hello resist painting!

Resist paintings are something we do in a few different styles here at The Messy Artist; we appreciate not only the results of these techniques, but the way it gets kids to think a few steps ahead.

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A resist is where one material is used to repel or block (i.e. resist) another. For instance, drawing on paper with wax crayons and then painting over with watercolors creates a resist when the wax repels the paint and remains visible.

Resist paintings open the possibility to lots of layering and interesting effects. This post will focus on using masking tape as a resist, and we will look in depth in future posts at some of our other favorite resist methods.

In this project, students use masking tape to shield parts of a mounted canvas, which they then paint over. Once the tape is removed, clean canvas is revealed, creating white stripes. We had samples of two different types of painting style – color block and blended rainbow.

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We first go over all the steps to the project and show the kids some samples. The students then get a mounted canvas and some masking tape and create their design.

We encourage the children to plan out ahead of time how they want to lay out their tape so this part goes more smoothly. Younger children have trouble managing the tape; it is easy to get tangled. For that reason, we have found that 1st grade is the youngest age that can handle the full project (this group was 1st and 2nd graders).

For a 9” x 12” piece of canvas we have found that 4 or 5 pieces work best per project. We use pieces that stretch across the entire canvas, and try to get the kids to put the tape on angles, so itʼs not too symmetrical and grid-like.

Once the tape is in place, rub it so that it sticks well. If it’s not stuck tightly, the paint will seep under the tape and ruin the effect. An alternative to using canvas is to use card stock – if you do this, use drafting tape instead, as masking tape will rip the paper.

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Once the taping is all done, we then collect the canvases and put them aside before the next step: color mixing. We do this to make sure they kids spend the time mixing the colors they need- they are eager to get painting.

Each child gets a palette (in this case a paper plate) with the primary colors of tempera paint, and a palette knife for mixing. They mix up the colors needed for their project and then we return the canvases.

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They get to work painting in the style they have chosen (color areas or blended colors) and cover the entire canvas.

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Tape removal is always exciting to see how the resist has worked. Sometimes if the students are careful with the tape removal, they can create a new piece of art with the painted tape strips.


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kids resist painting project steps


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What do you think – are these kids proud of their art? What are your favorite resist projects for kids?

hello pointillism!

Pointillism is always a fun concept and style of painting to introduce to all level classes in our programs. We recently did this giant fruit painting project with an older class of students and love how it turned out.

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First we explained that pointillism is creating a painting with small dots of pure color next to each other to create the illusion of new colors. No mixing and no brush strokes – just dots! We then showed students works made in that style, with Georges Seurat “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte” being perhaps the most famous example.

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For our class project, we decided to go with a fruit theme, and each student picked one that appealed to them.

The first order of business was to get the kids to think big as they sketched their fruit in pencil.Often times they put a small drawing in the middle of a large piece of paper. For this project – and all pointillism – it really works best to work large. First we had them create their sketch on an 8”x 11” piece of paper, then expand it up to the painting size of 18” x 24”. We made sure their pencil sketches filled the entire piece of paper.

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We gave the kids plastic takeout container lids as palettes (we are always trying to reduce/reuse/recycle) and small brushes to get started. As they progressed, they also used cotton swabs to go in for smaller dots. When we do this in our younger classes, we only use the cotton swabs.

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We love the way that pointillism gets the kids to think about color. Since no color mixing is involved – the creation of the colors is done by placing the colors next to each other – the kids really have to figure out how to get the color they want.For example, for orange, they will use red dots next to yellow dots – but by using bigger red next to smaller yellow dots, they create a darker orange than if they use bigger yellow and smaller red. We like working on the wall like this so the kids can easily step back and get that “aha!” moment when the colors come together.

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Painting in this style takes longer than many other methods, but the kids really enjoyed the process – and the results!

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hello shapes!

In our beginning classes we cover a different introductory theme each session, such as
texture or color. By introducing these elements into our projects and station play each
week, the idea is reinforced through various means. For example, if our color of the
week is green, we might have green play dough, use green paint on the easels, and create
a green themed project.
In our recent 10-week session we took on the idea of “shapes” and incorporated it in
various ways around the studio. We had fun coming up with ideas to reinforce the
unique shapes and after a few weeks, kids would come in to class and eagerly seek out
the shape of the week.

triangle art project
We had a collage project for our youngest students (1.5 – 2.5 years) featuring rectangle
shaped paper with smaller rectangles to glue on to it. The paper is labeled with the word
“Rectangle” on top to further immerse the children in the concept of the shape.

For this project we used small brushes (perfectly sized for little hands) and let them apply
the glue as they wished, then stick on the paper rectangles.

