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

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Two Techniques For The Grätz Scribble Test

Institute of Projective Drawings

STEP #1: Latent Meaning Of Movement Similarity

We have reached a very exciting chapter, since we will analyze the Grätz Scribble Method (see the previous chapter in which anger and other emotions were drawn.)

First of all, place all the scribbles face-up in front of your clients on a table or on the floor randomly (makes sure there is ample room for this).

We ask the client to group the scribbles according to similarity of movements patterns.

You can find  art therapy techniques here as the Nonexistent Animal Technique or the Draw-A-Couple Technique.

For instance put circular scribbles in one group, the straight and sharp lines in another group, the geometrical forms in a separate group, etc.

WARNING: Do not look at what is on the other side of the paper. 

Look only looking for phenomenological similarity (e.g. line pressure, movement patterns, shapes).

Remember? The subject wrote the word that was illustrated on the reverse side of each paper.

When this is ready you get to the main point. Turn the pieces of paper over and see which words were placed next to each other!

Why are we looking for similarity? What does it mean if we find it?

Things that we depict in a similar manner, we think of in a similar way. Therefore, their representation contains mutual components.

(See in details in "The Psychodiagnostic Interpretation Of Associations" in Vass, 2012, A Psychological Interpretation Of Drawings And Paintings, Budapest: Alexandra, pp. 658-673.)

Important: the therapist does not offer his or her own explanation for the similarity.

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Ask the client in a non-directive way: "Why do you think these scribbles resemble each other?"

If you have carried out the method correctly, this will result in the subject's positive recognition of components of the unconscious coming to the surface (e. g. father, anger, aggression, jealousy and hate scribbles may be grouped together).

Step #2: Anatomy of Lines

You remember the motor empathy method, don’t you?

Now we are looking for an answer to what the scribble says about the individual experience of the expression.

The Grätz Scribbles reveal, what it is the subject has a problem with, how serious the conflict is and how they combat this.

For instance, with what intensity, with what pressure, to what degree of spatially extension a scribble was made? How much was it controlled?

As the energy component of a scribble increases, so does the psychological energy become concentrated.

As the lines become more and more controlled (for instance they are small, made with moderated, withheld movements) then the subject is increasingly controlling (or suppressing) an emotion.

In the next chapter: Family drawings or paintings can explain psychological causes of mental illness and symptoms. Learn what is so special about family drawings?

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Now It's Your Turn

  • Draw your own Graetz-scribbles.
  • Start collecting them with your clients.
  • Make groups of them based on movement similarity.
  • Apply the motor empathy analysis method.
  • What are your thoughts on this technique? Your results? Let us know in the comments below!


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, Transylvania, 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"

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Institute of Projective Drawings