Maureen Sullivan, Chris Wolf-Pitts and Nora Simon laugh when they think back to the characters they created in animation class five years ago. There was a samurai penguin, an army of puffins, a sensei turtle, a ninja walrus, pipe-cleaner gladiators and a morbidly obese cat named Snickerdoodle. Then again, they were in middle school.

Now all 18 years old, the artists are having their first group show. They have developed unique individual styles since they became friends in 1999, in art courses offered by the Greenbelt Association for the Visual Arts/Greenbelt Access Television Inc.

They are exhibiting paintings, computer graphics, drawings and small sculptures at Greenbelt's New Deal Cafe. "Menage-a-Trois" runs through Nov. 30; an opening reception for the artists is Sunday.

For several years, the three have spent a lot of time together outside the classroom, hanging out and brainstorming creative ideas. Because they now specialize in different mediums, Wolf-Pitts said, the exhibition "is not really a fit-together kind of show. It's just a display of what we're all about."

The three artists are "all about" similar things. They embrace being different, and each dreams of making it as a commercial artist.

Sullivan, who lives in University Park and is enrolled in Silver Spring's Maryland College of Art and Design, creates nature-inspired paintings and makes sculptures in the spirit of Mexico's Day of the Dead. The small pieces are colorful, glitter-laden, wooden house-like structures. Inside doors, Sullivan places smiling skeletons and devils fashioned out of copper wire, foam clay and glue. Sullivan, who plans to enroll in a four-year school after learning the fundamentals of art at her two-year college, hopes to a maker of toys and dolls.

Devils also appear in some of Simon's art. Her works includes pieces she constructed in her advanced placement computer graphics class at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, where she is a senior. They include a CD cover featuring an image of Satan, an impressionist painting and an Andy Warhol-type poster with several repeated images of herself, technologically doctored with devil horns, multicolored hair and varying facial expressions. Although her main interests are computer graphics and fashion design, Simon also has learned about still-life painting, sculpture and figure-drawing at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center , hoping to increase her chances of getting into a top art school next year.

Wolf-Pitts, of Hyattsville, is taking art classes at Prince George's Community College and hopes to attend art school next fall. His goal is to become a conceptual artist who sketches sets and costumes for film productions. He often works on his pencil and charcoal medieval fantasy scenes at the Simon family's Greenbelt home as Simon works on her own projects, which include costume design for an out-of-school internship.

Working on their art in the same places has helped sustain the teenagers' friendships in the three years since they stopped taking classes together. Simon and Sullivan toiled in close quarters as they each created five-foot-tall bluebird sculptures for Prince George's County's 2003 Birds I View public art project. Simon's "Lady Bluebird Sings the Blues" is on display at the Thomas G. Pullen Creative and Performing Arts School in Landover, and Sullivan's "Blue Bead" is at University Park's Town Hall Building.

"Ever since this team thing [in Greenbelt] has ended," Simon said, "it's hard to work without my friends. Everybody that's outside of our group of friends thinks we are weird because we have different ideas."

Sullivan, who went to high school in Montgomery County, says she probably wouldn't be where she is without the connections she made in Greenbelt. "People in my school were stereotypical teenagers who did horribly insipid things. They were looking for a party and didn't care what was going on in the world," she said. "We're all friends because we have common interests. And my friends in Greenbelt were always more accepting of stuff. They were more with it."

"Menage-a-Trois" is on display through Nov. 30 at the New Deal Cafe, in Greenbelt's Roosevelt Center at Southway and Crescent roads. A reception for the artists is 7-9 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission charge. 301-474-5642.

Chris Wolf-Patton's "Drag," Nora Simon's computerized "Nora in Bowler Hat" and an untitled sculpture by Maureen Sullivan are among the works being displayed in a group show through Nov. 30 at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt.