Take one sports-loving young man with dreams of playing professionally, add a lot of artistic ability and a family of educators, and what do you get?Locust resident Darryl Mallanda worked at that problem for years, and he has now found a way to combine all of them into a rewarding artistic career.Mallanda, who grew up near Corning, N.Y., said he had no plans for his life – except for playing sports, especially soccer and lacrosse. He looked for a college where he could both play and study art. But his dreams of playing professionally began to fade when he failed to make the soccer team. Questioned by his professors about what he planned to do with his art, the son – and grandson – of educators says it seemed obvious; he’d go into teaching.After working in several states at different grades – and even trying to teach art classes without a classroom (“art from a cart” he calls it) – Mallanda landed at Mount Pleasant Elementary School last fall where, he said, he loves everything about his job. Mallanda believes the twists and turns along his journey to Mount Pleasant made him a better teacher with a better understanding of exactly what he wants to do.But even though everything was clicking for him as an educator, Mallanda found himself lost when it came to his own artwork. About five years ago, he pulled out every art project he’d been working on and realized that he hadn’t finished one thing. He couldn’t summon much enthusiasm for any of it.Then he remembered a college professor who told him to, “Focus your art on what you love.”Mallanda realized that he could combine two great loves: sports and art.Sports portraits have become the focus of Mallanda’s work. Working from digital photographs, newspaper clippings and even tiny pictures, Mallanda creates portraits of athletes, both famous and unknown.He said while he gets plenty of commissions from folks wanting portraits of their favorite professional athletes (often for man caves), the majority of the work he does is for proud parents who want portraits of their sports-playing children. Samples of Mallanda’s work can be seen at his website, www.darrylmallanda.com, or on his Facebook page. Now that he’s found his niche, Mallanda says he’s enjoying his art.He’s experimenting with different media like ballpoint pen and paints, and he is finally using up his stockpile of materials from all those unfinished projects. He’s also adding to his artistic repertoire with animal portraits and customized cornhole boards.If you’re interested in commissioning Darryl Mallanda’s art, contact him through his website. I think he’d be equally happy to talk about sports and teaching, too.