Messy Masterpieces

Messy Masterpieces

Ready to grab your old paint clothes and get messy? Today, we are exploring the wonderful world of messy art. From DIY chalk art to creating action paintings like Jackson Pollock, there’s something for everyone in today’s activities. Special thanks to guest artists and Discovery Museum family members Erica Zambanini and Storm Waters for sharing special action painting art projects with us today. Below are activities that all have a Title theme. These activities include things that will help your child develop fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving and engineering skills, and can help them engage in cooperative play, while fostering creativity and perseverance. Today, as an added bonus, we explore connections between children’s literature illustrators, their books, and videos where they lead special art projects for kids and families. Feel free to throw in your own activities that might relate, and don’t forget to post your results to social media and tag @discoverymuse to share with everyone else!

What Messy Masterpieces will we create today?

Science Experiment: DIY Sidewalk Chalk

DIY sidewalk chalk with corn starch, water, and toilet paper tubes!

To make your own sidewalk chalk, you’ll need the following:

  • Cold water
  • Bowls (or recycled tubs) to mix the chalk colors in.
  • Food coloring
  • Corn starch
  • Craft sticks
  • Measuring cup and measuring spoons
  • Toilet Paper cardboard tubes (clean and empty)
  • Cardboard Box
  • Place where you can be messy

NOTE: This can be a very messy project. If you do it outside, you will cut way down on the mess factor.


  • Fill each bowl or plastic tub with ¾ cup cold water.
  • Add 1 TBS of food coloring to each plastic tub. These will be the colors of chalk you get, so choose wisely. 🙂
  • Slowly add ¾ cup of cornstarch to each plastic tub of water. We suggest doing this ¼ cup of cornstarch at a time, so you can stir well.
  • Stir with your craft stick until it is well blended. There will be some liquid, but it will mostly be thick and lumpy.
  • Pour the mixture into the toilet paper tube. BE SURE THE TOILET PAPER TUBE is on/in the cardboard box to contain the extra mess. If you want to put your toilet paper tube into an empty and clean plastic yogurt container, that will reduce your mess even more!
  • Put the craft stick into the middle of your chalk mold. Helps in taking it out, but not critical for the success of the project.
  • Repeat for as many sticks of chalk/colors of chalk as you are making.
  • Let all of the chalk molds cure (sit in the sun or in a dry place) for at least a day.
  • Have fun making beautiful sidewalk chalk drawings!
  • Share your creations with us @discoverymuse on social media.

Art Activity/Fine Motor Activity String Art

Create String Art Inspired by Jackson Pollock and the picture book Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Colors!

For this activity, you’ll need to gather the following supplies:

  • Paper (any type/size/color)
  • Scissors (to cut yarn)
  • Yarn 
  • Small containers (empty yogurt or snack cups) 
  • Washable Tempera Paints (variety of colors) 
  • Popsicle stick or paintbrush (to press yarn into paints)
  • Toothbrush (optional for splattering) 


  • Fill each container with a small amount of paint. You can always add more! Try 3-4 different colors in separate containers. 
  • Cut a piece of yarn about the length of your arm from finger tips to elbow (One for each color).
  • Dip yarn into one paint color pressing down with paintbrush or popsicle stick to saturate the yarn.
  • Pull yarn out of paint and drop onto your paper. Drag it back and forth, up and down and twirl it around your paper until you are happy with it.
  • Move to the next color always using a separate piece of yarn for each color.
  •  Allow colors to overlap and swirl together on your paper, filling it with color!
  • If you would like to add some paint splatters dip the paintbrush bristles into a color and point the bristles towards your art. Making sure the paintbrush hovers close to your paper but does not touch it.
  • Slide your thumb across the bristles spraying your paper with tiny drops of color. 

To learn more about Jackson Pollock, visit the Guggenheim Museum

Click here to learn more about Swatch: the Girl Who Loved Color.

Read the book that inspired Erica’s art project!

Can’t Get Enough Art? Meet Some Children’s Illustrators and Make Some Messy Masterpieces Alongside the Artists!

Read a few of the books of Peter H. Reynolds then draw with the artist!

  • Lunch Doodles with author/illustrator Mo Willams. Explore all sorts of drawing styles in this fun series.

Action Jackson: Conversation and Research Questions

Today we’ve learned a little more about action painting and abstract painting. Action painting is inspired by the movement and the feelings of the artist. You’ll see abstract (not recognizeable) shapes and lines and colors in an action painting. What you won’t find in an action painting is: traditional or logical flow, easily identifiable content (no castles, people, or sunsets), or recognizable themes. What you see in an action or abstract painting is influenced by your own imagination!  Both of our guest artists were inspired by action painting artist Jackson Pollock. Let’s learn a little more about the artist.

Physical Activity: Action Painting

Get some of those wiggles out while getting really messy and doing some action painting just like Jackson Pollock! Warning: This activity is very messy, requires adult supervision, and will take everybody’s help in cleaning up when you finish!

Discovery Ambassador and artist Storm Waters takes us on a messy and fun journey into action painting. Warning: This project requires your adult’s approval!

Supplies Needed:

  • Old paint clothes (and maybe gloves if you don’t want paint all over your hands)
  • Plastic tarp or newspaper to cover and protect the area where you are action painting
  • Large Canvas (can be an old canvas tarp, an old sheet, large pieces of paper, whatever you have and your grown up says you may use)
  • Paints (any kind of tempera paint will work)
  • Water bottles with push pull tops
  • Water
  • Water Balloons
  • A Bucket to Hold the Balloons
  • Hose and Soap and Water Ready to Clean Up


  • Make sure you have your grown-up’s permission and help.
  • Find a clear place to hang your sheet, paper or canvas for action painting. Make sure you don’t hang it anywhere you won’t mind having a little extra color. You can put up a plastic tarp behind and below your canvas to help protect surfaces.
  • Make sure that everyone involved in the project is wearing old paint clothes. Now is not the time to break out your Sunday best.
  • Fill your water bottles about half-way with paint. Choose several bright colors.
  • Add water to the bottles until they are full.
  • Put the caps on the bottles. Shake carefully to make sure the paint and water are well-mixed.
  • Fill your water balloons with the paint/water mixture.
  • Throw the balloons at your canvas. Enjoy the way you feel as the balloons splatter against the canvas.
  • Make sure that you pick up the balloons and clean up the mess at the end.
  • Treasure your family’s Pollock-inspired Action Painting!
Not In the Mood For Quite So Much Mess? Try These Projects Instead:

Now this is what I call fine motor skills at its best! Mothercould’s Squeegee Art project encourages small artists to develop their fine art skills by holding a paint brush properly, squeezing a spray bottle, and cleaning off paint with a squeegee. A little messy, but great for sunny outdoor fun!

Mothercould also offers up an awesome bubble wrap project for small artists (and the young at heart as well)! Put some dots of paint on a large paper surface, wrap some of that oh so fun to pop bubble wrap around your hands and feet, crank up the music, and start creating!

Share all of your messy masterpieces with us @discoverymuse

Want to Keep Making Messy Masterpieces All Summer Long?

Looking for more opportunities to make your messy masterpieces? Check out the good work of Abi Gomez and Arte Libre and join her at the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum this summer for art camps.