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Our older students (2.5 to 4 years) had a two-step project. First, we gave them strips of
colorful paper, and instruct them in using scissors to cut rectangles from it. We tell the
children to keep their “thumbs up” so they can get their thumb and fingers oriented
correctly. We also provided them with thin strips of paper so that they just had to make
one cut to be successful in creating a rectangle. Scissors can take a while to master, so
caregivers helped out as the kids got the hang of it.

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Next we gave the kids these fun silicone brushed and let them paint on the colorful glue.
Finally they added the rectangles they had cut all by themselves.

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Our triangle project was a collage of triangle shaped paper on a larger triangle shaped
piece. Again, we labeled the larger, base piece with the shape name: “Triangle”. For this
project we had the children use glue sticks for their collaging. Our lesson includes
information about what makes a triangle a triangle: three corners and three sides.

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Sometimes we vary this project by using foil on the triangle base, which creates a novel
surface. We’ll also challenge the students to glue their triangle pieces on with the sides all
touching; it makes an interesting design.

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toddler elementary school shape projects
For the younger kids, we do a stamping project with various round shaped objects to
create circles, on round paper labeled with the word “Circles”. For this type of project,
we use a thin layer of paint on a paper plate to create clean non-blobby stamps and for
ease of clean up.

This is a great way to use recycled objects to create art: we use tape rolls, dowels, bottle caps, old film canisters, etc. We keep a supply box going throughout the year and add to it when we find something that looks good.

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The project for older kids is a favorite for both students and teachers: making circle prints
from oranges. We cut the oranges well in advance of class and then blot them, so they
are not too juicy to make a good print once dipped in paint.

We again use round paper labeled with the word “Circles” to stamp on, and coordinating colors of paint, thinly spread on paper plates. The kids are instructed to blot the oranges again after dipping them in paint for crisp prints. At this age (2.5 – 4 years old) they can follow these multistep directions.

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Do you have any favorite shape-related projects? We’d love to see them!

hello initials!

We incorporate beginning reading skills into some of our lessons for younger kids.  Many of the children this age already recognize the special letter that starts their name – their initial.north jersey fine art kids childrens class

For our youngest students we offer an initial collage project.  This is part of our station play, a set of self-directed, open-ended activities. Each station is a sensory-rich learning environment that encourages exploration. Children are free to be decision makers; they decide which stations to explore, how to engage with each one, and how long to play.art class and party kids north new jersey

At our initial project station, we set up glue and collage materials. We have prepped the correct initial for each child by cutting it from oak tag and have it ready for when they come to this station.  With some guidance from the instructors and their caregivers, the 1.5 – 2.5 year olds in this class choose the objects to decorate their initial.  In this case, cut patterned paper is provided.

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For our older class of 2 ½ – 4 year olds, we do a watercolor painting project.  Again, we have prepped initials for all our young students ahead of time.  For this project we use sharpie to draw a large open initial on watercolor paper. When it is time to hand them out, the instructor holds up one letter at a time for the children to identify theirs. They all quietly and excitedly await their turn for their initial to be held up.

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After a lesson on watercolors and how to use them, the students go ahead and paint their initials.  We discuss interior and exterior space concepts as well as the logistics of using watercolors.


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Children of all ages love their “special letter” projects, proud to have decorated their initial just as they desire.

make your own goop!

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Goop is a perennial favorite at our messy table, but we recently came up with a way to make it even more exciting for our 3-5 year old students: let them make it themselves!  This project appeals to their sense of independence and provides them with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  Plus, they get to take it with them – who doesn’t love taking a new toy home?

This is all part of our carefully designed lesson plan for each age: there is a lot of learning that goes on with this activity.   Kids learn to follow simple directions, and concepts such  as pouring and mixing.

We give the children a small cup and a small tube of white glue – we found these that are very easy to the kids to squeeze – great for developing fine finger control and hand strength.  And kids love to squeeze glue.

fine art class children new jersey glueWe ask them to fill the container about ½ way and they happily oblige.  Since the kids generally want to squeeze the whole bottle out, it is a good idea to only fill the glue bottle with enough glue so that it doesn’t over fill the cup.

Then we squeeze out a few drops of food coloring into the glue and have the child mix it in.

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We advise the students to mix until the glue is all one color  (in this case, pink) not two – (red and white).  

goop best art class toddler elementary middle school kidsNext, we give the students another small cup, this one with a small amount of liquid laundry starch in it.  The general proportions of goop are 3 glue:1 starch  – you can eyeball it.  The glue will only absorb a certain amount of the starch and you can pour the rest off.

morris county art class party childrenWe let the kids pour the starch in themselves, and then mix some more.  Once the glue has thickened into “goop” they can take it out and play with it.

