Creating Art: a Way to Heal

At the end of his first enlistment in 1992, he transferred to the Marine Corps Reserves. He was activated in 2002 for Operation Noble Eagle/Operation Iraqi Freedom and served until 2004. Marine Veteran Louis Geiger is one of our best Lifeline for Vets counselors, and he’s an artist.

Inspired to create art by artist and musician Billy Morrison, Geiger took a workshop with  LA street artist Nick Stern in 2018. Now he has his own painting studio at home, where he works mostly on canvas. “The masks are a different vision. Placed on your face and viewed in a mirror allows you to feel and reflect on the image of your inner feelings.”

Louis conducted an art class for about ten veterans at the NVF in Los Angeles. In a workshop setting, Louis discusses techniques, but also the feelings associated with experiences in the military. 

“I wanted to demonstrate how art can help veterans’ anxiety and stress levels. Not only did these Vets create amazing artwork, within an hour most of them had reduced their anxiety and stress.” Louis corroborated a study published by NCBI, part of the NIH, that found 75% of 39 subjects reduced their cortisol levels within one hour by creating art. 

Asked whether the process or the finished mask gives the most pleasure, he says, “Both. The process opens up ideas about how veterans feel and experience. Creating the piece can be meticulous but rewarding. It’s gratifying to see the finished piece. At first, many thoughts run through my head as I think about what to create. I close my eyes, and they start moving rapidly as if I were in REM sleep. My heart beats faster and random images from the past freeze in my mind as the years of my military experiences flash through. But when I start to create art, all that slows as my mind focuses on the art. The artist Thom Cooney Crawford describes this as ‘an inner peace beyond the mind.’”

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About the Author

Rich Rudnick

Rich Rudnick served in the U.S. Navy from 1977 through 1983 as an Interior Communications Electrician’s Mate aboard the USS Manitowoc out of Little Creek, Virginia. After leaving the service, he worked as a bench tech and as a system specialist, designing multi-story building heating and ventilation systems. For the last 15 years, he has worked for organizations serving the homeless. He joined the NVF in February 2007.


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