Drawing Analysis

As much as handwriting can tell you about your personality traits, your drawings can also be revealing. The composition on the page, the level of detail, the quality of the line, etc. can all provide a personality profile.

Drawings can reveal feelings, influences and of course, interests. Studied with handwriting analysis it can confirm personality profile findings or reveal things that handwriting analysis cannot. For example, the House-Person-Tree test (HTP), developed by John Buck, is common practice in child psychology today.  It is used to gain an understanding of a child’s mental and emotional state.

I can remember when I was in elementary school and we had to draw our own houses for an art project. I drew every brick, every shutter, every shingle, most of the shrubbery, things in the windows, and for a final touch, our St. Bernard lying on the front porch. I can remember looking at other kids drawings and wondering if they had ever actually looked at their own houses. Some were missing windows, some seemed to only be large enough for a cat to live in and some were tilted in an impossible angle that would certainly have meant death to all who happened to be inside.  Could our teacher have gleaned something more about her students had she applied the House-Person-Tree test?

According to the HTP test, house interpretations are based on the symbolic meanings of the house. Dr. Richard Niolon of Chicago School of Professional Psychology explains:

Lines and walls represent boundaries and strengths of the ego, thus weak lines in the structure of the house are weaknesses in the ego, while strong lines are problems with anxiety and a need to reinforce boundaries.

The roof symbolizes the fantasy life, and extra attention to it can indicate extra attention to fantasy and ideation, while incomplete, tiny, or burning roofs can indicate avoidance of overpowering and frightening fantasies (think about fears of ghosts in the attic – these are based on the association for us).

Windows, doors, and sidewalks are all ways that others enter or see into the house, so they relate to openness, willingness to interact with others, and ideas about the environment. Thus, shades, shutters, bars, curtains, and long and winding sidewalks indicate some unwillingness to reveal much about yourself (think about expression like windows to the soul or the door to the mind). Cars could be signs of visitors coming or people in the home leaving. Lights could be signs to welcome visitors or reveal prowlers. Open doors or many windows could mean strong needs to engage others. Big windows, especially in the bathroom, could be exhibitionistic desires.

Psychotics tends to show groundlines (their need for grounding), clear visions of the insides of the house (they believe their thoughts and mind are open to view by others), strange angles (like their strange thought processes), or a house on the verge of a collapse (like their ego).

I guess drawing one’s own house can give a kid nightmares!

Drawing a person. This gives me anxiety just thinking about the assignment! I don’t usually draw people in my work. There is no data on what it means when you refuse to draw a person. Suffice it to say excessive details are consistent with some obsessiveness when dealing with anxiety, while a marked lack of detail can indicate withdrawal, low energy, or boredom. There is also no data available for drawing the back of a person, which is something I really like to do. I like to draw their hair in particular. So I will give my own analysis of this…artist.


When it comes to trees, according to Dr. Noilon:

The trunk is seen to represent the ego. sense of self, and the intactness of the personality. Thus heavy lines or shadings to represent bark indicate anxiety about one’s self, small trunks are limited ego strength, large trunks are more strength… (think about the saying that a tree that bends lasts through the wind, but one that doesn’t snaps, like the ego that is flexible and healthy lasts through the world, but the inflexible and neurotic ego ends up broken). A tree split down the middle, as if hit by lightening, can indicate a fragmented personality and serious mental illness, or a sign of organicity.

Limbs are the efforts our ego makes to “reach out” to the world and support “things that feed us” what we need. Thus, limbs detached are difficulties reaching out, or efforts to reach out that we can’t control. Small branches are limited skills to reach out, while big branches may be too much reaching out to meet needs. Club shaped branches or very pointy ones represent aggressiveness. Gnarled branches are “twisted” and represent being “twisted” in some efforts to reach out. Dead branches mean emptiness and hopelessness.

Leaves are signs that efforts to reach out are successful, since leaves growing mean the tree is reaching out to the sun and getting food and water. Thus, no leaves could mean feeling barren, while leaves detached from the branches mean the nurturing we get is not very predictable. Pointy leaves could be aggression, obsessive attention to detail on the leaves could be Obsessive Compulsive tendencies.

Roots are what “ground” the tree and people, and typically relate to reality testing and orientation. No roots can mean insecurity and no feeling of being grounded, overemphasized roots can be excessive concern with reality testing, while dead roots can mean feelings of disconnection from reality, emptiness, and despair.

Other details: Christmas trees after the season is over can mean regressive fantasies (thinking about holidays and family and good times to make yourself feel better). Knots or twists in the wood, like gnarled limbs, indicate some part of the ego is twisted around some issue. Knotholes are an absence of trunk, and thus an absence of ego control. Sometimes they are seen as indicating a trauma, and the height up the tree represents the age of the trauma (so, halfway up for a 10 year old is at age 5). Squirrels and small animals are an Id intrusion into an area free from ego control. Research does show that weeping willow trees are more common in depressed people. People with high needs for nurturance draw apples.

Tree drawing is something I really like to do. In my body of work, I have several tree drawings, paintings, and photographs. Let’s see if you can see what was going on in my life at the time I did these pieces.

Tree 1


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