hello new decorations!

With the start of a new season – and session of classes – it was time for a fresh look for our studios. We are fortunate to have a giant wall of windows in our front classroom, which is great for letting light in to make art, and for showing our personality. We always like to have something eye-catching up front.the messy artist new jersey

This is our third look for our windows since we opened up in this location in 2012. The first was an array of paper lanterns.kids art class camp parties new jersey

The second was colorful ribbons.fine art class for children nj

But this one is the first one where me made the whole thing ourselves with these string balls.front of MA with string balls copy

Here’s how we did it:

  1. We wrapped string covered in white glue around different sized balloons. Finding places for them all to dry was sometimes a challenge, but we used all of our space.best art class for kids nj morris county new jersey kids art class
  2. We popped the balloons to remove them from the string – this part was fun. (well, all of it was fun – but this part especially so).ball vid
  3. Next we trimmed off any lumps and bumps from the glue.east hanover art class for children
  4. White spray paint was used to even out the color.process oriented art class
  5. The final step: attaching the strings and hanging.art studio for kids new jersey art studio for kids classes parties and camp njviv hanging string balls copy

We couldn’t be happier with the way our project came out, and customers are telling us they love the new look.

Do you have any fall redecorating plans? Let us know!

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Lemon Juice Paintings

art studio for kids njThese multi-step paintings create a dreamy effect by using lemon juice to dilute and bleach the watercolor paints. Our mini-camp students had a great time making these during our summer session. Click here to download a lesson plan of Lemon Juice Paintings

Age Group: 3-6 years


  • To learn about painting with watercolors
  • To follow directions
  • To learn about the bleaching effects of lemon juice
  • Developing fine motor skills with the use of eye droppers


  • Water color paper – we used 6”x9”
  • Liquid watercolor – at least one set per 2 kids
  • Paint Brushes – one per every color pot of paint
  • Lemon juice – we like “Italia Garden” brandchildrens art studio north new jersey
  • Eyedroppers
  • Small cups for lemon juice, like condiment serving size

Teacher Prep

  • Put names on backs of watercolor paper. We find it is always easier to do ahead of time when we are doing anything that could drip or get smudged if we try to write the names on afterward.
  • Put one paint brush in each color of the watercolor sets. We do this so the students do not use a brush for more than one color and accidentally mix them in the pots. If they do mix colors, however, that’s okay too if it happens. It’s a balancing act of teaching the idea of not mixing brushes, yet also giving the children the freedom to explore.nj fine art class for kids
  • Put small amount of lemon juice into cups.


    1. Explain to the students that they will be creating a watercolor painting, and then creating a special effect by dropping a small amount of lemon juice onto them. The lemon juice will slightly dilute the paint as well as slightly bleach (“remove color”) from the watercolor paints.
    2. Hand out the watercolor paper with the kids’ names on the back.art class parties and camps morris county new jersey
    3. Distribute the watercolor paint sets. Putting one per every two children promotes sharing.
    4. Instruct the children to paint, covering their entire piece of watercolor paper.best kids art class north jersey
    5. Once they have finished painting, demonstrate how they will use the eyedroppers to put small drops of lemon juice on their paintings. Too much will mean they won’t be able to see its effects.childrens art class party and camp east hanover nj
    6. Distribute the lemon juice and eyedroppers, and have the children drip the lemon juice on their paintings.  Keep an eye on them so they do not add too much.art class for toddler elementary tweens teens new jersey lemon juice painting the messy artist
    7. These projects tend to be quite wet and take overnight to dry.art studio for kids new jersey



hello Claymation!

