Expressive Art Therapy Activity #42 - Scribble Drawing

Drawing by Shelley Klammer
Drawing by Shelley Klammer




- Black or multicolored markers 


- Watercolor paint


- Journal page





Spontaneous Art as a Route to the Unconscious


Scribble drawing is a tried and true art therapy exercise that works well as a visual starter or warm up for spontaneous drawing. Scribble drawing was developed by art educator Florence Cane. Her sister, art therapist Margaret Naumburg started a progressive school for children in 1914 that encouraged spontaneous creative expression and self-motivated learning. Naumburg was a visionary in children's education in her time. She was influenced by Jungian psychology, parapsychology, and surrealistic and primitive art.


In 1930 Naumburg left progressive education and began to devote her life to the development of art therapy. Having undergone Jungian therapy herself, she felt that art therapy was a more effective route to the unconscious than verbal therapy. Her sister Florence Cane, a teacher at her school, was a pioneer in facilitating art for children that emphasized the expression of feelings. Her approach was to intuitively search for ways to stimulate the creative process. One creative method she developed was the scribble drawing.


I will share the way that I use it here for you here:


Playing with Line


1. With your choice of black or colored pen, create a quick and spontaneous scribble, or as Cane put it, "a kind of play with flowing, continuous line” on your page - with your eyes open or closed.


2. Scribble until it intuitively feels done, but avoid making your scribble too dense. 


3. After you have finished your scribble, take the time to relax your mind, and then turn your drawing around to contemplate it from all angles.


4. Similar to seeing shapes in clouds and in ink blots, allow your unconscious mind to pick an image out of the scribble. You may see several images.


5. Develop your found imagery with heavier lines. Embellish your imagery with details and color.


6. After you are finished, intuitively name your drawing, or write a few free-form spontaneous sentences about it.


7. Allowing yourself to verbally write down a few insights about your drawing helps to anchor your non-verbal expression. 


8. Take a few moments to meditate on how your drawing expresses your deeper feelings. You may even want to write a free-form story about your drawing if you have the urge. 


Spontaneous Drawing and Spiritual Essence


Cane used drawing and painting to help people find their essence. She was influenced by the metaphysical teacher George Gurdjieff, who coined the world “essence” as a term for the intrinsic, unchanging authentic soul within each person.


She felt that spontaneous art could take people beyond their “driven”, compensatory behaviors. Both sister’s worked with the intuitive, creative and nonverbal process of accessing the unconscious through intuitive art - all throughout their lives. Their discoveries unpin the current practices of art therapy today.