Hello Thanksgiving!

the messy artist thanksgivingWhile we can’t quite believe that the holiday season of the year is upon us, we are happy to embrace its sentiments. With Thanksgiving here next week, we are feeling thankful for all that we have in our lives, and feeling very grateful.

Our students are always at the top of our list of what we are thankful for, and we are grateful for every family who takes a class with us, has a birthday party here, comes to summer camp, etc, etc. So many wonderful people have passed through our doors over the past 16 years.  Here just a few:

One way we are expressing our gratitude for all to see is by taking part in the Gratitude Graffiti Project again this year. Everyone is invited to come draw (or write) on our windows with paint pens about what they are grateful for. It’s open to everyone – students or not. When we started this year’s project, a couple staff members went out to write on the window. At the same time, they both wrote “Art”!.   That is another item at the top of the list that we are thankful for.

Another way we are expressing our thankfulness this month is by hosting a food drive for the Community Soup Kitchen of Morristown. The staff is donating food and other supplies to locals in need, and we welcome donations from the public as well. Donations can be brought by any time the studio is open; there is a box in the entryway to receive them.   We are proud to be able to “pay it forward” to such a wonderful organization.

Current Needs flyer w MA infoWe wish you all a fantastic Thanksgiving! Please share with us what you are thankful for – in words or pictures.  We’d love to see it!

How art can get your child to eat vegetables!

the messy artistWe had something happen in class recently that, although unusual for an art class, had all parents thrilled: their children demanded to eat broccoli!

As we do each session, our classes (even for the youngest students) follow a theme. In a recent session, our focus was on colors, and one week we featured green. Our classroom was full of examples of different materials using the color green: green play dough, green paint at the easels, green slime at the messy table. The project table had a special green project: green broccoli dipped in green paint to stamp on green paper.

We like to incorporate a vegetable or fruit stamping project into our curriculum most seasons for our youngest students. This is a fun way for students to create some art out of unusual objects, and the broccoli was perfect for this.

Not only did the students enjoy stamping with the broccoli, they were curious about its taste.   We provided some clean, non-paint covered broccoli and they all tried it. Even better, most of them liked it and wanted more! Since it proved to be so popular, we did it with all sections of our Monet class, and have now added it to the lesson plan.

We love how the children were inspired to try broccoli after using it to create art. It perfectly ties into our Artist Harvest sculpture project’s mission: using art to stimulate a love of healthy eating in children.printing with vegetables nj kids art

Four thought provoking articles about art education

As an art studio, we are passionate about the power that creating art has to shape lives.   The ability to tap into one’s creativity has far-reaching influences, not only in education but in much of daily life. Used not just when “making art”, these benefits – ingenuity, confidence to think outside the box, making connections between seemingly disparate objects, and yes, an appreciation and understanding of beauty and design – color how one interacts with the world.

art studio for kids njHere are four articles that we have come across recently that have gotten us thinking. Please share with us anything you have come across that you have found thought provoking as well – we’d love to start a dialogue.benefits of art education

  1. Childhood Creativity Leads to Innovation in Adulthood: Researchers link arts and crafts in childhood to financial success in adulthood.

This article focuses on a study at Michigan State, following students who had consistently taken art classes (from early childhood through age 14). “The most interesting finding was the importance of sustained participation in those activities,” said Rex LaMore, director of MSU’s Center for Community and Economic Development.

Read more in the article about the things that were learned form this study.

art education and kidshttp://www.psychologytoday.stfi.re/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/childhood-creativity-leads-innovation-in-adulthood?sf=ezpjra&utm_content=buffer557b4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

  1. 7 Leadership Skills Fostered in Arts Education.

We love this list, which includes “Understanding the Power of Myth and Symbols” and “Project Planning”, as well “Learning to be Yourself”. Check out the article for more great insights on leadership skills art education provides.

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/7-leadership-skills-fostered-arts-education-stacey-goodmanart education for kids

  1. What’s the state of the arts in New Jersey’s public-school classrooms today?

This article from September 2105 looks at how NJ public schools are faring in terms of the arts. There’s good (97 percent of all students have access to classes on the fine arts, music or drama), bad (concerns about PARCC testing cutting into arts time) and ugly (one in five New Jersey schools doesn’t offer both music and visual arts, as required by the state). Read about more in this report from the recent Arts Education Summit.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/15/09/28/what-s-the-state-of-the-arts-in-new-jersey-s-classrooms-today/the messy artist

  1. STEM vs. STEAM: Do the Arts Belong?

Surprisingly, it’s not a slam-dunk to include the arts! There are arguments both for and against adding Art into the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) in this article.


