Isolated Moments – Drawing as Stimming

The next in our Isolated Moments series, aiming to keep spirits buoyed and creativity alive during COVID-19 social distancing and quarantining measures, comes from Sam Metz. An artist and programmer whose research looks at neurodivergent and disability focused approaches to curation and interpretation, Sam’s recent practice has been devoted to the sharing of choreographic objects. A ‘choreographic object’ is any work Sam creates that has, through the process of making or in the way it looks, a relationship to the body and movement.

Sam Metz - Stimming as Drawing

My drawings are very often monochromatic. I have a heightened awareness of pattern and contrast. The drawings enact compulsions or tics (involuntary motor movements caused by the Tourette’s neurological difference). This gives them a material manifestation through trace. Drawing gives me a release. The shapes seem to reproduce the movements of my tics well. The line as compulsion, the mark as its evidence.

Stimming is movement that can be reassuring and is body-based. As a neuro-diverse artist, my own stimming can involve shaking hands and helps me to regulate my mood. Some of my work has been about legitimising stimming as a valid form of communication. I am interested here in visual empathy. The ability to read the physicality of the body through artwork.

You will need:

A hard surface to lean on. If you can, drawing on the floor is best – this allows you more space for movement and gesture. Otherwise a table will be fine.

A smooth surface to draw on. I have recently been drawing on tiles, but paper will work just as well. A long rectangular shape allows you room to explore sequences of lines.

A black graffiti pen, marker or felt tip.

Coloured paint or spray paint

Sam Metz - Drawing as Stimming


My work is non-verbal, so this bit is harder to explain.

Can you find a movement with your hand that interests you? Think about the way your fingers interact with the space around your hand and visualise the shapes that your hand makes.

Imagine the shapes that your hand would make were there lines that extended from your fingers.

Now to find a repetitive rhythm. For this you’ll need to explore the space around you to help you draw and to occupy space. As adults we are often socialised to contain our bodies, to sit upright (particularly people assigned female at birth are taught not to occupy too much space).

When I draw, I rock back and forth, extending movement from a rhythm in my stomach to my shoulders, to my wrist.

Observe the rhythm that drawing a line has through sensory feedback – the material resistance of the drawing on the hard surface and the tactile feedback you get.

Observe the feel of the mark.

Observe the sound that the drawing implement makes.

Observe the length of the sound that drawing your mark makes and repeat its tempo.

Observe the unique choreography of the mark.

Learn the rhythm of the line and repeat it.

Draw the same motif over another line, turning the paper, looking for sequences within the composition of the drawing, spaces in between the lines.

At some point you may lose interest in the shape and rhythm of this mark. Find another, layering up the marks until a composition emerges.

Sam Metz - Stimming as Drawing, block colour

I have started to add blocks of colour to my drawings, which act like punctuation and pauses in the composition. These can be drawn, painted or sprayed on top of your lines to disrupt them.

I use my drawings as a score for performance, but they are interesting in and of themselves.


Sam Metz

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