Sacred Artistry: Deborah Koff-Chapin on Touch Drawing, Song Bath Sanctuary, and SoulCards

Dive into the enchanting world of Touch Drawing with Deborah Koff-Chapin, the visionary creator of this transformative artistic process. In the newest edition of MysticMag interviews, Deborah shares the origins of Touch Drawing, the profound moments that led to its discovery, and the therapeutic power it holds for self-expression and healing. Join us as we explore the sacred space of Song Bath Sanctuary, where Deborah combines live music with healing frequencies, and learn about her SoulCards and Portals of Presence, unique decks that offer a profound way to connect with the subtle realms and the wisdom they hold.

What is Touch Drawing?

Touch Drawing is a simple yet profound way to create images through the touch of fingertips. Place paper upon an inked board and move your hands upon it. See the imprint of your gesture upon lifting the page. This creative process enables direct expression and access to a deep source of creative flow. You can create numerous drawings in rapid succession. When complete, you can reflect upon the series as a record of your inner process.

When did you have your creative awakening moment and how did your life change from there?

From my earliest awareness, I felt a calling to express the depths of the soul through human images. During my years in art school, I immersed myself in abstract and conceptual art. One day, I scribbled these words onto a page: What’s wrong with drawing a face? With a shudder of guilt, I tentatively doodled some raw, primitive faces. I tucked the embarrassing doodle away. But in giving myself permission to draw something so direct, I had planted a seed. Within several weeks it burst forth in the form of Touch Drawing.

On the last day of my last year in school in 1974, I was helping a friend clean up in the print shop. Before wiping the ink off a plate, I playfully moved my hands upon the paper towel. Lifting it, I saw lines that had been transferred to the underside by my touch. Lines coming directly from my fingertips! In a state of ecstatic revelation, flowing marks poured from my fingertips onto one towel after another. They were a natural extension of my being onto the page; a record of each moment as it passed. Within minutes I was drawing faces with both hands. They were childlike and primitive, but honest and direct.

Although this experience had the appearance of play, under the surface I sensed something profound and powerful. It felt like a gift from outside of time. I had a knowing that Touch Drawing had a purpose greater than my personal use. Along with this gift came a responsibility. Somehow, I would have to share this process with the world.

Touch Drawing became a lifeline for me during intense times of transformation. In those days the images that emerged were personal and therapeutic. It was as if I was sculpting my own being. At the end of a drawing session, I would feel clear and whole. Over time, I began to tap into a more transpersonal consciousness as I drew.

What are your workshops like and what can people expect from them?

I developed a way to hold space for Touch Drawing through live music. I play a drum and crystal bowls and sing wordless tones. The sound creates a resonant field that helps participants stay with the process and go deeper. My original sense that Touch Drawing was meant to be shared is confirmed each time I witness people relax and turn inward through the mirror of the drawing board. A healing power is unleashed as their hands dance upon the page. As they reflect upon the series of drawings, they find meaning and insight in the images they have created.

After many years of traveling to offer Touch Drawing, I have transitioned to online workshops. There is a sense of safety in learning this creative practice in your own home. I really focus on bringing the group together and connecting through cyberspace. The Touch Drawing demonstrations are easy to see on Zoom. It is as if you are sitting in front of me, watching the drawings emerge. We engage in conversation until everyone feels ready. I support the drawing sessions through live music using high-quality sound equipment. We gather to share our experience and get further support before diving into the process again. Once you have done Touch Drawing in your home, it is easier to continue on your own.

Can you share some details about the Song Bath Sanctuary?

It was a natural outgrowth of many years of holding space for Touch Drawing through music. The energy grew until it overflowed and became Song Bath Sanctuary. Some years ago, local healing center invited me to offer this as a service to the community. When covid hit, of course, it stopped. I then put together the technology to livestream. I made the commitment to offer Song Bath Sanctuary live online most Sunday evenings. I play and sing with a large ‘mother drum’ for the first 20 minutes. Then I move to the crystal and Himalayan singing bowls for another 40 minutes. It is a time to attune to earth and spirit, offering love into the planetary field through music. This has become a sacred practice in my life.

What are SoulCards and Portals of Presence?

After 20 years doing Touch Drawing, my art had developed from raw, primal expressions to universal archetypal images enriched with layers of color. A friend suggested I create a deck. Some synchronicities occurred that affirmed this as the right path. I looked through hundreds of drawings and narrowed down to sixty that expressed the broadest range of feelings I could find in my work. I then went through the process of independent publishing: writing a guidebook, designing the packaging, printing, finding distribution, and marketing. SoulCards were an immediate success when they were released in 1995. SoulCards 2 came out in 2000. They have sold all over the world and have now been discovered by a new generation.

SoulCards are unique. Because the images emerged from such an authentic creative process, they evoke something deeper than graphic art designed to illustrate ideas. The guidebook does not give meanings for the cards. Rather, it suggests creative ways to interact with them. Focusing on direct interaction with the images, the user is encouraged to trust their perception, intuition, and personal meaning.

Over the years, a different deck hovered in my awareness, waiting to come into form. I have long had a deep practice of drawing faces in unique settings: sacred sites, natural environments, and in the presence of wisdom carriers from many lineages.

Attuning to a presence, I open to connect through energetic patterns sensed within my face. Moving my fingertips upon paper, I bring these into visual form. Each face is a window to a unique being. These became the deck, Portals of Presence: Faces Drawn from the Subtle Realms. This deck offers a way to develop subtle senses and connect with a sentient universe. It can be used to attune with nature spirits, elemental forces, wisdom beings, and subtle allies. As we come into a deeper relationship with life beyond the human, we may find more integral approaches to regenerating the earth.

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