Talented Art Teacher Uses Neurographic Art to Help Students Deal with the Pandemic
When Madeleine Faust, the talented art teacher at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies, prepared to begin the school year, she was overcome with mental stress and emotion. Hybrid schedules, teaching virtual students and learning new technology was all very unfamiliar, and difficult to process in a short period of time with the threat of the pandemic looming large. Ms. Faust turned to neurographic art, a process of art therapy developed by Russian psychologist Pavel Piskarev in 2014 to engage emotional and aesthetic intelligence to work through problems. She found the process calming, and beautiful, and hoped it would help her students, too. Below, Ms. Faust discusses the art project, her students’ reactions and how readers can participate in neurographic art at home.
"Reflection" by Jasmine Newman
Can you talk about the importance of art therapy, especially given the mental strain created by the pandemic?
I can only speak as a working artist and a human being. As a creative person, I have always found peace during turbulent times in the quiet sanctuary of my private studio space. When the situations of my life are the most complicated and chaotic, my artistic output is the most pure and essential; definitely a meditative therapy for me. When schools, and the community, closed in March, all of us were thrust into unknown territory. I struggled to connect with my students and send engaging work through online learning, all the while dealing with my own aged mother who became very sick with the virus. It was difficult, but I knew it was shared by many.
"Overwhelmed/Lost" by Lauren Brinser
What is neurographic art? Why did you choose this process for your class?
As we prepared to begin the academic year under a very different environment - hybrid schedule, virtual learning and unfamiliar processes and systems, I found it all very overwhelming. I was at a loss, and I knew the students probably felt the same way. So, I started to research art projects that might calm the panic and lessen the intensity.
I was looking for projects that would get the students back in the groove of creativity, while reinforcing the building blocks of art: line, shape, color, texture, space, value, imagination, intention and choices. I discovered neurographic art as a therapeutic system that seemed to address all of these concerns. I made one, then another and another. The process calmed my mind and aided in focus and concentration. It is a positive feeling of accomplishment to create a thing of beauty out of chaotic and negative energy.
When I introduced neurographic art to the students, they were intrigued. Most made numerous iterations as they became confident with the system. They admitted it was calming, soothing, therapeutic, and some even likened it to prayer or meditation.
"Stress" by Chloe Duvernay
What are some ways people can practice art therapy at home?
Anyone can follow the easy directions to make neurographic art on their own. All you need are paper, pen and colors. The pandemic has brought many challenges, but I see a resurgence in activities that require easy, repetitive concentration, such as jigsaw puzzles, paint by numbers, adult coloring books, knitting, crochet and needlepoint. Speaking from my own experience, I encourage any activity that frees your creative choices and allows you to be present and conscious in the moment.
"Ambivalence" by Sophie Yeon
A native of New Orleans, Madeline Faust is the Talented Art Teacher at Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies and has been working as a professional artist for more than 35 years. She received her Masters in Fine Arts from Tulane University following a degree in Painting and Sculpture from LSU. She is the owner of M. Faust Studios in Mid-City, and her work has been displayed in galleries and museums nationally and internationally.