hello Anthony!

best art classes njInstructor Anthony Castellano brings a wonderful mix of art history knowledge, teaching expertise, and enthusiasm to his classes at The Messy Artist. His love of art is infectious and inspirational to the young students, and he keeps them laughing while they are learning.  Introducing cartooning classes to the curriculum has been a popular addition for older elementary and middle school students. Here’s a chance to get to know more about Anthony in this interview.

What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

My first experiences in art actually started at my own kitchen table. At a very young age, I could be found drawing or coloring whatever I was inspired in at the time, whether it be animals or a favorite cartoon. When I was in Kindergarten, I won a Halloween coloring contest. That motivated me to continue art as a child. Eventually, I would go on to participate in the talented art program in elementary school. By the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted to make art my career. In recent years, I have become an art teacher working in a variety of schools with nearly all grade levels.

Young Anthony drawing at his kitchen table with his Mom

Young Anthony drawing at his kitchen table with his Mom

What is your background in art?

I graduated with a B.A. in Art and Education from Caldwell University in 2010. There, I was enrolled in a variety of courses such as painting, drawing, sculpture, computer graphics, and art history. One of my favorite classes was a museology course, which focused on the operation and management of museums and galleries. My experiences in art didn’t stop there! Also in college, I was the president of the Caldwell Art Club and exhibited my work in several town art shows and on campus. Throughout my educational career, I worked as a set designer and stage manager for many musical productions, which included Once Upon a Pedistal and Bye Bye Birdie. While teaching, I became art club advisor for “Young @ Art” to a new generation of artists. I am now an active member of Art Educators of New Jersey.

At a gallery exhibit with his artwork

At a gallery exhibit with his artwork

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What classes do you teach?

I have been part of the Messy Artist family for 3 years now! It was like yesterday, coming to Messy as the newest addition in 2012 when we moved to East Hanover. In the beginning, I began assisting at birthday parties and quickly worked my way into teaching our studio classes. I started helping with Storybook Art and Art Foundations 101 classes. I then taught Cartooning for a year, which was a very enjoyable experience. This past season, I taught a variety of classes, which included a section of Art Foundations Intensive, Chagalls, Monets, and even a Picasso class! You can also find me managing our birthday parties on the weekend, at many adult events during the year, or around our studio working on our lifesize Artist Harvest sculptures.

What are some of your favorite projects or topics to teach?

My favorite type of art will always be two-dimensional. Drawing or painting are two of my favorite concentrations. I have a big interest in art history and enjoy incorporating art movements or famous works into my lessons. Abstract and Non figurative art from the 1900’s make for great open-ended projects with our students. Artists like Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse, and Malevich are unique and kid friendly. They have inspired me, and I find that they inspire our students as well with their vibrant colors and fun shapes. In my opinion, any lesson involving analogous colors or the use of blending techniques really drives a lesson home. The kids love it when I sing “let it blend” or when I say “color in one direction, and not the band!”fine art classes for kids morris county The Messy Artist art studio for kids

What sort of art do you do on your own time?

Though I am very much inspired by abstract art, I always find myself creating representational art on my own time. It’s a very strange phenomenon! In recent years, I have created many colored pencil portraits of people or animals. I’m not the traditional landscape or still life type of guy. When I paint, I really enjoy using oil or acrylic, and when I draw, I can’t resist my Prismacolor pencils. In terms of subject matter, animals are still at the forefront, especially for my cartoons. One of my most recent paintings is called “A Flourishing Twist,” which features a combination of snakes and my favorite flower, the tiger lily. The piece is inventive, and borders 1930’s surrealism. I like the idea of fantasy meeting reality for my future work, and can’t wait to see where my creative juices take me.

What advice do you have for kids who say they are not good artists?

