Teacher's budding second career combines his two passions, sports and art
Tuesday, Feb. 04, 2014

Teacher's budding second career combines his two passions, sports and art

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/30/11/37/XpNd4.Em.138.jpeg|235
    This action portrait of Charlotte Hounds defenseman Ryan Flanagan was made by Darryl Mallanda, a teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary. His work is on display at the Major League Lacrosse franchise’s offices in Charlotte.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/30/11/37/FIlOH.Em.138.jpeg|237
    Darryl Mallanda, a teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary, works on a portrait of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning at his home office.

Darryl Mallanda was at an artistic crossroads when he was finishing up his studies in video art at Alfred (N.Y.) University in the mid-1990s.

He was deciding whether he should pursue a career in art or become a teacher. At the time, a professor suggested that he find a career in which he could combine his two passions: art and sports.

Mallanda settled down as an elementary school art teacher, but he never forgot his professor’s words. About seven years ago, Mallanda finally found his niche.

Now a second-year teacher at Mount Pleasant Elementary School, Mallanda creates works of art by recreating photographs through paintings and colored pencil drawings. Many of his pieces are of sports and famous athletes such as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

A lifelong lacrosse aficionado, Mallanda’s works have been displayed at the offices of the Major League Lacrosse’s Charlotte Hounds and during a Hounds’ game on ESPN3 last summer. His creations are also posted on Sports Art International, a website for artists specializing in sports art.

Mallanda, 40, has taught school for 18 years, mostly in his native New York but also with short stints in Arizona and Atlanta. While living in New York, he created his first piece of sports art – a portrait of former NBA star Michael Jordan – for a co-worker who believed in his ability.

“After the Jordan piece, I went online to find out who else is doing this art,” Mallanda said. “It took me so long to think about doing it. Then when I found out people were doing it, I thought ‘Hey, I can do that.’”

To recreate the photographs, Mallanda sketches the picture with the help of a computer and projector. He uses various types of paint, pencils, paper and canvas.

The amount of time it takes to complete a project ranges between 12 hours to 48 hours, depending on the size of the picture and its scope, Mallanda said. He works at home, clearing a space in the garage for the projector and freeing up a room for a work desk.

In any given month, Mallanda says he works on an average of two to eight creations. His busiest times are before Christmas and at the end of lacrosse season.

Mallanda is still feeling out the business side of selling his works. Sometimes he has given away his pieces for charity or to friends and relatives. Other times, he’s been surprised that people will pay him more money than what he asks for.

Typically, the price range for a Mallanda creation is $100 to $150, although he jokes that he has a picture of former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez whose value has depreciated so much in the last couple years that he might pay someone to take it off his hands.

Most of Mallanda’s works are commissioned by people who have a particular athlete in mind. Sometimes Mallanda creates works based on his own favorites, like Jets players, or fabled football player Jim Brown, who also played lacrosse in college.

Mallanda says he sold his first pieces while teaching school in New York. But when his position got reduced, he took the advice of a childhood friend, Mike Habel, who also coaches lacrosse in Cabarrus County, and relocated to North Carolina.

A resident of Locust, Mallanda taught one year in a shared position between three Cabarrus elementary schools (Cox Mill, Harrisburg and Rocky River) before landing at Mount Pleasant last year.

Once he became established locally, Mallanda started showcasing his art. He became a hit among local youth lacrosse parents who commissioned works of their sons and daughters.

“He’s able to take the picture and make it something you can hang onto the wall and something you feel good about,” said Habel, also the owner of a lacrosse equipment store in west Cabarrus County that displays Mallanda’s work.

“He has a unique ability. His stuff really looks like a picture. Most people are blown away that it’s actually art work.”

Mallanda also branches out to portray pets and people, including rock stars and has also dressed up some cornhole boards.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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