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Let Your Fingers Do the Artmaking

Many years ago, while attending an Art Therapy conference I went to an Open Studio where I participated in a technique called “Touch Drawing”. The artist, Deborah Koff-Chapin who created this unique approach to artmaking still offers workshops and literature out in California. Her work is beautiful and etheral.

I recently decided  to re-explore this technique and began dabbling with touch drawing again. I thought that the tactile qualities of tough drawing might be an interesting material to try with the children and families that I work with that have mild ASD. In Open Studio, we had some children who had mild tactile defensiveness which proved to be an non-issue after offering the Touch Drawing!

I think this creative modality serves the child very well, as it has the ability to be very “hands-on” (literally) and yet is not as messy as traditional finger painting. In addition, there are ways to create texture and layers that allow the artist to experiment and discover new ways of expression. All ages can do this!


Here is the technique, as Deborah Koff Chapin describes:

• Oil paint or printing ink in any colors you like. We recommend water mixable student grade oil paints.
• Printmaking roller(brayer) is used to roll the paint smooth.
• A smooth, nonabsorbent surfacelike glass, plastic or dry erase board is used for a drawing surface.
•Plenty of paper; very lightweight like wrapping tissue is good but anything will work.

Doing Touch Drawing Yourself
• Put a small amount of paint on the drawing board. It is best to start with one color.
• Roll the paint smoothand place a sheet of paper on top of the paint.
• Touch the paper with your fingernails, fingertips and palms. Try using both hands some of the time.
• Become aware of body sensations and trace them on the paper. They might be abstract patterns or images.
• Lay the drawings on top of one another as they are done.
• Roll the board smooth between drawings. Only add paint after a few drawings.
• Draw whatever you feel in the moment. They do not have to be ‘pretty pictures’.
• The longer you stay with it, the deeper you will go.
• When you are finished drawing, roll the paint smooth and leave it to dry.

I recommend doing some touch drawing :)


Pamela Ullmann, MS, ATR-BC, LCAT

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