When a child says, “I’m not a good artist,” I reassure them that they are. I say that they have just developed their own style, but don’t know it yet. More often than not, I see students trying to be like the masses and create art like someone else, as opposed to being original. I always suggest to my students that they should be different. Sometimes it may be the medium that causes students to get frustrated. It is important to realize that we will not be the best at everything and that’s okay too! Some students may be stronger with 2D art as opposed to 3D art or more familiar with one subject matter than another. Sticking with what works is important as a foundation to good art! I tell my students that it shouldn’t stop them from trying something new. We learn by getting out of our comfort zone every now and then. Focusing on the process instead of the end product may be difficult, but I tell my students to continue and keep trying. I also say to the students that Art stands for “Always Respect (yourself) and Try. We are our own work of art!Anthony with a student at Messy Artist new jersey art classes for kids art class for toddlers in nj

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

My advice to parents looking to get their children involved in art is to make the first step. Sign up for a trial and take class at the Messy Artist. We want our children to have fun and discover art through the process, and still make beautiful art. It is important to immerse a child in art at a very young age. So many things can be learned from playing and experimenting with different materials in new and exciting ways. Social skills, communication, and fine motor development are all incorporated in the making of art. As a child, I was very fortunate to have been surrounded by family that encouraged me to use my skills and talents. Likewise, I recommend that parents do the same for their children. It is important for guardians to devote art-making time together. Take a trip to a museum! It will allow a child to become inspired and have an authentic real life art experience. Enter a child’s work in a contest. Save the work made in school, and display it. That shows a child that they’re not only important, but reinforces that they are an artist!art class for children new jersey

Do you have a favorite food?

Eating is an art, and yes, I can eat! My favorite foods will always be tasty and colorful. Any eating experience that speaks to the senses makes my tummy smile! I love to cook and bake on my free time and I pay close attention to the presentation of my food. Sushi, especially maki rolls, have so much texture, and eating them is like a performance art piece. For my sweet tooth, ice cream is not only flavorful, but colorful, and the design made by a soft serve swirl looks great on a hot summer day! I guess one could say I turn my eating habits into a masterpiece.

How about hobbies?

When I’m not “arting,” I’m either singing or listening to music. Being involved in the performing arts has also been a hobby. In college, I was part of the choir and musical theater workshops. I’m a baritone by nature. My messy artist coworkers know me as the “human radio” who is always breaking out into random song. I enjoy collecting and playing music for my friends and family too. They know me as DJ Tony C. Currently, my ipod has 8000 songs and counting; I see no signs of slowing down. Other hobbies of mine include working out at the gym, adventuring to new places to eat, or traveling.

Favorite museum/gallery/online place to look at art?

My favorite museum to visit is the Museum of Modern Art. Seeing Pop Art from Oldenberg or Warhol in person is always exciting! I think that the best exhibit I ever saw was at the Guggenheim in 2010 for the Wassily Kandinsky exhibit. Coincidentally, the show occurred at the same time I was completing my senior thesis on how Kandinsky “made music” through the elements of art in his work. Taking a random trip through the Chelsea galleries in New York has kept me in tune with the contemporary artists of today. Though I love art, I am equally inspired by the historical and scientific nature of things from animals, to plants, geology, and the planets. The Smithsonian Museum will always be number one destination for a little history or science.

Favorite place you have been or would like to go?

Italy! Greece! Spain! France! If there is any place I’d like to go and visit, that one place would be somewhere in Europe. I’d really love to tour as many European countries as possible and immerse myself in the art, food, and atmosphere of each. When the time comes, I’d love to see places like the Parthenon, the Sistine Chapel, or the Eiffel Tower. I know it sounds cliché, but Europe is where many of the master painters made their mark! Here at home, there are still many states I’d like to visit too, which include Western coast. Hawaii looks like it will be in near future! No matter where I go on my artistic journey, I will always make my traveling experiences part of my art.Anthony Castellano the messy artist

hello Victoria!

This week we have another post in our “Meet the Staff” series, with Victoria Plummer. You’ve seen her photos on our Facebook pages, read her blog posts here, and perhaps gotten an email created by her. As our Marketing Associate, she does all that and more to help spread the word about The Messy Artist. She’s been part of The Messy Artist Staff for over 6 years.

victoria plummer the messy artistWhat are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

My Dad was always doing some kind of art when I was growing up: pen and ink when I was young, and blacksmithing later. I always liked to draw and paint when I was a kid.

