Klecksography is the art of making images with inkblots – think of Hermann Rorschach and the inkblot test that bears his name. 

The method is a well-known pop culture symbol but goes back to the Renaissance. But it was only reborn again in the late 1800s when physician and poet Justinus Kerner accidentally dropped blots of ink onto paper – due to his failing eyesight. He was about to throw the paper away, but by folding the paper he found this intriguing and fascinating shapes appearing in front of his eyes. He worked on these forms into complex cartoons and used them to illustrate his poems. 

Around the same time, a similar art form was described in the Book Gobolinks or Shadow-Pictures For Young And Old (Stuart and Paine, 1896), which illuminates how to make inkblot monsters and use them as prompts for imaginative writing. 

Years later, the artist psychologist Hermann Rorschach gets into the picture. He used to love klecksography so much as a child that he carried the nickname “Klecks” by his friends. He went back and forth between medicine and art before he eventually settled on medicine– but brought his artistic side along with him. He published his book Psychodiagnotik (1921) and invented the Rorschach test – which was not meant to become a standard test in psychoanalysis. Rorschach’s intention when he started of creating the test was a way to study how people see things – to inspire visual free association which would uncover unconscious tendencies and desires. However, he realised that people with different kinds of personalities were seeing the shapes differently and that he could use these images as a real test. 

Rorschach selected ten of his inkblots, designed to be ambiguous and as different as possible and asked the person in his sample test group to describe what they see. In doing so, they would actually open up and talk themselves, and how they project meaning on to the real world. In the 1060s it was the most widely used projective test. 

The Rorschach test aren’t used anymore in the same sense, but the psychological community still can’t grasp why these ten cards produces such rich responses to similar mental tests. We like to think that it might have to do with Rorschach was not only a great psychologist but a great artist in his obsession with Kleksography.   

At the end of the day, the inkblots are just abstract images, and nothing else. And Hermann Rorschach was aware of that, but he saw the art as a tool to bring forth the power of the mind. As humans, we try to associate unknown shapes with familiar objects, as a way to grasp something unfamiliar or unknown and make it tangible. Something that all artists in any medium should aspire to. 

TEXT by The Fashion Department