hello 2016! and looking back on 2015

As we approach the end of the year, we want to thank you all for coming along with us on this journey in art and education.  Like last year, we are taking this opportunity to look back over our year of blog posts  – one each and every Friday – so 51 so far in 2015!

Here is our countdown of our 5 most popular posts of 2015:

  1. Welcome Alidis Vicente and Violet! January 9Alidis Vicente Messy Artist copy

Author Alidis Vicente premiered her newest book Violet at The Messy Artist with a special event. Ms. Vicente did a spirited book reading, after which we led the children in an art project related to the book.

  1. Hello winter trees resist project! April 3

A gorgeous project, with a step-by-step lesson plan and lots of photographs.process oriented art for children

  1. Hello Kelly! September 18

A lively interview with Kelly Heinze of Music and More with Kelly, where we learn about Kelly, music, and more!kellyheinze_1338337822_140

  1. Hello winter cards! December 4

Kids and parents alike love this project, created by stamping with sliver and white paint and using lots of glitter. These festive cards are perfect for winter.kids winter card project

  1. hello bird feeders!  June 2

This post features an edible project for our feathered friends made from fun materials. A special thank you to our local friends at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum for originally introducing us to a version of this idea years ago.north jersey kids art

Tell us what your favorite posts were – we’d love to know!

Best wishes for a wonderful 2016!  Keep checking back every Friday for posts about art, education, and more.

Hello Thanksgiving!

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

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!

Hello Themendous!

“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!”

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.

The Artist Harvest is on display!

We are proud to announce that our large-scale fruit and vegetable sculpture series, The Artist Harvest, is now on outdoor display in Livingston. If you’ve been in our studios anytime in the past year and a half, you’ve most likely seen them in some form of their evolution. Staff members and students have worked hard creating them, and we are thrilled at the way they turned out. Already we have gotten lots of positive feedback from the public. Go see them yourselves and send us photos – we’ll post them on facebook!

You can find them until mid-November in front of the Livingston Library, Town Hall and Community Center.

The evolution of The Munch-Room:

A mushroom painted in the style of Edvard Munch & inspired by The Scream:

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Here’s more about the series from our friends at Food Day:

In honor of Food Day, Livingston Township will be hosting The Messy Artist’s Artist Harvest, a series of 5 large-scale sculptures. The sculptures, conceived by Messy Artist CEO Donna Bernstein, excites children and adults alike about fruits and vegetables while also honoring the style of a famous artist.

Food Day, sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is a nationwide celebration focused on access to healthy foods and it was created to inspire positive changes in our diets and our food policies.  Livingston is an active participant in this real food movement and has hosted multiple food day events, including Stuff the Bus for CHOW and the Town wide Chili & Quinoa/Kale cook-off, for the past three years.  Food Day is scheduled for Oct 24th annually, however The Livingston Food Day committee, made up of representatives from the West Essex YMCA, Livingston Township, ShopRite, Kings, Livingston Public Schools, C.H.O.W, West Essex Tribune and other community groups, decided that since healthy eating and access to healthy food was so important, events are not limited to just one day.

The evolution of The Vincent Van Gogh Bananas:

A banana painted in the style of Vincent Van Gogh & inspired by Starry Night:

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The Messy Artist, offering art experiences for children and adults, was previously featured at Livingston’s Family Festival Day where they displayed half of their Artist Harvest sculpture collection in the Food Day tent.  The sculptures received such positive feedback that the committee decided to go to the town council to propose a town-wide display and was met with unanimous support.

The sculptures, approximately 4’ x 6’, are visually stunning and designed to provoke conversation related to healthy eating and art appreciation. Over 75 students, including many Livingston residents, helped with plastering, sanding and painting the sculptures while they were being created at the Messy Artist. Five pieces make up the collection:

  • The Munch-Room: A mushroom painted in the style of Edvard Munch & inspired by The Scream
  • The Straw-Dali: A strawberry painted in the style of Salvador Dali & inspired by Persistence of Memory
  • The Peppered like Pollack: A pepper painted in the style of Jackson Pollack & inspired by his Number 8 painting
  • The Vincent Van Gogh Bananas: A banana painted in the style of Vincent Van Gogh & inspired by Starry Night
  • The Pearcasso: A pear painted in the style of Pablo Picasso & inspired by le tete d’une femme lisant

The evolution of The Straw-Dali:

A strawberry painted in the style of Salvador Dali & inspired by Persistence of Memory:

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Bernstein 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 focus on 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, “And it has been wonderful 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.”

The evolution of The Peppered like Pollack:

A pepper painted in the style of Jackson Pollack & inspired by his Number 8 painting:

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The sculptures will be located at the three locations including the Library, the Community Center on Hillside Ave and the Town Hall and the display will be up through mid-November. Special thanks to the Livingston Department of Public Works for helping to transport and set up the sculptures and to Michele Meade and the Town Council for their support of this project. For more information on Food Day, go to www.foodday.org; for more information on Livingston Food Day go to https://www.facebook.com/LivingstonFoodDay or email Stacey Rubinstein, Livingston’s Food Day Chair, at staceyrubinstein@gmail.com; and to learn more about the Messy Artist go to www.messyartist.com.

The evolution of The Pearcasso:

A pear painted in the style of Pablo Picasso & inspired by le tete d’une femme lisant:

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5 ways to keep school age boys (and all active kids) engaged in art class

new jersey art classes for children morris countyAt a certain point, the ratio of girls to boys in art classes increases and there are predominantly girls. This usually happens in the later elementary school/middle school years. There is a misconception that boys are too active to be interested in art class, that they are not able to sit still for lots of listening. Nothing could be further from the truth! Our upper level art classes of middle school age students have a good mix of both genders, and our top level advanced class is 50% male.

Art classes can engage almost any active child, boy or girl. Here are 5 things we use to keep school aged kids motivated during class time.art class for kids

  1. bite sized pieces. Nuggets of information or directions, followed by creation time, work best for projects. If we have a long or multi-step piece, we break it down into smaller chunks, and let the kids get working sooner. It’s much easier for them to play attention to 5 minutes of lecturing and then start creating (and repeat this process) than to listen to an hour of instruction and then get started.art class elementary school age keeping kids engaged in class
  1. change the scene.   Every now and then we change the location of our classes, providing a new environment for the kids. This could be a field trip to a museum, or just working in a different room in our studio.nj kids art class and party
  1. change the physical work position. If kids seem antsy, changing position can work wonders. We bring out easels or raise the table so they can stand and work, or have them sit on the floor. We tape paper to the wall, or let them try a different chair.
  1. send them on errands. Kids just have to move sometimes, and we incorporate movement into our lesson plans. The supplies they need are kept on a table, apart from where they create, so they have to get up to get needed items. We’ll have them get up to check out a drawing from another angle. These can be done numerous times if you have a high-energy class.elementary school art education
  1. allow them to be free range. Don’t force kids to sit in one place all class. Encourage them to get up and try another seat. Walk around and see what other kids are doing in their project. Get a drink of water. As long as they are not disturbing other students, it’s fine to hop up and take a little break.

As you can see, the key to keeping energetic kids engrossed in the classroom activities is variety! By being mindful of the children’s liveliness, instructors can manage it and keep them on task.