It is always hard to say good bye to summer and our summer camp programs here at The Messy Artist. One of the ways we make it easier is to schedule one of our favorite  – and most challenging – weeks of camp as our final one.claymation dinorsaurs

We started offering claymation about 6 years ago as a summer camp session, and we also teach claymation off site, in special workshops. Claymation is quite simply clay animation – creating a video with clay characters, with the illusion of motion achieved by making tiny movements frame by frame and videotaping them. The kids learn a lot from the step by step process and tediousness of creating a claymation video.fine art class for kids toddler through middle school

We start by having the kids brainstorm all together as a class to come up with a unifying idea. For this summer’s camp video, “Finding Deeno”, it was dinosaurs. Then the class breaks into pairs and creates storyboards for their snippet of the video. Next, they create their clay characters and the backgrounds.new jersey art class party and camp creative fun art camp video kids clay animation

Finally, the animation process is ready to start – they move their clay characters a minuscule amount each time before taking each photo. It takes patience and precision. For these stop motion videos, 10 photos for every second of video are needed. That’s 600 photos for just one minute! In today’s world of instant gratification it’s great for kids to work so hard on something so tedious.claymation for kids

Each team takes turns using the animation set up. One of the skills they learn – and that the kids really enjoy – is to create the illusion of something either growing or shrinking. They do this by first creating the clay character, fully formed. To make it appear to get smaller, they cut off a small piece, take a picture, cut off another small piece, take a picture, etc. To make something appear to grow, the students once again create a clay character. Then they use a string to slice it into horizontal segments. They then add one slice, take a picture, add another slice, take a picture, etc until the piece is fully together again. You can see this a couple of times in “Finding Deeno”.
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The students also make the titles for their individual chapters and their names for the credits. They get a lot of clay sculpting done in one week!claymation camp

To complete the process, they created posters to advertise their film.best nj art class camp and party fine art camp for kids nj the messy artist claymation

It’s impressive to see how quickly the kids learn this new skill, and how competent they are with the technology part. The excitement when we first load the pictures up to the software and see the images come together into a video is always a magical time in the classroom.

This year’s group of students worked hard on their claymation video, and we are proud to present it here:

Finding Deeno

We also have two claymation videos created in an offsite workshop this summer at Arts N Minds in Chatham, NJ. In this workshop, the class was arranged slightly differently. Each of the two groups was given the same topic to animate – caterpillars turning into a butterfly. The students followed all of the same techniques as in our summer camp (storyboarding, creating the characters, making backgrounds, etc) and made their videos. It’s interesting to see the difference in how they interpreted the same idea.


Epic Catipillar Transformation

Goodbye Summer and Hello Fall!

As our summer session draws to a close here at The Messy Artist, we wanted to take a look back over the season and peek ahead to fall.

We had a wonderful time making art with our students all summer long in our caregiver and me classes (ages 18 months-5 years), drop off Mini-camps (age 3-5 years) and Fine Art camps (grades 1-8).

Some of the projects from the summer that we featured on our blog were: salt painting, bean mosaics, pool painting, plaster sculptures, and spherical paintings. Next week we will be featuring Claymation, which always caps off our summer session. The students are working hard on their videos, and we will post links to them next week! Throughout the summer (and all year) we also feature lots of photos on our facebook page of daily activities.

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Looking ahead to Fall, we have lots of exciting new projects as well as our well-loved favorite classes. Some of our classes are already filled, and we have added new opportunities for both kids and adult students.

  • home schooling class options for students age 3 years up to middle school
  • evening class option for our Picassos class
  • a new section of Art Foundations for 6th-8th graders
  • adult workshops on select Friday nights
  • two weeks of Mini-camp and Drop-in and Play in early September

In some other news, as we are growing here at The Messy Artist, we are creating a special program for our older students. Called “Studio 356”, this branch will focus exclusively on fine art for older kids and will feature specialized, in-depth instruction and open studio time. More details about this will be coming soon, and we are very excited about it.

Finally, we are looking forward to some off site opportunities this Fall. We are leading corporate events in NYC and even doing a pumpkin carving workshop the weekend before Halloween. We are also in the process of working out details for coming into local schools and offering enrichment classes; we still have some room in our schedule so please reach out to us if you would be interested in this for your pre-k or up students.

Thank you all for a wonderful summer and we look forward to seeing you in September!

MA sign jpg



hello plaster sculptures!

