Elena Zelenina is the founder and artistic director of the Biryukov Academy of Art and Music in Sparta, NJ. She has a Master’s Degree in Education, but she didn’t plan to open her own school. When her daughter was diagnosed with a life altering disability, an auditory processing disorder (difficulty in processing sound information ), she couldn’t get her in to just any art class. So, she decided to open her own. “Everybody should have access to the best art courses,” she said to us, “especially kids with disabilities.” According to Elena, arts can be an alternative healing process. She wrote a book, “Art to the Rescue” to help parents who share the same story, and encourage them to sign their kids up with serious and caring art classes.

The Buoy Blog: What is the purpose of your class “Paint your breakthrough” that you teach at the Biyukov Academy?

Elena Zelenina: The techniques of painting are very accessible. You can find online any kind of technique. You tube has so many good videos to teach painting. You learn the basics, light, perspective, color palette, composition. Then, what are you painting? You are painting empty space, what you see the most on your paper. But, Art is life. Once you know the techniques, you need to apply them to your life. For example: what is your life perspective? When you find it, apply it.

We have engraved in our body emotional memories we need to recognize. With a new perspective and those principles, we can achieve our completion:

1 – Integrity

2- Authenticity


4- Enriching

My integrity as a teacher is to be honest. My authenticity is to do my best to help you discover who you are and what you want to achieve. My responsibility is to make sure I will assist you to succeed in your goals. It’s my responsibility that you understand me and I understand you. Enriching is I sharing my knowledge with you and you sharing your talent with me, and others.

TBB: How can you associate personal inner growth and painting?

EZ: Painting increases awareness. It helps to activate the right side of our brain which is the creative side. By increasing our awareness, we see things how they are. It opens a channel to our rescue.

TBB: Is painting is good for our health?

EZ: Painting is just another tool. It gives another positive energy in your body. We understand that we have ownership of our life and that we are responsible to take care of ourselves.

TBB: What can motivate this kind of painting?

EZ: Artists start painting without stress of ego (ego is not good for an artist). This class takes the embarrassment away, releasing the artist block. Art is about sharing, without comparison, because each of us is unique.

TBB: How can painting help us feel better about ourselves?

EZ: With painting, you can shift the way you think. We stop judging ourselves. Again, painting is one of the tools that can help us. But, it can’t be the only one.

TBB: Do we have to have artistic skills? Can anybody do it?

EZ: We were taught that we are not artists and only geniuses can be painters. Being an artist is not in our genes. Everybody can be one. If someone grew up in a cultural environment, it makes it easier. For me for example, growing up in a family of artists and painters helped me to be more open to arts. It is why art education is so important. We need to have excellent art teachers. It is crucial to open our kids’ minds to creativity and imagination.

TBB: How can we use meditation to paint?

EZ: Painting can help us to meditate. You need high awareness to be centered and meditate. You have to go into it with the right approach. Once in India, my guru, Paramahamsa Nithyananda, told me this story: When an elephant crosses a village without a stick in his trunk, he moves his head and he hits houses and people with his trunk. When the same elephant has a stick in his trunk, he is very careful and goes straight without causing any damage. Painting is like the stick. When we focus on it, we don’t let our mind run around.

TBB: Where is the best place to start?

EZ: You can take classes to know the rules, but in a course like mine you will learn to grow as an artist and a human being.

TBB: When should someone begin painting?

EZ: Whenever you want.

TBB: What would be your advice to a beginner?

EZ: Try it! You have nothing to lose, but a lot to win.

Elena Zelenina and Georgia
Elena Zelenina and Georgia


Elena’s book: