Self Exploration through Art

creating one-of-a-kind abstracts

Sixth graders are absorbed in coloring seemingly random shapes. It may look like they are doodling, but there’s a whole lot more going on. “It’s neurographic art,” said art teacher Jean Capuano.

The art technique, which combines social and emotional learning with colored pencil technique, results in both feelings of calmness and the creation of beautiful abstracts. It’s part of John Jay’s overall emphasis on art rooted in self-exploration.

a meditative process based in mindfulness

applying the learnings of the colored pencil unit

Neurographic art starts with a question, explains Capuano. Students identify something they are struggling with, working through or worried about. Holding that thought, they quickly draw an intuitive line that reflects the problem.

“Mine’s about grades,” said one student. Her friend nodded. “Mine, too.”
“My uncle died recently,” said the student across the table.
“Mine’s not school related,” said another student. “It’s too personal to say.”

As students round out the corners of lines that intersect, feelings of chaos are nudged towards calmness and peace. They include other shapes and lines, and use the learnings of the previous colored pencil unit to add texture, color and three-dimensionality to their work.

identity artworks

creating something about yourself

In the art room next door, seventh graders are painting their plaster sculptures. Each one is different: the assignment was to create a sculpture that represented an aspect of their identity.

Mathew is putting white highlights on an 18-inch Atlantic bonito, a fish he’s caught in Nantucket. Owen is using red to paint the ace of diamonds—representing a love of card tricks and magic. Emma has just put the finishing touches on a sculpture of her Newfoundland Lokey—on skis!

“We started by studying symbolism and then we made identity maps,” said Holly Kellogg, art teacher and curriculum leader of the District’s Visual Arts Department. “The whole point of making art is to convey something about yourself. Identity work is an important first step.”