Anatomy of An Illustration: Exquisite Corpse

Inside This Day © Catherine Rutgers 2015Oh, those macabre surrealists! They just loved to play around with the more than slightly creepy, and yet be maddeningly onto something useful and deep. “Cadavre exquis” is the collective technique in which a text or image is shared in a chain: the first artist presents a piece, the second responds, then shows it to the next, who bounces off that, and so on. When asked to participate in a modern version of this, you know that I jumped at the chance!

The catalyst was Short, Fast, and Deadly (Echo Chamber | Fall 2014, Deadly Chaps Press) edited by Joseph A. W. Quintela and Parker Tettleton, with “views” by Katie Peyton. The excellent screen version (click on FULL PREVIEW) is available at And, of course, I love the print edition, which you can hold in your own hands (but doesn’t seem to be available where it once was).

The jump-off point for me was “Swallowed in Limits of Hesitation,” a beautiful piece by author Meg Tuite. On receiving her text, I could not have been happier. It begins thus – “Unacquainted with right turns, the past is a present map that includes happenstance bruises and head-butts with objects that appear inanimate” – with the next twenty-two lines just leaving me entranced.

So, my illustration began with a false start, oddly (in retrospect) entirely abstract:
Screen Grabbed © Catherine Rutgers 2015

Then I remembered the “cakewalk” series of photos snapped before dismantling a conceptual sculpture in preparation for a birthday party (because I wanted to use the awesome dish for an actual cake):
Cakewalk One © Catherine Rutgers 2015 Cakewalk Two © Catherine Rutgers 2015

Cakewalk Three © Catherine Rutgers 2015

From there it was the proverbial breeze. I picked my favorite photo from the lineup, added two images, one an abstract derivative, one fresh from the out of doors, and mixed, stirring lightly within the specs for publication:
Blue Button Cakewalk © Catherine Rutgers 2015 Awash © Catherine Rutgers 2015 The Fire Within © Catherine Rutgers 2015

Once I was satisfied with the structure, the layers were flattened, the color adjusted, and voila! My contribution was complete.
Nearly But Not Swallowed © Catherine Rutgers 2015

 Catherine Rutgers © 2015

About CatRutgers4Art

Original art by Catherine Rutgers, with musings on the media and the methods. Founded in 2010. “I believe in magic moments. Am not afraid to be sentimental, and adore a tweaked cliché. Two of my favorite pastimes are watching paint dry and observing green tendrils unfold.”
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2 Responses to Anatomy of An Illustration: Exquisite Corpse

  1. Thank you for writing about your process in creating your wonderful response to Meg’s work!

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