Oblique Strategies


“Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify”  Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt-Oblique Strategies

Oblique Strategy graphic
Oblique Strategy graphic

I love when I stumble upon something I had never heard about. My latest “stumble upon” came from a blog I was reading that mentioned “Oblique Strategies.” The other amazing thing was that I was reading this blog in a creative “dry period” that I have been experiencing since the studio open house from a couple weeks ago. Always amazing how things come to you when you need it.

Oblique Strategies originally was created in 1975 by musician Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt,  The strategies began as a box of index-sized cards for artists, made of cut up, discarded prints from Schmidt’s studio. Each card contains a (sometimes cryptic) remark that can help resolve a creative dilemma.

Oblique Strategy card deck
Oblique Strategy card deck

From wikipedia, quoting the introduction to the 2001 edition:

“These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognized in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear…”

Examples of strategies to intervene in a dry period include such thoughts as:

  • Use an old idea.
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Honor thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Question the heroic approach.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • Give way to your worst impulse.
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate.
  • Do we need holes?
  • Decorate, decorate.
  • Disciplined self-indulgence.
  • From nothing to more nothing.
  • Ask your body.
  • Remove specifics and revert to ambiguities.
  • Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance.
  • Consider different fading systems.
  • Tidy up.
  • Simply a matter of work.
  • Use fewer notes.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honor thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

I think I will decorate, decorate this weekend. Lets hope that it takes me out of my malaise for painting!

Check out the card deck or the app for your phone. Maybe the advice is not only about art blocks but life blocks as well!

Thanks for reading….