Character Design with Sky Malerba

(Series of Classes at Salemwood Made Possible by an Arts Grant from Malden Cultural Council!)

In 2020, UMA intern and independent artist Sky Malerba, in collaboration with Ose Schwab and Amanda Hurley, came up with the idea to hold a class which would not only expand Sky’s experience through a new artistic project, but also actively help the surrounding community. For Sky, initiation of her class wasn’t about promoting her work, but rather local students. “We really fixated on the idea of spearheading an arts program for kids at the local Malden schools, as they often don’t have them available.”

A slide from Sky’s powerpoint on how to draw a human.

On October 26th, 2021, Sky held a virtual interactive class with staff and fellow interns, informing the audience all about the basics of art and design through the use of different drawing activities. As a trial run for her first time stepping into a teaching role, Sky facilitated learning for adults by creating a comfortable learning environment for all to participate without hesitation. This program will also play on our Educational Channel throughout January. Be sure to tune in!

Sky teaching a class of 3rd to 6th graders at Salemwood Elementary School in Malden.

On November 15th, 2021, Sky held an interactive afterschool class for children ages 3rd to 6th grade from Salemwood Elementary School in Malden, this time trying her hand at teaching a younger audience. This program was an extremely successful pilot for a chain of upcoming classes, created with the hopes of reaching a broader audience and spreading artistic skills to the entire Malden community. 

Students were first assigned the task of creating a human. A slideshow was used to outline and explain each basic drawing action in detail, starting with a circle and a line and ending with body parts. Allowing participants ample time and complete creative control over their picture, each artist was able to run with their design and generate a unique image. 

The next task was to draw an animal of the artists’ choice. Again, slides outlined each step, this time starting with drawing mostly round shapes to accurately define the animals’ body. Sky welcomed the children’s engagement through inquisition without hesitation, using her experience to guide and advise the participants throughout the entire process. “One [child] even pointed out that the head was bigger on a character than normal, which is exactly what artists often exaggerate to signal child-like qualities or cuteness,” says Sky. After adding details, shading, and some color, their animals were complete and distinctive to each students’ style.

Though there were no specific directions for how to decorate both the person and animal after initial creation, students in both groups added background scenery to their images entirely on their own. Thus, engaging further with their individual creativity and continuing to practice the drawing skills that were previously taught.

Sky showing some of her personal inspiration for creating artwork.

Sky connected to the participants through anecdotes of her own experience in graphic design and various visual art mediums, as well as through referencing commonly known characters and everyday items to stimulate the young artists’ imaginations, helping them accurately shape their drawings. Sky mentioned that it was not easy for all students to let their imaginations take the lead, some being harder on themselves than others. However, after some positive encouragement, the children excitedly stepped out of their comfort zones and showcased their finished ideas on the whiteboard for all to see. “Everyone’s work was so much better than [Sky]  anticipated,” and she’s so excited to continue to spark others’ creativity through her passion for the arts!

Update- 3/3/22

This project was able to continue on after the holidays, thanks to a grant from Malden Cultural Council!

Sky returned to Salemwood and taught on Monday afternoons throughout January and February of 2022! Each class had a different focus with a unique lesson plan and slideshow. On the day of the final class the students presented their body of work in the cafeteria. Their fellow classmates, as well as their after school teachers, the principle, and the after school director and site coordinator walked around to each of their tables to take in their work!

You can watch the adult Draw with Me class on our YouTube channel! Or tune in to Watch this informative class on UMA’s educational channel and draw along to create your own human and animal characters!

Check out more of Sky’s work on her website and on Instagram. Follow and support this young talent!