Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Zoo hosts Animal Sketch workshop

By Lori O'Brien


SPRINGFIELD The zoo is more than a place to view animals just ask Disney animation artist Sue C. Nichols-Maciorowski.

"It's a great learning resource that should be used often," she said during a recent interview.

Nichols-Maciorowski, of East Longmeadow, will lead a workshop titled "Animal Sketch Day" on May 14 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Zoo in Forest Park and Education Center. The workshop is part of an ongoing series of zoo programs offered throughout the year.

Nichols-Maciorowski will begin the workshop with a short talk on how professional artists use a zoo. During the session, Nichols-Maciorowski will show participants how to study the animals' ways of moving, eating and playing. Then, the paper and pencils will be distributed to participants. The workshop is geared for elementary aged children, however, she said all age groups and artistic levels are welcome.

"As they draw, I give tips on how to look at the animals and choose what shapes to put down on paper," she added. "Kids are surprised by how different each animal is when you look at the details of their parts like eyes or noses up close. The best tool to use is your eye. Look closely at things to learn what really makes them work and it will be easier to draw."

Nichols-Maciorowski has been drawing all her life, and since both of her parents liked art, she was encouraged to pursue her hobby from a young age.

"I lived on library books on how to draw, as well as classes around town and zoo trips," she said.

She studied art at the Disney created California Institute of the Arts. She started her career at Disney out of its Burbank Studios as a character designer and also helped develop ideas for films. The first film she worked on was Beauty and the Beast.

"As I continued working there, I also helped create the stories for the films," she said.

Nichols-Maciorowski explained how a development artist helps create ideas for stories. "I work on all the characters and come up with ideas on who they should be and what they should do in the film. Once the ideas are created, we then pass it off to the animators who draw up the final pictures based on our ideas."

In addition, Nichols-Maciorowski has taught classes in Disney's Training Department. In that capacity, she has mentored and instructed visual storytelling and design to the professional artists at the Disney Studios. She has also toured colleges worldwide, lecturing and presenting workshops to art students through Disney's Recruiting Department.

Two years ago, Nichols-Maciorowski decided to return to East Longmeadow to be closer to her family and now works out of her home as a consultant or development artist for various studios. Her last job was drawing story pictures for a new film idea at the Pixar Animation Studios, she said.

When she's not home working on freelance projects, she also drops by the Zoo in Forest Park regularly and brings her nephews and stepchildren, she added.

Nichols-Maciorowski presents this sketch workshop at Forest Park on an ongoing basis and likes it because it "shows people that the zoo is a place to do more than just walk around and stare at animals. I encourage everyone to pick up a pad and go to the zoo as often as possible to sketch and learn about animals."

A word of advice from Nichols-Maciorowski to parents with budding artists: "If your kid shows an interest in drawing, then encourage it with trips to the zoo, library, museums or craft projects at home. Pencils and paper are more affordable gifts than video games!"

Her advice to young people is simple: "If you're a kid who wants to draw, I say draw as often as you can and not to worry about making mistakes. Learn from the mistake to make the next drawing better."

Regardless of one's age, Nichols-Maciorowski said she can see a budding artist in almost everyone.

"We have grownups pick up pencils and discover hidden talents they didn't know they had," she said.

Pre-registration is required for the sketch workshop, and a minimal fee will be charged to cover the cost of materials.

For more information, call (413) 733-2251 or visit