What is your background in art?

My background is in filmmaking: I got my undergrad and graduate degrees from Temple University in Philadelphia. I made a bunch of student films and worked as an editor before starting a family.

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist?

I started working at The Messy Artist as an assistant teacher in 2009. After a while I became a head teacher, and transitioned over to marketing associate in April 2012. I enjoy coming around to different classes each week to take photos. It’s always fun to see what projects kids are up to and capture their energy.

the messy artist art studio for kids best art class camp and party north nj childrens art classes new jersey art classes for kids NJDonna originally asked me if I was interested in teaching because I had been taking classes with my daughters at The Messy Artist for a few years. We live in the same neighborhood, and she knew both my kids went to the Millburn Co-op, where the parents spend a lot of time in the classroom and are used to being around a lot of kids. I enjoy teaching art and love to see kids experiencing the power of creativity.

What sort of art do you do on your own time?

I started printmaking about 10 years ago through classes at the Visual Art Center in Summit. There was a class I used to take on Thursdays nights which got me really enamored with it. I eventually started going to the open printmaking studio on Fridays and did that for a few years. I’ve been working too much to do much printmaking recently, but am looking forward to getting back to it. You can see my works on my website, victoriaplummer.com. Some of my photographic work is also on there; I’m self-taught but learned a lot through cinematography classes while in school that applies.

Printmaking is definitely one of my favorite things to teach when I am teaching art to kids.

What advice do you have for kids who say they are not good artists?

I always try to emphasize the uniqueness of each person’s creation: they are the only person in the whole world who can make the piece of art that they just made. That is something special! Anyone can learn to be good with enough practice; they should celebrate what they can do and their own personal style.

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

Just having art supplies around that kids can get to easily is a wonderful encouragement.

Do you have a favorite food?

I have a terrible sweet tooth, so pretty much any candy, baked good, or ice cream would be a favorite food.

Favorite museum/gallery/online place to look at art?

I think MOMa is my favorite museum. I love living so close to NYC so that it is easy to get in and see often. But I really enjoy seeing art anywhere, especially when I travel. And of course, I love to see all the wonderful artwork created by the students at The Messy Artist!

hello feet painting!

art studio for kids new jerseyFeet Painting has become a tradition for the last Monets (ages 2.5 – 4 years) class of our Spring session. We tape paper down on the floor, remove the children’s shoes, add trays of paint, and away they go!sensory art project feet painting

process oriented art classThis is a fun event, but takes a lot of organization. Since we’ve done it a bunch of times, we learned some tips we’d like to share if you want to try this.

We ask caregivers to hold the children’s hands as they circle the room since their feet can be slippery from the paint. Teachers and assistants are available to help any children that need it, as some caregivers have more than one child in the class.

nj art class for kids the messy artist art studio for kidsSuper fun, super sensory, and super messy!

Sometimes we provide extra, separate sheets of paper alongside the path, so kids can make a print of their feet to take home. We have parents guide them in stepping onto the paper to make the footprints, and then write their names on in sharpie. We set them aside to dry and they are usually done by the time the kids are cleaned up and we do our story time.

fine art classes nj best art class and camps morris countyWe provide basins of water for washing up afterwards, but we suggest the kids (and caregivers) wear shorts and sandals, preferably ones that can get messy.

When setting up for this project, we get three areas with clean-up supplies ready in separate parts of the room: bins of water, absorbent bath mats, and towels. We also put the two chairs in place, facing each other as you see below, with room for the bin between them. We keep the supplies out of the way (otherwise the kids want to play in the water) but easily accessible. This preparation makes clean up go smoothly.

art class camp and parties njThe foot-painted paper is a temporary artwork, removed before class is over. It’s a memorable process-oriented project that signifies the arrival of warm weather at The Messy Artist.  Welcome, summer!the messy artist feet painting

hello bird feeders!

cora hartshorn arboretum projectMuch like artists inspire each other, so do teachers. This bird feeder project was introduced to us by the Cora Hartshorrn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary many years ago when our CEO Donnaʼs son was a toddler in their nature program (heʼs in college now)! Since we incorporate seasonal elements into many of our projects, this idea was a great fit for us. Weʼve tweaked it a bit to make it work better for our students, but we tip our hat to the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum for the inspiration.