Plaster Sculptures Lesson Plan: Hand Casts and Modigliani Inspired Combonorth jersey art classes for children

This is a project that combines two very different methods and styles of creating plaster sculptures and joining them together in the final piece. Students first make casts of their hands, and then make plaster coated pipe cleaner sculptures, long and lean in the style of Modigliani. Finally, they fuse these two pieces together. Download the lesson plan: Plaster Sculptures Lesson Plan

Age Level: 3rd – 6th grade


  • Learn about and create different plaster sculptures
  • Learn about the artwork of Modigliani
  • Think in the moment, be flexible about their creations
  • Teamwork


  • Vaseline
  • Plaster, cut in approx 4” strips (can have kids do this)
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners (1 of one color and 2 of another color for each student)
  • Foil (one approx 2’ piece per student, and one 6” piece per student)
  • Plastic containers of water
  • Teacher Prep:
  • Cut plaster strips


Hand casts

  1. One partner should coat their hand in Vaseline so that the plaster will not sick to it.fine art class for kids north jersey
  2. Have the other partner start by dipping a plaster strip in water, brushing off the excess and placing it on the hand. Repeat until entire hand is covered. Do not go too far up the wrist or the plaster will be more difficult to remove.plaster hand casting for kids Grace and Iris plaster hand casting
  3. Let dry for about 5-10 minutes, until it is mostly stiff and feels firm.
  4. Cut slit in bottom, near wrist to allow student enough room to wriggle hand out. Depending on age of students, you may want to have the instructor do this.
  5. Set aside to dry.plaster hand cast

Modigliani-inspired Pipe Cleaner Sculptures

  1. Show the students some images of Modigliani’s sculptures.
  2. Give each student 3 pipe cleaners (one of one color and two of another) and the pieces of foil.
  3. Have students crumple the foil to make a ball, affixing it to the single pipe cleaner of one color. This will be the head of their figurative sculpture.the messy artist east hanover
  4. Take one of the other pipe cleaners and twist it around the pipe cleaner with the head on it, about ½ of the way down. This will make the arms.best art class party camp new jersey
  5. Take the final pipe cleaner and attach it to the bottom of the body pipe cleaner by twisting it up from the bottom. This will make the legs.art studio for kids new jersey
  6. Have the students lay the pipe cleaner body figures on top of the larger foil piece.
  7. Have them rip between the legs, and around each arm.  They will then mold the foil around each arm and leg and the torso.art class for kids north new jersey
  8. When finished, have them take their hand sculpture and play around with their figure sculpture to figure out a way they can work together. Bend it into the appropriate pose and then set the hand sculpture aside again.childrens art class camp and party north new jersey
  9. Now the students will add plaster to the foil sculptures, using the same process as they did for the hands: dipping the plaster strips in water and placing them on the figure.morris county new jersey best art class for kids
  10. When finished, set aside to dry.lesson plan for plast art project for kids
  11. The next class session, have students use plaster strips to join the two pieces together into their final finished piece.north jersey art classes for children
  12. As an additional step, the students can then paint the sculptures once they are dry. Oil or tempera paint work well on the plaster.

hello slime!

the messy artistThis unique textural experience keeps kids enthralled as they discover its special properties. Sometimes acting like a liquid, sometimes like a solid, this mixture of cornstarch and colored water is easy to make and provides open-ended experimentation.

Here is the recipe we use in class at The Messy Artist, and as we note – the mixing requires some elbow grease so it’s best for the adults to do that part. The kids can still help out by measuring, and mixing the food coloring into the water. If you choose to color your slime, you’ll want to do it by coloring the water first, before you add in the cornstarch. If you wait until the cornstarch and water are mixed to add the food coloring, you are in for a lot more of stiff mixing. It does however create a more streaky effect if you do it that way. You can also omit the food coloring and your slime will be the color of cornstarch: white.the messy artist slime recipe

We like to do this activity on trays so kids can enjoy it and keep it contained. It makes the cleanup much easier – we just whisk the whole tray away when it is time to move on to another activity.

slime from cornstarchWe either spoon out some slime onto the tray or put it into small plastic cups before class starts.

