Let’s Talk About Neurographic Art

Maybe you’re getting tired of hearing about — and seeing — neurographic art. If so, please take a moment to comment and say, “Look, enough is enough!” I’ve had a lot of similar thoughts over the last thirty-some days, and that is precisely why I’m writing this post. I do have several “interesting” neurographic drawings that I will be posting, so you’ll be seeing a few more in coming weeks. Frankly, though, once I’ve completed this “100-Day Project”, I doubt that I’ll ever have any desire to do neurographic art again.

Pavel Piskarev

First, just for familiarity sake, what exactly is neurographic art? Well, it’s weird. It’s thought-provoking. It’s an art form devised by a Russian psychologist — Pavel Piskarev — in 2014. The purpose of the technique is to “transform one’s stress and fear by drawing freeform lines and then later using a specific algorithm to transform the stress into a beautiful work of art.”

What a lovely thought! But then again, maybe I don’t really need to get involved with neurographic art. I don’t live a stress-filled life. I’m not beset by anxieties and fears. I’m a happy great-grandmother, married to the love of my life, living my dream!

Yet I chose neurographic art for a 100-Day creative challenge. Why? I committed to doing at least one drawing per day for one hundred days. Why, oh, why did I do that?

Curiosity, for the most part.

Now, before we go on, let me back up a bit. I make a distinction between “real life” and “art life”, I guess. In my day-to-day “real life”, I am blessed. Life is good. In my studio “art life”, maybe I do have a few anxieties. I’ve struggled to heal my hurt “inner art child”, I’ve dealt with a lot of painful moments from the past, and I’ve often felt like an impostor, someone pretending to be an artist.

Most of those feelings, however, have gone away. I’ve come to accept myself as an artist — a real artist — and I’m celebrating my creative spirit throughout the year. I play in the studio. I draw. I paint. I make messes. And all around me I see this strange thing we call “art” — in all its different guises.

So, again, why would I choose neurographic art as the basis for a lengthy creative challenge? One hundred days might not sound like a long time, but, trust me, it is, especially when you’re not really enjoying the process.

The answer is still the same. Curiosity.

For weeks before the challenge began, I was seeing references to neurographic art everywhere I looked. I’m always wanting to learn new things, and what better way to learn than by doing? Especially after reading about the cathartic effects, about how this art technique could transform the mundane into something beautiful… well, yeah. Sure! I had to try it.

Let’s just say I didn’t know quite what I was in for.

This is not to say that there’s anything wrong with neurographic art. You might try it and love it. You might find it soothing, relaxing, and transformative. Maybe it’s had a few transformative effects in my life, too. As with other art projects I’ve worked on over the past year, neurographic art has helped me overcome any thoughts of perfectionism. It’s given me a greater sense of freedom. It’s resulted in a few surprising drawings, such as the Mother and Child I posted previously.

My greatest concern, I think, was that neurographic drawing might get a bit boring day after day. At the start of the challenge, I said that I wanted to find 100 different ways to do my drawings. I planned to use different media, to play with different colors, to create a lot of variations.

At first, though, that didn’t happen. I found that — in those initial days — I enjoyed using my black Sharpie and my “mermaid markers”. That’s how I made this drawing. It’s one I’ve now titled “Walking the Dog”. You can turn it in different directions. It’s still someone walking a dog. At least, that’s what I see in the drawing. More about that later.

So, yes, day after day, as soon as I came to the studio each morning, I grabbed my sketchbook and made a neurographic drawing using those same supplies. For nearly three weeks, that was my routine. One favorite from those first few weeks is “Art Party”:

Art should make us smile, right? And this colorful, playful drawing did that for me. There were a few places I left uncolored. No reason why, really. I just stopped and never went back to it. It made me smile all the same. In looking at it now, though, it does feel unfinished. Maybe I’ll color in those blank spaces later today.

I felt I was cheating myself, though, because I wasn’t exploring different media. So I used watercolor to color in one drawing. Oh, what a mess that was!

Next I began doing more black-and-white drawings. That was different, but I missed the bright, bold colors.

I learned different techniques for creating the initial drawings, tried them, didn’t care much for what I was doing, and went back to “doing my own thing.”

I played with different color combinations, I doodled, I incorporated “symbolic drawing” into my neurographic art, and mostly I just got messy.

I got a bit bored, too. Coming to the studio and grabbing my project sketchbook wasn’t as exciting as before. It wasn’t really fun. As for being relaxing and soothing and all those other things neurographic art is supposed to be, it really wasn’t. Even from the start, it seemed to make me more tense, more nervous, not less.

So, here’s a question. Give me your honest thoughts, please. If we accept a challenge or start a project and then decide we don’t really like it, do we set it aside and move on to something else? That sounds reasonable, and I know I’ve asked that question at other times. In many instances, I’ve decided for myself that “quitting” is not only permissible but advisable.

With this project, however, I don’t think that’s the right choice. This project, you see, involves commitment. I agreed — of my own volition — to make 100 neurographic drawings, to use the technique as a means of exploring different media, different thoughts, different aspects of art. And so, like it or not, I plan to honor that commitment and complete the project.

Now, as for what I see in these different drawings… ah! This is the interesting thing. I do find that the process becomes highly imaginative. Even though I’m not consciously thinking about specific objects or actions as I’m drawing, I can then “see” various things when a drawing is complete.

In this one, for instance, I see people drumming. They’ve gathered around a large drum, no doubt in some sort of ritual celebration. From high above, we look down upon them.

More and more, my art is evolving into something that’s uniquely my own, not necessarily following the “rules” of neurographica to the exact letter, but just letting myself go and following wherever my markers and colors might lead me.

Where it’s leading now is to some weird place inside my head where I make up silly things, add lots of doodles, and play with all the colors. This very recent drawing — The Old Woman in the Shoe — exemplifies all that weirdness, I think.

It’s almost scary to think I have all these strange creatures inhabiting my brain! Beautiful art? Not quite. I guess that’s all right. I never set out with the intention of creating anything beautiful. I’ll settle for “interesting” and “thought-provoking”. Neurographic art has definitely made me think a lot. It has stimulated my imagination, and maybe in ways I haven’t yet fully realized, it is transforming me, my life, and my art.

12 Comments

  1. I think you answered your own question, lol. There’s a time to quit and a time to hang on, and I guess we measure that by how much the task is stretching us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know sometimes “moving on” is the right choice for me. With this challenge, though, I’m just going to stick it out. Maybe before it ends I’ll have found ways to work around the “ho-hum” feelings. Who knows what I’ll learn from this!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They certainly are thought-provoking! It amazes what I “see” in my drawings. There are a few I like, and some I’ve done that are real “stinkers”. I will keep going!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. these have such a feeling of- like you said- “freedom”!! and looking at that feeling on paper is very inspiring :^). – also, very young me would make these “Neurographic” art ALL the time- but I NEVER knew there was actually a name for this style of drawing! so thank you! for filling a puzzle piece in my brain I didn’t know was missing haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was young I used to make doodles very much like this, too. It was the only sort of “art” or “drawing” I could make… and it was scoffed at as a waste of time. The process really is interesting and thought-provoking.

      Liked by 1 person

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