Should you find yourself in North Jersey, the Arboretum is a wonderful environmental center on 16 acres in Short Hills, and well worth a visit any time of the year. Its old stone house is the home to live animals on display (including snakes and chinchillas) while the modern addition has lots of educational exhibits and information to explore before or after walking the nature trails.

arboretumAge Level: 2 – any age


  • Following sequential directions
  • Beading skills
  • Learn about patterns
  • Learning about birds/nature


  • Ice cream cones
  • Fruit o cereal
  • Wire
  • Apple butter
  • Large wooden craft sticks
  • Paper plates
  • Birdseed
  • Large tin (9×13)
  • Plastic bags
  • Labels
  • Plastic containers

art camp class and party the messy artst childrens bird feederTeacher Preparation:

  • Push one end of wire through top of cone and twist to affix for handle, one per child
  • Place fruit o cereal in plastic containers, one per child (we use condiment containers with lids so we can prepare ahead of time)
  • Place approx 2-3 tbs of apple butter in plastic containers, one per child (again, we use condiment containers with lids so we can prepare ahead of time)
  • Fill 9 x 13 tins with approx 2 inches of birdseed
  • Prepare labels with studentsʼ names to go on plastic bags for finished projects


Show the students an example of a finished project and explain that they will be making bird feeders today, projects that will give food to our friends the birds. They can hang their project in a tree when they get home and it will be a snack for the birds outdoors.

bird feeder for kidsThe first step is beading the fruit o cereal onto the wires. Show the children how they can do a pattern (repeating colors) or random colors on their wire.

Encourage them to leave some room at the end of the wire so it can be hooked onto the cone to form a handle to hang from a tree.

Have the children walk to the supply table and pick out their cone that has already been prepped with a wire.

Once back at the table, hand out the fruit o cereal containers to the kids and have them start beading the wires. Encourage the caregivers to let the children attempt the beading on their own – the eye-hand coordination works best when the kids hold their own wires, not have the caregiver hold it.

toddler art projectWhen the wires have a few inches left uncovered, have the caregivers help out by pushing the wire through the opposite side of the cone and twisting it to secure. The handle is now complete.north jersey kids art

Next hand out paper plates, apple butter containers, and wooden craft sticks. Show the kids how to scoop up the apple butter and spread it on the bottom of the cones. The plates are to help control the mess from the apple butter and make clean up easier.

Make sure the kids cover the entire bottom of the cone so there will be more surface area for the birdseed to affix to.

art class camp and parties new jerseyOnce the apple butter is on the cones, the kids can come over to roll them in the birdseed tins. We like to set these up on our supply table, where they had previously gotten the cones. Have them roll the cones around in the birdseed, covering the entire bottom of the cone.

art pary children morris county nj fine art classes for kids njWhen they are finished, put the bird feeders into a plastic bag and add the name label. This makes getting them home much neater for the parents. Encourage the students to hang them in a tree when they get home and see what kind of birds come to feast on them!best kids art class nj the messy artist art studio for kids

hello rolling pin paintings!

sensory projectHere kids use a familiar tool in a novel way, utilizing a rolling pin typically found in the kitchen in a new place: in the studio to create. We have a few types of special rolling pins we use for painting: one set has varied textures on a plastic roller, while the other has a fabric – almost mop-like – covering, sopping up the paint and redistributing it onto the paper. The kids are intrigued by the textures and love to swap and share rolling pins during this project.

rolling pin painting with kidsUnfortunately the place where we got our rolling pins no longer sells them, but lots of craft stores such as Michael’s sell fondant/textured rolling pins that can also be used, and Etsy has many sites that let you personalize your own pins.

