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

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The Ingenious Technique Of Kinetic Drawings

Institute of Projective Drawings

Kinetic school drawing of 12-year-old child with behavioral problems. Note that the child is not the large figure (called Pali), but the carelessly drawn stick figure (Gábor). His classmates taunt him a lot and he responds with severe bouts of acting out and fits of rage; he has to take medicine to control them.

"At all too rare an interval a very bright star appears in the projective technique sky... Burns and Kaufman's Kinetic Family Drawing Technique appear to be another."

This was written by L. B. Ames, Ph.D. Chief Psychologist, President of the Society for Projective Techniques (see Burns & Kaufman, 1972, pp. v-vii).

He continues: "Anyone using the K-F-D technique can enjoy the excitement of being the beginning of a marvellously effective new way of measuring human behavior".

You can find our newest course How to interpret pictures as the best experts do here » 

We absolutely agree that this technique is one of the most important and useful drawing method ever published.

Why this technique is particularly interesting?

Kinetic drawings reveal hidden aspects of interaction dynamics between client and family, kindergarten, school, or even in the workplace.

The Kinetic Technique: Tools And Instructions

You will need the following tools:

  1. B or 2B pencil (tip: try also with paints on a big sheet)
  2. A sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper (in Europe: A4 size)
  3. Eraser

In kinetic drawings the client is requested to depict movement or action.

(1) Kinetic Family Drawing

Ask the client to draw their family so that everyone is doing something:

“Draw a picture of everyone in your family, including you, doing something, some kind of action."

The drawing will reveal the family relations and who is connected to whom, who distances themselves from whom.

Remote and overlapping figures in a kinetic family drawing by 7-year-old children. On the left, the individual figures are far from each other, while in the drawing on the right, they are so close that they overlap. The drawings reveal how the child experiences the family: emotionally remote and cold OR close, warm and trustful.

(2) Kinetic Animal Family Drawing

Use this with children:

“Draw a picture of a family of animals doing something."

After the drawing is completed the subject is asked to identify the family members and their ages as well as the following: “If you were an animal (child) in this drawing, which one would you be?”

This is less disturbing for the sensitive child, but at the same time reflects the real, unconscious feelings (Jones, 1985).

Kinetic Animal Family Drawing by a 13-years-old boy. Note the isolated groups. The animals were associated with anxiety, aggression and sibling rivalry

(3) KINETIC School (Kindergarten) DRAWING

This is one of the most exciting and useful techniques:

“Draw yourself, your (kindergarten) teacher, and a friend or two in the picture. Have everyone doing something."

From this you can know how the child perceives themself, their social environment, the school expectations and their attitude towards learning.

(4) Kinetic Business Drawing (For Adults)

“Draw your boss, two or more employees and yourself doing something."

Kinetic Business Drawings show how the client see their adult self, social environment, work expectations and attitudes towards work.

General Advice

Always pay attention to:

  • the drawing order (sequence),
  • which figure is erased and corrected,
  • or made worse by comparison with the first attempt,
  • or even not redrawn at all,
  • the spontaneous focus of attention.

Once the drawing is finished, ask the client to:

  • number the human figures in the orderthey were drawn,
  • label themself with a star,
  • label the people on the drawing with their names and ages,
  • label who is doing what,
  • write their own name and age on the back of the paper.

After the kinetic animal family drawing ask:

  • who are the members of the animal family,
  • how old they are, what they are doing,
  • which one would they most like to be?

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Now It's Your Turn

  • Draw your own kinetic drawings!
  • Try all the methods with your clients (if applicable).
  • Did you find the kinetic technique useful? Let us know in the comments below!


Burns, R. C. (1987). Kinetic-House-Tree-Person Drawings (K-H-T-P). New York: Brunner and Mazel.

Burns, R. C., Kaufman, S. H. (1970). Kinetic Family Drawings (K-F-D). An Intriduction to Understanding Children through Kinetic Drawings. New York: Brunner and Mazel.

Burns, R. C., Kaufman, S. H. (1972). Actions, Styles and Symbols in Kinetic Family Drawings (K- F-D): An Interpretative Manual. New York: Brunner and Mazel.

Burns, R. C., Kaufman, S. H. (1975-76). Diagnosis by drawing. Readings in Psychology, 269.

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"

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Institute of Projective Drawings