The new patio area of the Colo Public Library has become the palette for a very talented Colo teenager this summer.


Malia Smith, 16, and just starting her junior year at Colo-NESCO, has spent time over the summer painting favorite book characters and other colorful pieces just outside the Colo Library doors.


It started, she said, when the Colo head librarian, Joanie Jamison, was shown the characters and animal paintings that she was doing outside of her home, where her mom Alicia has a day care.


“We showed Joanie a picture of a crocodile I did on our driveway and she asked if I could do something for the library,” Malia said.


So she set up shop, so to speak, in front of the library on the patio that was just put in last summer. “I have been painting children’s book and TV show characters,” she said.


Her passion for outdoor art started when she used to draw caricatures and other pictures with chalk on the concrete at home. “One day we were out of chalk, so I decided to try paint on our driveway. I found that the paint was fun to use and the drawing didn’t wash away with the first rain.”


Her art at the library this year has included the Cat in the Hat, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Curious George and a big pair of butterfly wings. “I’m planning on painting several more popular characters, like Charlie Brown and the crocodile from Peter Pan (before the warmer weather disappears this year),” she said.


While she’s painted at the library, she’s enjoyed interacting with the adults and kids who come to the library. “I have had multiple people stop and take a picture with the butterfly wings,” she said, and added that there was one little girl who started jumping up and down when she saw the painting of Curious George. “She told me all about her favorite Curious George episode.”


Malia said art is something she was born and raised with. Her mother is a published children’s book author. “We have always been an artistic family. I always used to go over to my grandma’s to see pictures that my grandpa and his sister drew when they were teenagers,” she said.


She also brings forth her love of art through dancing and creating YouTube videos. “I am a dancer for almost 13 years now, and just last year I joined the Center Stage Dance competition team. And very recently I started my own YouTube channel, where I do speed drawings and time lapses of my paintings.”


With school starting this fall, Malia does wish that the high school art program could be expanded. “There are only a few classes and I have taken them all. The art teacher works very well and helps to make the basic classes adjusted with every student, but I wish there were more classes so that I would be able to learn more, not just by taking the same class twice.”


Malia loves painting and drawing and is always looking for more things to practice those talents on. She painted a few signs when RAGBRAI came through town this summer and has painted a few things for her high school prom. “I am always looking for more things to practice with,” she said.


Her mom, Alicia, marvels at the talented artist her daughter has become. “I use to put her in the high chair, give her a paint shirt and, of course, plastic under the chair to catch all of the spills… Her love of painting and drawing has never gone by the wayside. In fact, her talent grows with each new year,” Alicia said. “Our house is covered with her artwork, from the first stick-figure family portrait to portraits of her favorite singers and actors. Malia loves painting for her friends and family. When Christmas or birthdays come around, she figures out what that person likes and she begins her one-of-a-kind personalized gift. We are so proud of Malia and her dedication to her art. She has definitely been blessed with her talent; we love how she can share it with everyone and show how much she cares through her artwork.”


Colo’s library director is also glad that Malia shares her gift. “The artwork is wonderful,” Jamison said. “I have actually received more comments about the artwork from older adults than children… The artwork has made the patio area more inviting and fun.”