There are also many great and cheap DIY versions. Stock up on a few old rolling pins from a thrift store and then you can:

  • Tape bubble wrap onto them
  • Create textures with a hot glue gun on a paper towel roll, then slip it over a rolling pin when cool and roll
  • Put rubber bands around a rolling pin, in lines or criss-crossing
  • Stick puffy stickers on a rolling pin

 Click here for a PDF of rolling pin paintings 

Age Level:  2- 5


  • Following multi-step directions
  • Reinforcing ideas about round shapes and rolling
  • Encouraging sharing and taking turns
  • Using large and small motor skills to roll the rolling pins

art parties njMaterials:

  • Watercolor paper (8.5 x 11, or at least wider than the largest rolling pins)
  • Rolling pins with textures
  • Water sprayers
  • Trays
  • Tempera paint

Teacher Preparation:

Put 3 coordinating colors of paint on trays, one tray per 2 children (we used purple, green and blue)

Write children’s names on the back of watercolor paper, or create labels to stick onto the back of their projects. Children many do more than one painting.


 Tell the students they will be painting with a new tool today – rolling pins. See if any kids have used a rolling pin before, maybe baking with their parents or grandparents. Explain that rolling only happens with round things, like rolling pins or balls – or bodies! Demonstrate how to roll the rolling pin, just on the table without any paint.

process art for kidsNext spray the paper with water as it makes the paint go on better. Now show the students how to roll the rolling pin though the paint on the tray, picking paint up on the pin. Finally roll the pin onto the paper so they can see how it looks.

new jersey art classes for kidsAt this point we have the students get up and head to the supply table, where they can select a rolling pin. Once they sit back down, have them practice rolling the rolling pins on the table, enlisting caregivers to help out if they are struggling. Mastering rolling before getting the rest of the supplies will ensure they are successful with their painting project.

summer art program new jerseyWhile the students are practicing rolling, hand out the paper with their names already on the back. Spray the papers, and then place one tray with paint in between every two students. Let the painting begin!

best art parties north jersey best fine art class new jerseyAfter the students have been painting for a while, we encourage them to trade rollers to try other textures. They can get new paper for this or add to their existing painting.

best art camp north jerseyAs these take at least a few hours to dry, the rolling pin paintings go home the next class session.new jersey art class for kids art class new jersey for children best art class new jersey

hello Carla, pediatric occupational therapist !

We are thrilled to present a special guest post today from Carla Flynn, one of our favorite customers – who also happens to be a pediatric occupational therapist. Her unique insight into the way children learn (and specifically learn through art) is much appreciated. Much of occupational therapy’s philosophies are incorporated into our programs for young children here at The Messy Artist. We consciously choose activities to promote large and small motor control, as well as those that encourage social skills, such as sharing. That’s why you’ll often see one palette for every two children in our classes: we are introducing the ideas of sharing and taking turns.

carla OT 3 copy

Carla with her sons at The Messy Artist

Not only did Carla take time out of her busy schedule to write this blog post, she is the mother of a newborn baby girl. We are impressed with her dedication and energy, and can’t wait til her daughter is old enough to join us for art classes!

Hello, My name is Carla Flynn and I am excited to be a guest blogger for the Messy Artist. I am a wife and mother of three amazing children, two boys and a girl, ages 5, 3, and 2 months. I am also a pediatric occupational therapist who has been practicing in the field for 13 years with experience in private practice, early intervention and school-based settings. And if my schedule wasn’t busy enough, one year ago I decided to pursue my doctorate in occupational therapy with a concentration in pediatrics.

When I was presented the opportunity through the Messy Artist to blog about the profession I love, I thought… “Hey, why not!”

Occupational therapy is deeply rooted in art. The OT profession was born out of the arts and crafts movement of the early 1900’s. Occupational therapists are trained to use arts and crafts as meaningful and purposeful activities as an intervention for rehabilitation across the lifespan. I especially find art to be useful in my treatment sessions for the many amazing benefits that it provides to the children I serve.