Hello Themendous!

This week we have a special guest post by large-scale sculptors extraordinaire, Themendous! You’ve seen their work all over, but probably not realized it. Giant hotdogs, wicked witch legs, sculptures for Google: their output is creative, eye-catching and BIG. It’s in amusement parks, movies, mini-golf courses, parades – anyplace a big and fun sculpture is needed.themenedous kissThis generous company is one of the sponsors of our Artist Harvest sculpture series. By giving us a special discount on materials and creating a basic pear shape for us out of Styrofoam, we were able to then build onto it with plaster and paint it into the Pear-casso. We were thrilled to work with them, and thank them for their sponsorship.

Themendous is a very interesting place, full of talented people making amazing creations here in New Jersey. Read on for more info about the people behind this company and the history of “The King of Huge” – Themendous.

spiderHow did Themendous get started?

Themendous was started by us (Giovanni and Dena Calabrese) as a custom full-body soft foam sculptural costume company, and over the years evolved into today’s large-scale sculpture company. In college, we built silly costumes for Halloween, our first fully 3D one being this couch.  This is Giovanni.sofa chair

It all was fun, and quickly developed into much more!  Dena was an FIT grad who could sew and create anything.  Giovanni was a marketing major, but once in the corporate field, he knew he had to start pursuing his creative interests.

Together we continued to hone our craft to develop beautiful costumes from soft puppet foam and fabric.  We became very professional walk-around character costume builders.  This is how Custom Creations, our first LLC, was formed. The Macy’s Day Parade commissioned many of our early costume works.Macys Eggplants Macys Duck Costumes

Our combined skills allowed us to create beautiful, professional walk-about costumes.  Below are some of our favorites:Krazie City Nyack Costume 1 Adventure Park Costume 2

Proving that once you put your creative mind to something, you can flourish, Giovanni (without any professional art training) started to carve Styrofoam. That is when we went from a costume company to a sculpture company. Themendous DBA was born!

What is the most unusual item you have created?

We made 30 Purple Gorilla Costumes at a time in three separate orders for Zyrtec. Dena was allergic to the purple fur – and was prescribed Zyrtec in a strange twist of fate to finish sewing the costumes. She had to use a tape lint roller on her face every few seconds to remote the hair fibers from her skin.unnamed

We had purple fur balls around for years after we finished the job and we even found some in our house after we moved in, even though the costume and the fur were never in the house! Spooky!

Another unusual build was when we welded a 40-foot fork out of steel to be placed outside, on top of a 13-foot tall meatball at a restaurant entranceway.  Oversized foods are our specialty, but a 40-foot eating utensil!  That was insane!Themendous meatballWhat is the best part of running Themendous?

The best part of running Themendous is that it is different every day.  Every job is new with different requirements and features.  We are more then just sculptors: we are builders, fabricators, welders, wood workers, seamstresses, puppet builders, performers, and most importantly a team of artists.  Building so large with a solid team of various talents is something to be proud of, because at the end of the day you all get to look back and say, “Wow, we built that!”

What is the hardest part about running your business?

The hardest part of running Themendous is completing a rush job with insanely tight deadlines.  We often get calls from a client who needs something big in a very short period of time. This is when we burn the midnight oil and things get crazy.  We have worked 20-hour days to make a sculpture start to finish for unrealistic deadlines but that is why we are the King of Huge – we make the impossible, possible!

Please take us through the steps of creating a sculpture.

When we want to create a new piece, we start with a flat drawing or design. We then take them image and project it on a huge block of foam to the desired size.  We then start cutting and carving out the piece to create its full 3D form.  We then carve details, sand, and perfect the item until we have a complete sculpture.  It is then hard coated with a two part plastic spray that mixes and heats to 150 degrees and hardens almost instantly on contact.  This creates a weatherproof and extremely durable shell that can be painted as you wish.

Do you make things for fun and try to sell them, or only work on commissions?

We mainly work by commission for clients of all sizes.  Google is by far our biggest client who only uses us for all its Lawn Sculpture and Android OS Sweets.   But we also work with independent businesses and private affairs.

Every once in awhile, we get to do something fun for ourselves.  This year we built an 18-foot tall clown mouth fun house entranceway sculpture to install at Burning Man in the Nevada Desert.  This was fun!!

We creatively paired with an art camp named Kostume Kult and built this beautiful runway entrance for their costume gifting station.  The same piece will be used on their Halloween Float for the NYC Parade this month.

