Pschographology, Doodling and the Impossibility of Random.



It started, in my teens, reading a Jackie comic, I found an article called something like, “What does your handwriting say about you?” It was a light-hearted, pseudo-sciency, speculative, expose of character-traits, gleaned from seemingly innocent, school girl missives. For a while, I gave the tails of my “Y”s an extra flourish, in an effort to appear more feminine. But later, found myself wondering whether signs of Hitler’s badness or Joan of Arc’s courage might be perceivable in their handwriting. The idea that some essence of yourself could leak out into personal graphics, intrigued me and still does.

However, the years, as an apprentice artist, I was hell-bent on acquiring the technical skills, I believed necessary to become the real thing. I didn’t think about mark-making, as I prioritised; measurement, proportion and accuracy. I had a vision in my head that I tried to inflict on the paper, only rarely managing to beat it into submission.

It wasn’t until a trip to France, to an artist’s summer school, that I gave it much thought. Something happened that made quite an impact on my thinking: there was an artist-in-residence, a well-known abstract expressionist, and early each morning he would practise Tai Chi, outside, facing the sun, on a grassy hill. This would be followed by a session of deep meditation. Only then would he sit at a low table, fastidiously arranged with his favourite brushes and specially, prepared paper. Silently, he would make beautiful, repetitive marks, accompanied by slow, deliberate breathing. It seemed that his whole life, was bound up in his practice and the mark-making was an integral, disciplined part of this whole. But as I watched him, I kept thinking irreverent thoughts, like, what happens when he gets tired, or if he is cross or plain bored, would any of this be reflected in the marks?

When I eventually found the courage to ask him questions, it seemed incredible to me, that he saw no correlation whatsoever, between his emotional state and his mark-making. He truly believed he was making random marks.

It was not until I took Mark Making, as a minor option, at university, that I began to research; the flow, production and collective interpretation of marks. I was soon amazed at what could rationally ascertained by scientific analysis of a person’s handwriting. Below are just a few.


“Generally speaking, most studies have shown better than chance of success at guessing the gender of a writer by handwriting, with the average success rate at about two out of three.” Beech 2005, Burr 2002.


In terms of the presence of mental and physical disease, or accident.

“If the brain is injured by accident or disease, handwriting will be affected in specific ways that scientists are only beginning to delineate. Conversely, studying handwriting may give us important clues to how and where a brain is malfunctioning.” The Tell-Tale hand. Marc J Siefer PhD



Right or left-handedness.

Effects of handedness and arm position on stroke direction preferences in drawing. Rued. J. G. Meulenbrock Arnold J. W. N.Thomassen


Handwriting analysis has been widely used to detect fraud.


So why, when such evidence can be recognised and validated, is graphology (the study of handwriting with regard to the character and psychology of a person), resigned to the realms of quackery? The answer lies partly in its extensive use as a vetting tool by prospective employers in America. Used recklessly and without other elements of corroboration in speculative and judgemental ways, led to its demise.

But for me, all graphic hand-made marks are an ancient link to the past, and infinitely revealing in instinctive and mysterious ways. Which brings to mind the equally mood-affecting: nervy, frenetic drip paintings of Pollock and the slow, ponderous layering of Rothko’s masterly Black on Maroon, 1959.  We could analyse speed of mark and hand pressure, but this would be unlikely to explain the works emotionally magnetic pull. Perhaps that is why I cling to drawing, the product is not just a response to the subject, but revealing, diaristic, evidence, of fleeting, emotional states. The attached drawings remind me of the feeling during the process of making. So tell me then, what do you think, if anything, your handwriting/drawing says about you?