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When they are finished, we pop a lid labeled with their name onto it.  They can return to the messy table throughout class to play with their very own goop, and after class they can find theirs to take home with them.  Leaving it for them to pick up promotes letter and name recognition at this pre-reading stage.

goop art classes and parties north jerseyHave you turned a favorite sensory activity into a project?  We’d love to hear about it.  And here’s our goop recipe for making a larger amount.  :)

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Community Service Update


At The Messy Artist, we believe in giving back to the community. Our lives are touched in a positive way by every student and family that we meet, and we want to honor that by paying it forward to make a difference in the world.

We have two upcoming community service events that we are excited to announce: an art supply drive to benefit Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and a craft table we are hosting at the Garden State Good Cookies 4th Annual Family Fun Day.

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Garden State Good Cookies

Goryeb Children's Hospital

Goryeb Children’s Hospital

We got the idea for the art supply drive when we contacted the Goryeb Children’s Hospital to see if they would like us to donate some of our kids artwork and cards for their walls. When they told us that most of their art was created by their patients, the idea for an art supply drive was born.  We know how important it is for children to express themselves through art, and this would be a perfect way to provide tools for the kids to make art while in the hospital.

Goryeb Children's Hospital

Goryeb Children’s Hospital

To get the ball rolling, our students pitched in and decorated this box to collect the donations.  They loved decorating it so much that they painted over and over it – this box may have ten layers of paint!  It will be in our entryway to collect contributions.fine art class and parties kids art goryeb hospital art class nj children community serivce goryeb

Please join us in donating new, unused art supplies that we will deliver to the Hospital at the end of the drive.  Canvas, paint, model magic, and brushes are some of the things suggested – or anything you think of would be appreciated.  We will be donating art supplies, and hope you will too!

Children’s Art Supply Drive to benefit Goryeb Children’s Hospital
The Messy Artist
356 Route 10 West, East Hanover, NJ
March 15 – April 15

Continuing our commitment to helping kids, we are also partnering with Garden State Good Cookies by hosting a craft table on May 10 at their 4th Annual Family Fun Day.

Garden State Good Cookies Annual Family Fun Day

Garden State Good Cookies Annual Family Fun Day

Their events are lots of fun for a great cause, with many activities for kids and of course, lots of cookies. Featured at the free event will be face painting, djs, children’s entertainment and giveaways. We’ll have special Messy Artist crafts for kids to enjoy, so please stop by and say hello. All proceeds support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national charity, whose mission is to find more effective  and safer treatments for children with  cancer.  Garden State Good Cookies has raised over $30,000 in support of this charity.

Garden State Good Cookies Family Fun Day

Garden State Good Cookies Family Fun Day

4th Annual Family Fun Day
Saturday, May 10
10-2 pm; rain or shine
Bauer Community Center in Taylor Park, Millburn.
The event is open to the general public, and admission is free.
For more information: www.gardenstategoodcookies.com
Email: millburn.kidshelpingkids@gmail.com

Other recent community service events since we moved to our East Hanover location have been:

Children’s Book Drive in Conjunction with Bridge of Books

Blood Drive in Conjunction with the Red Cross

Smiles for Savannah, a Fundraiser for Nephcure


Artist Harvest update: March

Weʼve been focusing on three main pieces in our Artist Harvest Sculpture Project:
the Munch-Room (inspired by Edward Munch), Vincent Van Gogh Bananas
(inspired by Vincent Van Gogh) and and Salvador Straw-Dali (inspired by Salvador Dali).

At this stage of the construction, our Salvador Straw-Dali is mistaken for our Pear-casso (inspired by Pablo Picasso), especially when upside down.  It has been interesting to discuss the similarities between the shapes of the fruits with the students as we go through this process. Once this sculpture is painted, it’s true identity will be revealed!

Yes, this a Strawberry, just upside-down!

Yes, this a Strawberry, just upside-down!

We have enlisted the studentsʼ help in plastering these gigantic sculptures,
forming an assembly line. Because we have been using plaster strips, we have
to work quickly while the plaster is wet, which makes it ideal for a group project.

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Students work cutting strips, dipping them into vats of water, and finally carefully
placing them on the sculptures and smoothing them out. The kids have a great
time with this, enjoying the teamwork and the physicality of creating the large-scale pieces.

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As these pieces grow, we are having to find creative storage places for them.  Weʼve set them on dollies, on chairs, on top of cabinets and even hoisted them to the ceiling!

art party and class nnj Artist Harvest Messy Artist #letsmove fine art classes for kids parties north jersey best art class for kids nj Artist Harvest Messy Artist #letsmoveSince we aim to inspire healthy eating in children through our Artist Harvest, we
are happy to join in supporting Michelle Obamaʼs Letʼs Move campaign.
Weʼre sharing some of these photos with the Lets Move program by posting
some pics with #letsmove to our facebook page – check it out!

We will be creating six sculptures in total, and all will be on display at the
Livingston Mall in New Jersey this spring. Weʼll keep you updated!

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Click to play video on facebook