Maliyah Bernard and her cute corgi Maple. OLIVIA REID PHOTO

Breaking Barriers In Digital Art

After Maliyah Bernard found herself working nine to five from home during the pandemic, with more free time than usual, she started the Instagram account @maliyahmadethis to feature her stunning pieces of digital art.

Bernard’s artistic passions began with pencil crayons, paint and paper. Now a recent University of Waterloo graduate, with a Master of Arts in English Rhetoric and Communication Design, Bernard is elucidating the importance of diversity in digital art.

Using her iPad, Apple Pencil and the digital illustration app Procreate, Bernard has been producing beautiful digital illustrations showcasing a better representation for people in our community.

“I have noticed a lot of people picking up digital art, but I have also noticed that there are elements missing … different body types, different hair textures, different skin tones. I don’t find that all groups of people are being equally represented in digital art,” Bernard said.


MALIYAH BERNARD DESIGN

With the pandemic slowing everything and everyone down, people have been spending more time at home with free time to try new things. It’s an opportunity that has encouraged many to pursue different interests and passions they may not have been able to before.

“You need something to protect your wellness. That is a big thing for me. This account has been able to open me up to make sure I carve time in my day to be creative,” Bernard said. 

Bernard grew up in a diverse environment inspired by her parents, both artists as well. Each piece she creates has a personal connection.

“Now is the time to stress the importance of consuming diverse content. A lot of people were following Black creators last year, around the time of the solidarity march, but it is so important to be doing that all the time,” Bernard said.

An important first step in her artistic journey was working as a graduate teaching assistant, as well as a graduate research assistant at the University of Waterloo. Bernard studied how inclusive pedagogical practices, popular culture, anti-racism work and digital media can be used to prioritize inclusivity in all areas of life. 

“It’s important to be actively anti-racist — which means thinking of anti-racism at school, at work and at home,” Bernard said.

The June protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which brought tens of thousands to downtown Kitchener, sparked her passion to learn more. She was approached by Dr. Jay Dolmage, an English professor at the University of Waterloo, who hired her as an anti-racism researcher.

“Even though we can love and appreciate our communities, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of anti-racism and inclusivity,” Bernard said.

New to the workforce, Bernard has been doing freelance podcast writing and blog editing on the side — something that she’ll be tying in with her brand new role as a content writer at Axonify.

@maliyahmadethis has allowed Bernard to forge creative connections with people across the world, including some from the Netherlands, which has led to commissions — something she does not think would have been possible during COVID-19 without her digital art.

Bernard hopes to expand her small business by creating and setting up a formal storefront to make her art more accessible.

“I think there is an opportunity to diversify this digital art trend … It is important to see yourself represented.”

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Abbey is student at the University of Waterloo studying Recreation and Sports Business. Having recently completed a co-op as a social media and communications coordinator; she has emerged as a junior writer just beginning to tap in to her passion for journalism. In her free time, Abbey can be found on a run, with her nose in a book or spending time with family and friends.