scribble drawing

as an art therapist, one of my favorite art interventions to use with clients is the scribble drawing. two prominent art therapists (winnecott and cane) independently came up with this technique which uses a self-made scribble as a visual starter for an image.

a scribble drawing i made as an example for N

usually the scribble is made on a large sheet of paper, and sometimes with the artist’s eyes closed. N was way into this idea when i first told her about it, so she grabbed a crayon and went to it.

after your little one makes a scribble, encourage them to look at the scribble to see if they recognize any image in it. turn the paper to all four sides, and ask “what do you see?” when i asked N about this brown one, she said, “hmmm, what do i see? this is almost like making shapes out of the clouds!!!” it totally is. exactly. ┬ásometimes there may be a concrete, representational figure that emerges for the child. or sometimes it might be an imaginal story that comes about, which can also be fun. N saw her first brown scribble and said, “there’s a snail in there!”┬ábecause we already had the watercolor paints out, she wanted to paint in the image she saw. (it’s fine to just color it in with crayons, pencils, pastels, or whatever graphic medium you have around.)

she gave the snail a crazy name, too!

after the snail, we made several more scribble drawings…

she saw a bunny in the pink scribble! (i helped trace her lines with the paintbrush on this one)

hmm... what could it be?

a girl with a beach ball, of course!

the next day, i heard N playing with her magnadoodle in the other room, saying “hmmm…. what do i see? a mouse!” a few moments later, she called me in to see the magnadoodle scribble drawing she made of “a mouse making a dress with lots of thread.” (we watched “the mouse song” from cinderella on youtube earlier that day.)

for the past few days, N has been doing scribble drawings on her own all the time with her crayons and paper. it’s like a fun little puzzle for her to solve, and exercises the imagination.

in my art therapy practice a few years ago (before N’s birth,) i loved using scribble drawings with adult clients who were often intimidated to begin making art, stating the fear: “i can’t draw.” it’s a great way for any child or adult to warm up to art, and this activity uses the imagination and taps into the unconscious mind in finding and developing a picture from the scribble initially produced.

what a useful and fun art activity! scribble away!

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  • Amy Hill

    Wonderful! I love this idea! Will try it with the girls.

  • this is so great!
    love N’s discoveries – will totally do this in a few months when j is able.

    thanks for another womderful idea paintcutpaste!

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  • This is a wonderful perspective on art you have shared! Thanks so much!

  • Travis

    I’ve been doing these for years. I sit down with an art pad, some pencils, and some highlighters, and try to think of cloud watching. Not only has it become a study of patience, it’s incredibly projective and extremely soothing. I’ve been scouring the internet for anything that comes close to what I do and so far this is the closest I’ve ever found. Is this widely used in art therapy? Is there variance between the images that children see and those that adults see?