How to understand drawing and paintings: Online course by Prof. Dr. Zoltán VASS

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How Unconscious Reveal Itself In Scribbles

A Classical Test: Institute of Projective Drawings

The Grätz Scribble Method: Our Favourite

Even more exciting than spontaneous scribbles are the classical scribble methods, in which we ask the respondent to scribble in a predefined way.

Try one of the classical methods, namely the Grätz Scribble Technique!

The psychoanalyst Eva Grätz (1978) asked her patients to prepare nonfigurative depictions of specific stimulus words. The method is used as a part of exploratory therapy for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

You can find detailed instructions and video recordings here about scribble tests.

According to the instruction, the client depicts a total of 16 stimulus words with nonfigurative scribbles.

The therapist lists a few words and asks the subject:

  • to depict the impressions or internal movements
  • elicited by those words
  • using spontaneous lines or shapes
  • that do not depict objects.

Required tools: 16 sheets of size A6 plain, white paper (I usually fold a sheet of A4 in half, and then fold that in half again) and a soft pencil.

Required time: 5-10 minutes altogether.

The following instructions should be given:


  • ”I will say a few words. Please, depict the impression or inner motion you experience in response to the words, using spontaneous lines or shapes that do not depict the objects. You can use one folded cell for each word. "
  • "When you have done this, faintly write the word on the reverse side of the paper, so that it does not show through.” (modified instruction by Vass, 2012)

To make the scribbles we should say the following stimulus words one by one (always waiting for the client to finish before proceeding to the next word):

Stimulus Words:

  1. anger
  2. fear
  3. hate
  4. forgiveness
  5. attraction
  6. jealousy
  7. desire
  8. despair
  1. resistance
  2. safety
  3. aggression
  4. loneliness
  5. a conflict word
  6. dance
  7. father
  8. mother
  1. anger
  2. fear
  3. hate
  4. forgiveness
  5. attraction
  6. jealousy
  7. desire
  8. despair
  9. resistance
  10. safety
  11. aggression
  12. loneliness
  13. a conflict word
  14. dance
  15. father
  16. mother

The Graetz Scribble Technique  (click to enlarge)

Click on the picture above!

On the left you find the original list of the sixteen stimulus words suggested by Grätz.

The bottom two lists of four words are possible versions of the fourth sheet (they feature the patient’s conflict word, chosen by the examiner or, alternatively, a word chosen freely by the subject).

The centre picture shows part of the scribble method of a 21-year-old female. This is a typical scribble in contrast to the next one.

The right picture is a very interesting second sheet of the method of a schizophrenic patient.

Instead of abstract scribbles, she used small, identical human figures to depict the concepts. This reaction is called "concretization" (Vass, 2012).

In the next chapter you will learn two methods of interpretation.

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Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below and start experimenting with this technique.
  • Draw your own Graetz-scribbles! In the next chapter you will learn two methods of interpretation.
  • We are curious to read your comments about this method.


Grätz, E. (1978). Zeichnen aus dem Unbewußten. Stuttgart: Hippokrates.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

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  • Prof. Zoltan Vass, PhD is University Professor of Psychology and Head of the Faculty of the Psychology of Visual Expression, Károli University, Budapest.
  • He has published over 20 books and 400 scientific articles in 7 languages.
  • His method of Seven-Step Configuration Analysis (SSCA) awarded several scientific prices.
  • On SSCA, 7 scientific symposia were organized.
  • It has led to the establishment of 3 accredited clinical trainings and a postgraduate faculty with a total of 1622 participants.
  • It is taught or referenced in 152 courses in Hungary, Romania, Germany, France, Russia, China, Israel etc.

International appraisals of the SSCA Method

Prof. Dr. Diane Waller MA(RCA) DPhil, FRSA, OBE

Emeritus Professor of Art Psychotherapy, Goldsmiths, University of London

“This is an extraordinary work
different from the work already in the public domain in that it proposes a new, much more complex approach to the interpretation of drawings and paintings"

“It opens up avenues
on the long-debated efficacy of projective drawing as diagnostic and therapeutic tools"

Prof. Catherine T. L. SUN

Professor & Head, Department of Counselling and Psychology, Hong Kong Shue Yan University

Prof. Dr. Carlos R. Hojaij

Clínica Psiquiatria Biológica Brasil, São Paulo

“Fantastic (!!!) ... No doubt it does deserve a world wide publication, for it will be very useful to so many professionals researching and working in art therapy and any one interested in expression and psychology"

Preview the full

online course:

Institute of Projective Drawings