Accessories we provide children with include popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, little cups, plastic animals, toy people and/or characters to put in the slime. However, we don’t use all of these at once; maybe just one or two at a time.

messy fun projectWe do always use popsicle sticks, however, as these allow children who are a little tentative about the slime to play with it without having to touch it and get messy. Children love to cover the objects with slime and let it drip.

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Eventually the water slowly evaporates and the slime becomes cornstarch again.  Just add more water to get it back to the consistency you want.

art studio for kids njTo store, first pour off extra water, then keep in an uncovered container.  It will dry out, but you can just add warm colored water and mix, and you’re good to go again.

Happy sliming!





hello pool painting!

Summertime means enjoying outdoor activities such as going hiking or heading to the pool. Here at The Messy Artist, we’ve brought the pool INSIDE to do a fun art project with our younger students. It is a great physical art activity that gets the kids thinking about creating art in a non-traditional way – and to inspire them to look around them for other ways to create art from things they haven’t considered before.

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This was such a hit last year that we brought it back again this summer.  Click here to download a PDF lesson plan:  Pool Painting Lesson Plan

Age Level: 3- 6 years


  • To learn about primary colors and color mixing.
  • Gravity and texture are also concepts that can be discussed.
  • To get kids to think creatively about making art.
  • To use large muscle groups in creation.
  • To foster teamwork in making their paintings.


  • Kids or dog swimming pool (ours is a dog pool)
  • Tempera paint in squeezable containers (two primary colors, and white)
  • Golf balls – ideally, one per child
  • Plastic containers to hold golf balls (we use take round take-out containers)
  • 8×10 sheets of white paper (2 -3 per child)
  • small sponges (one per child)
  • bucket of soapy water
  • spray bottle with water

You will need an assistant for this project. You will also need an open space, large enough for the children to be circled around the pool.

Teacher Preparation:

  • Write each child’s name on the back of the a few blank pieces of paper before starting class so that they will each have some paintings to take home.
  • Make sure pool is clean.
  • Get a bucket with soapy water prepared for cleaning the pool afterwards.


  1. While sitting at a classroom table, tell the students about the project – they are going to be making art today with something they usually do something very different with! Show them some samples of previous paintings, and talk a little bit about primary colors. Explain how new colors can be made my mixing primary colors together and see if they can guess what new color will be created by the colors they are using. We chose blue and red on the day we did this project.the messy artist fine art classes for kids
  2. Have the kids walk over to an open area and hold hands to make a circle, then step back to make the circle even larger. Have the children sit down.new jersey art studio for kids
  3. Put pool in center of circle.
  4. Place sheets of paper down to cover bottom of pool.pool painting project with golf balls
  5. Have teacher or assistant squirt paint around the edges of pool.
  6. Ask each child to select a ball from the plastic container and drop it into the pool.best art class camp and parties new jersey
  7. Now ask the kids to stand up and start trying to roll the ball through the paint and across the paper by tilting the pool.
  8. Have the kids work together to send the balls rolling to each child – say “Let’s send the ball to Micah”, and give each child a turn. Talk about gravity pulling the balls down. The texture of the golf balls creates bumpy tracks on the paper.process oriented art for children
  9. If needed, add more paint.
  10. Once papers on bottom of pool are painted, remove them and add more.
  11. Continue a few times depending upon the age of the students and the number of papers you will need to each child can take one home.
  12. When finished, have the children again sit down and place the golf balls back in the plastic container.
  13. Next let them each pick out a sponge from another container and have them start cleaning, scrubbing the sides and bottom that have paint. Use a spray bottle to squirt waters on areas where the paint needs to be loosened up a bit more.best art class for children north jersey
  14. When sponges get paint filled, rinse them out and squeeze them in a container of soapy water. Hand back to the children so they can continue cleaning.
  15. The golf ball pool paintings dry quickly and can often be taken home the same day. We like to bring the parents into the classroom so they can see the completed artwork and how it was created.new jersey childrens art class party and camp