We like connecting with other artists and creatives when we have a moment to break away from the madness of building for our business.  We are artists at heart, just pushing to continue pursuing our dreams and make them a reality every day.

We are also very inspired by the work you have done at the Messy Artist, and would love to do more public interactive pieces that inspire young artists to pursue and keep making art. Thank you for choosing us to carve the pear!Pearcasso at town hall The Artist Harvest copyWhat plans do you have for the future of Themendous – where do you see it in 5 years?

In five years, we hope to continue to expand by working and hiring more artists and talent to really become a more fully staffed shop of artists that can offer many services to our clientele.  If we have more artists, we could expand to a full event one-stop shop.  Time and constant work are always a race to try to outrun, since currently we are only 5 full time employees. Everyone here really works hard to make Themendous flourish on the platform that Giovanni and Dena have laid out.

What was your most challenging piece?


2D version


3D Themendous Sculpture

Our most challenging project was when we decided to transform David Hartman’s “Monster Mash” 2D Illustration into a 3D fully sculpted scene.  His drawing was done in a forced perspective with all characters depicted on an angle from below. We then had to take that visual information and translate it into a fully three dimensional world viewed from all angles!  That was tricky!

Thanks again to Themendous for this guest post. Don’t forget to check out their website and Facebook page to see more of their fantastic sculptures.

Hello gashes!

This is a follow up to last week’s blog post, which featured the special-effects makeup that our advanced art students in Art Foundations Intensives 5 learned to do. They made vampire bites last session, and this week (using the same materials) made gashes. Some “works” were enhanced with needles piercing the flesh.the messy artist halloween makeup

Here’s the entire collection of bloody and bruised arms, though they are quite gruesome, and not for the faint of heart! Scroll through at your own risk!

hello vampire bites!

halloween vampire bite with makeupUnfortunately our highest level art students (AFI5), were attacked by vampires during class. They were left bruised and mangled, with seeping blood drying on their arms. Strangely though – they loved it!

This week’s class focused on Halloween and stage makeup, specifically how to create realistic bites, bruises and wounds.

nj art class for kidsWith supplies from makeupmania.com, the students were instructed in how to build up realistic looking injuries.

The first step was to create bumps from the Nose and Scar Wax,

halloween bite makeupAnd by using the rest of the makeup, they ended up like this!

the messy artist

The students were very impressed with the realistic injuries they were able to create. Coming up in next week’s class: gashes!

Have you taught students how to use stage or special effect makeup? What are your favorite things to create?

Hello warm color circles!

art project 3-6 year oldIn our Chagalls class for 3-6 year olds, we use this multi-step project as one of the many ways we teach color mixing. With primary colors of red and yellow, the students create a palette reminiscent of the autumn leaves outside.

Age Level: 3 – 6 years


  • Reinforce primary colors
  • Introduce color mixing
  • Learn stamping with paint techniques
  • Encourage using recycled objects in art


  • Tempera paint: black, red, and yellow
  • Paint brushes
  • Small paper plates (to use as paint palettes)
  • White Card stock, 9 x 12
  • Assortment of different sized caps and other objects for printing circles: laundry detergent lids, soda bottle lids, shaving cream caps, toilet paper rolls, etc

Teacher Preparation:

  • Cover table in paper to prevent paint from getting on it
  • Put black paint on plates (one plate/palette for every 2 students)
  • Put red and yellow paint on plates (one plate/palette for every 2 students)
  • Create labels with student’s names for back of artworks
  • Place printing objects on table (or in a tray) for children to use
  • Create sample project


Show children a sample project. Demonstrate the first step: how to print circles with the objects on the table. Encourage them to make smaller circles inside bigger ones, and to overlap circles.

(We do this project as a two-step project during the same class, with the circle prints happening near the beginning of the session, then moving on to another activity. The circles printed in this first step need time to dry before the next step. If needed, the instructors can also blot the prints to help them dry more quickly. The project could also be spread over a couple class sessions.)

Next, talk to the students about the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Explain we will be working with warm colors today, red and yellow.   Demonstrate first painting some circles yellow.

the messy artist art studio for kidsThen paint some other circles red. Finally, mix the red and yellow together on their palette to make a new color: orange. Paint the remaining circles with the orange paint.

new jersey kids art class circle stampingThis project is always a lot of fun for the students, and they often want to keep painting when their circles are filled. We give them plain white paper and let them keep on painting with their orange paint if time allows.color mixing for preschoolers