Instructor 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
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
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!”
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!
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!
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.