Are You Looking for Engaging Mindful Art Lesson Ideas for your Middle or High School Art Classes?
This middle or high school art project inspired by Neurographic Art is super fun, engaging, and simple to teach. I did it as our first art lesson of the year and it really set the tone for an amazing semester.
All of my students, beginner through advanced, were engrossed in the meditative drawing process and extremely satisfied with the results of their designs. This mindful art lesson had the perfect balance of structure and freedom so that the beginner artists felt safe with clear instructions, and the advanced art students could incorporate their own creative ideas into the process.
What is Neurographic Art?
Neurography is a meditative drawing process that combines psychology and art. The technique is said to link your conscious and subconscious mind and create new neural pathways.
The creative drawing process can help to reduce stress transform subconscious beliefs and create an overall sense of well-being. It was developed by Russian psychologist, creative entrepreneur, and architect Pavel Piskarev in 2014.
The cool thing about this kind of mindful art is that the drawings actually look like neurons. This type of drawing does not require any previous drawing experience or skills. In my experience, it absolutely encourages mindfulness and helps relieve stress and anxiety.
Many certified art therapists and counselors use this method of drawing in their coaching or healing practices to help patients improve their life. They need to take special courses and be trained to use it as a form of art therapy. This is not the approach I used in my classroom. However, I did tell my students that professionals do this kind of drawing for therapeutic purposes.
How Do You Create Neurographic Art?
To create Neurographic Art you follow a basic algorithm. I followed the algorithm, but also put my own spin on it and approached it as a design lesson as well.
Throughout the course of the Neurographic Art project, I found some things that made it easier for students. Here are the steps I followed and what I found worked best:
Begin by having students draw a freeform line on their page for three seconds. Some teachers and therapists have students reflect on a problem they are experiencing as they draw. When I did this part of the activity, I explained to my students this was a mindful drawing exercise and if they wanted to meditate on an issue weighing on their mind as they work they could, but I did not make it necessary.
I originally gave my students fine point black markers, but I found they were tempted to draw too tight and then struggled with smoothing out their lines later. The next day I gave them thicker markers and encouraged them to create larger freeform shapes. This worked much better.
Wherever there are overlapping lines, have students transform the intersections into smooth U shapes. I discovered that it was more relaxing and fulfilling for them if they followed the path of the lines and didn’t jump around the page. That way they were able to see their designs begin to form and they did not have a bunch of unfinished areas. This made them feel more accomplished.
Have students smooth out their lines using thick and thin markers. I really stressed that the lines could go from thick to thin and having a variety of different line weights was okay. Some kids were stressing over making them all even and perfect. This really helped them loosen up and added interest to their designs
Next, have them trace some overlapping shapes on top of their designs. I had my students only do one or two at a time so they were not overwhelmed by too much to do. I reminded them that they can always add more as they go.
Have them smooth out the intersections where the new shapes overlap.
COLOR!!! This part is optional. I had my students do one small practice without color first. Then we did a second design and experimented with layering watercolor, marker, and colored pencil to create interest. I absolutely loved this part of the lesson. The students really surprised me with some very interesting effects and they were really able to express their own personalities.
In the above video, I explain and demonstrate the steps that I followed and how we layered color. I also created two slideshows and videos to show my students and explain the process. I posted them in my Google Classroom so they could refer back to them as needed if they were absent, distant learning, or needed a review. I also made a handout that they could scan to access the slideshows without even logging into Google Classroom. I kept them handy so I could quickly direct students to instructions if needed. This was SOOOO helpful. Sometimes they just needed to see the examples.
How This Art Project Inspired by Neurographic Art Set a Positive Tone for Our Year in Art
Nobody likes doing anything that they don’t believe they can be good at. Most people, especially young people, try to avoid activities that produce bad feelings (like something new that looks really hard) and favor others that make us feel good….. Cell phones, social media, YouTube…..lol.
Right from the start, this project allows students to believe they can be good at it. Anyone can draw a line, right?
As students moved through the process, they were mesmerized by the cool designs that were unfolding. The satisfying process was relaxing and allowed them to slow their brains down, step away from their electronics, and achieve a sense of accomplishment. The feel-good effect created an association and built trust between us.
Here are some more examples of finished student work.
Incorporating Images into a Neurographic Art Lesson
I gave my advanced art classes the option to expand on this design project however they wished. I told them they could incorporate images or present a proposal for their own unique ideas. Here are some examples of what they did.
Some students began with an image and drew freeform lines over the top and then transformed the areas that overlapped by turning the V shapes into U shapes. Others drew the image loosely using a freeform line. All of them took it in a completely unique and personal direction.
How These Neurographic Art Inspired Designs Helped Improve Drawing Skills
In addition to the mindfulness and confidence-building aspect of this project, students also got really good at creating lines. They became familiar with how fine line markers work and what kinds of lines they could create with different size tips. I followed this project up with a line drawing lesson that teaches them how to use a small X grid to enlarge an image. They were already so comfortable with using different line weights and that confidence was reflected in their next project. Here are some examples of how their understanding of line carried through into this next art lesson.