be able to communicate nuances that are often difficult to communicate verbally, such as not overthinking and allowing for, perhaps even encouraging, laughter to emerge.
Playing music, perhaps jazz or inspiring instrumentals, adds to the learning environment and may inspire creativity.
Nor should any person try to manipulate the result, by influencing or otherwise, a particular line of thought. Just let the artwork flourish and take form with each and every stroke.
This is a perfect potion to eliminate boredom. You can pull this exercise out at any time you have a few minutes to fill, or sitting in an aeroplane, waiting rooms, etc.
To learn more about this collaborative drawing process, take a look at Exquisite Corpse, a terms used to describe a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Something I am told was used by Salvador Dali.
Vary The Media: Use crayons, coloured pencils or paint (and brushes) and/or try it with index cards or large flip-chart paper.
Time’s Up: Limit the amount of time any person has to draw their line. This keeps the project moving forward, and prevents too much thinking.
Stylish Collaborative Drawing: Limit all strokes to one or more types, eg all straight lines, or curves only, etc.
Colour In: Once the completed artwork is complete, invite the partnership to colour it in, again, one small part at a time, one turn at a time.
Circle Artwork: Start by sitting in a circle, perhaps around one large or several tables. Each person draws their first contribution on a sheet of paper, and then several seconds later, passes it to the person on their left. Continue until every sheet of paper returns to where it started.
Group Drawing: Take a look at Pictionary to enjoy another wonderfully creative drawing exercise involving groups.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
Access a (free) video mirroring/whiteboard software (such as Whiteboardfox) that will enable your participants to use an asynchronous drawing function. Instruct your group to learn how to use this software and then allocate them to X number of breakout rooms of 2 or 3 people who will work on the same whiteboard (each has their own whiteboard URL.) Instruct them to work together to create a unique piece of artwork. Be sure to ask each group to take a screenshot of their work before they return to the primary (presenter) screen to then share this image with the large group.
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Useful Framing Ideas
When you consider the 100 billion people who ever walked on the face of this earth, only about 1,000 of them were ever considered true artists. What this says to me is that we need to get over ourselves when we think that we are not artists. To prove my point, I’m going to invite you now to enter into an exciting artistic enterprise…
Most art is generally created or produced by a single person. There are exceptions, of course, but most artwork is solitary, for lots of good reasons. Today, I’m interested to know what is possible if we combine the talents of two or more people together to create something unique…
We are going to engage in a brief exercise focused on collaboration. When you think about collaboration, what comes to mind? What are some positive aspects of collaboration? What are some challenging aspects? What has shaped your current understanding of collaboration? Let’s consider these responses as we engage in this unique activity…
An aspect of collaboration is learning to let go. Perhaps more accurately, choosing to let go. When we collaborate, there may be a lot of ideas, perspectives, and opinions. Often, we feel strongly about our own, yet struggle to hear, understand, and consider the ideas of others. This experience, while focused on collaboration, really focuses on the nuances necessary to collaborate, such as letting go, trusting others, trusting the process, being open to outcomes…
Ready to have some fun and create something totally unique…with another person? In a moment, you’ll have an opportunity to create something with another person that could only exist in this moment. Here’s how it works…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun collaborative game:
What did you say to yourself when you first heard that you were going to draw something?
What feelings, thoughts, behaviours or stories emerged as you were drawing?
Did your perceptions shift or change during the exercise? How?
Did you notice moments when you chose to let go or didn’t let go?
What was the most surprising part of this task?
Did you and your partner impress yourselves? Why?
What might this exercise teach you about trusting and collaborating with others?
Does collaboration come to you with ease or effort? Why?
The inspiration for Collaborative Drawing was sourced from my good friend Nate Folan who shared this creatively fun exercise on his blog (adding further value here, with thanks.) To view Nate’s inspiration, click here to view a fun time-lapsed video of this activity in action from the Mr Otter Art Studio.