I’d like to give you some insight into the mind of an occupational therapist. Our training and education allows us to see every activity in a new and different way. We are constantly analyzing situations, activities and tools to fit our client’s needs. For example, during an art project, I may use an easel or another vertical surface to strengthen a child’s upper extremity muscles and to promote wrist extension, which is necessary for handwriting. Within my therapy sessions, I love making collages with students or using decoupage. I ask my students to tear paper into small pieces or tear around pictures using their fingers. This effort is great for working on fine motor skills and isolating the muscles in the hands to address endurance as well as mental focus and concentration. Most children also enjoy drawing or coloring. I never pass on an opportunity to take out a variety of markers, crayons, chalk bits, colored pencils, pens, pastels and dot markers. Each of these tools provides a different kind of resistance while using them, therefore they can build fine motor strength and endurance and require children to grade pressure while creating their masterpieces. Many of the students that I see have difficulty holding a pencil using a functional writing grasp. Teachers are constantly pointing out this difficulty in students. Within my sessions, instead of sitting down to work on pencil grasp through writing, I will encourage the use of a paintbrush to create a piece of art because in doing so the student is mimicking the grasp pattern used when holding a pencil to write.

These applications for the use of art during my therapy sessions just scratch the surface in terms of the benefits that art provides for my students. Using art as a medium during therapy also has practical applications to assist with social skills, visual motor, visual perceptual and sensory skills. Most children enjoy creating and crafting so another great benefit is it is fun and provides an outlet for leisure skills.

From the perspective of this therapist, I can use art to get children to work on just about any skill I wish to address and without much resistance. Children just think they are having fun and I’m able to achieve great therapeutic results (but that will be my little secret!) In the end, I even get the title of “the coolest teacher”…enough said!!! ;)

Carla is employed by the Livingston BOE and is also Handwriting Without Tears Level 1 certified.  She can be reach at carlamcf.ot@gmail.com

carla OT copy

Thank you, Carla!

Comments? Questions? Want to guest blog for us? We’d love to hear from you!

Painting the pepper!

This week we’ve been finishing up the final details for this Saturday’s event – an unveiling of 3 of our Artist Harvest sculptures, with an invitation to the public to help us paint our “Peppered like Pollack.” We’ll be splattering our specially prepared 6 foot pepper Jackson Pollack style and want everyone to join us!peppered like pollack artist harvest

It’s all happening at the Livingston Oval, in Livingston NJ, from 10am – 1pm on Saturday May 23. The Oval is on South Livingston Avenue, behind the Livingston Library.

We are thrilled to be part of Livingston’s Family Festival Day, a special event during the town’s 18th annual Youth Appreciation Week.  The Family Festival Day is a community-wide celebration, from 10am-3pm, offering many family friendly activities.

We’ll be with the Food Day festivities, a perfect match for the Artist’s Harvest message of healthy eating. Donna Bernstein, owner and COO of the The Messy Artist was inspired to create The Artist Harvest from other large-scale sculptures projects such as “The Cow Parade” and “The Great Light Way”  (the West Orange light bulb sculptures). “I decided to create fruits and vegetables to instill healthy eating for children and to paint the sculptures in the style of famous artist to promote awareness of art history,” said Bernstein.   She added, “Another wonderful part of the process has been to watch the students work cooperatively to create community art.  I had never created large-scale sculptures, so it has been a learning process. We are thrilled with the end results and look forward to sharing them with the Livingston community.”munch room artist harvest straw dali artist harvest sculpture with kids the messy artist harvest large sculpture with kids the messy artist

Our “Straw-Dali” (a strawberry painted in the style of Salvador Dali) and Munch-Room (a mushroom painted in the style of Edvard Munch) are completed and will be on display. The Peppered like Pollack will be awaiting its painting in the style of Jackson Pollack, splattered by the public. We can’t wait to see how it turns out!

To learn more about Food Day go to www.foodday.org. or like the Livingston Food Day Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LivingstonFoodDay. To learn more about the Messy Artist go to www.messyartist.com. And to see the display, be sure to come out on Saturday for the Family Festival.