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Animal Mashups

Example by Ione Sanders

April 2020. Ione Sanders.

By Jeremy Kreusch


Two mossy stone figures with human legs and fish torsos sit leaning against each other on a mossy stone by the seashore. On the horizon the shape of a double-masted sailing vessel made out of water rises out of the sea and cuts into the blue, cloud-filled sky.

René Magritte, Belgian, 1898–1967
Les merveilles de la nature (The Wonders of Nature), 1953
Oil on canvas
Encased: 42 5/8 × 50 5/8 × 6 1/2 in. (108.3 × 128.6 × 16.5 cm)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Joseph and Jory Shapiro, 1982.48

Photo: Nathan Keay © MCA Chicago


Take a look at this painting by René Magritte titled Les merveilles de la nature (The Wonders of Nature). Surrealists like Magritte made the ordinary extraordinary by combining different images together in irrational ways. They thought that creating unexpected combinations could help to let loose the creative potential dormant in each person's mind. In fact, to help them create combinations and ideas that were truly unexpected, they often used chance games involving things like dice, cards, or random words. If you're feeling short on ideas, try mixing it up with some chance games. Chance and randomness are useful in breaking predictable thought patterns. They lay the groundwork for play, improvisation, and discovery.


Get inspired.

Look at this artwork by Victor Brauner titled L’Objet qui reve II (The Object that Dreams II). Do you see any unusual combinations or things that ordinarily do not belong together? How would you feel if you encountered this creature in your dreams? Would it be kind or hostile? What might it say to you?

Roll the dice.

  1. Download and open the "Chance Table"; you'll see one page with 20 animals and one page with 20 objects.
  2. Pull out your twenty-sided die (d20) or go to this online dice roller and click the "20" die.
  3. Roll your d20 two times to select two different animals. (If you get the same number/animal twice, re-roll!)
  4. Use your favorite drawing tool to try and draw a strange new animal that is an unexpected combination of the two. Think about what kind of personality it might have. How might it inhabit your dreams?

Bonus Rounds

  • Roll your d20 three times to choose two animals and one object. Draw a strange new animal that is an unexpected combination of all three things.
  • Collaborate! Roll your d20 one time to choose one animal. Draw half of that animal. Get a friend or family member to roll a d20, choose another animal or object, and let them try to complete the drawing.


Example by Marya Spont-Lemus

April 2020. Marya Spont-Lemus.


Animal Mashups video still

Demonstration of the animal mashup creation process.

Activity Guide

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