Pluck Shares Artistic Talent on Scribble Bird Instagram

Pluck Shares Artistic Talent on Scribble Bird Instagram

By Sophie Sando, Duke Communications Student Assistant

The NCAA ruling in June that allows student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness has paved way for many across collegiate athletics to promote their personal talents outside of their respective sport. Numerous individual brands, built through digital and social media influence among other means, have risen in the wake of the ruling, with the outside world now given access to those previously-hidden abilities.

One such student-athlete is Duke women’s soccer senior Mackenzie Pluck, who has turned a life-long passion for art into a graphic illustration business. An artist from the time she was in elementary school, Pluck has maintained a balance between her love for drawing and her prowess on the soccer field. But over the past two years, as she began receiving numerous inquiries from people looking to purchase her work, Pluck knew she had to create a home for it all. The interest from friends and family alike led to the creation of her anonymous Instagram account, ‘Scribble Bird,’ during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic – which until this summer, Pluck was unable to associate with her name.

With the newly adopted regulations, however, Pluck is now able to publish her art using her own name — associating her personal Instagram with the Scribble Bird account – while having the ability to profit from her talent without a veil of anonymity surrounding it. 

Pluck’s passion for art – from doodling to sketch drawings to digital illustrations – goes back to her childhood in North Wales, Pa. She could hardly predict that her interest would ever blossom into a business that attracts multiple requests per month, but that is now the reality for Pluck, whose gift is celebrated by family, friends and her Duke community.

Her earliest memories of creating art are from cartooning with her grandfather. Even then, it was her competitive persistence that forced his hand into serving as her impromptu instructor.

“My pop-pop would teach me how to draw these little cartoons,” she said. “I was always so competitive as a child — I wanted to be the best at everything. When I saw he was good at art, I was like ‘Teach me!’ I loved it from the second he showed me how to do specific things.”

Her grandfather and her mother both modeled artistic skill for her and inspired her to want to be better. Pluck was originally taught by her grandfather to draw by copying and tracing figures in order to train her hand. Laughing, Pluck shared a glimpse of the intensity in her childhood ambition.

“He would teach me how to draw Donald Duck. The only thing I did for at least four years of my life was draw that duck.” 

Though the passion for drawing and the drive to improve was already deep-seated in Pluck, she began her formal artistic training in high school. At Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa., she did four years of honors art and was able to explore lots of different mediums. Pluck’s favorite, however, became 2D drawing. 

Now in her fourth year at Duke, Pluck has explored different forms of digital creation while developing her own style through the medium of virtual drawing, largely using the application Procreate. Her preference for the virtual illustration method blossomed in the midst of the pandemic, when the extra time due to the quarantine period presented an opportunity.

It was then that she decided to make an Instagram for promoting her art, and even as requests for illustrations of athletes, landscapes and people’s personal loved ones and pets started pouring in, Pluck recalls that any potential earnings were far from a motivating factor.

“This was just supposed to be about developing my skills — it wasn’t supposed to be about the money,” she said.

Pluck directed profits last year to the Starfinder Foundation, a Philadelphia-based organization that aims to promote physical fitness, emotional health and social change through youth soccer. Much of her early clientele consisted of her teammates at Duke, who wanted to get the word out about their midfielder’s projects while also recognizing her unique talent.

“When I first started Scribble Bird I sent it to the team and they promoted it so much,” she said. “They really started a lot of the business because they all wanted to buy it early and start seeing what I could do, and it gave me a lot of practice in terms of how to meet the standards of what they want.”

Mac Pluck MJThe platform snowballed from there, with friends of friends and random lovers of art reaching out to her as the anonymous artist. The name Scribble Bird was born out of her own illustration style of scribbling, and when combined with ‘Bird’ – a goofy term of endearment from home – the name felt right. To some at Duke, the identity of the account’s producer was obvious because of those on the women’s soccer team promoting it, but for others, Pluck remained unknown.

She would admit that the account started as a small side hustle during the pandemic – a way to stay connected to people and to foster her love of art. From those early stages to now, Scribble Bird has evolved into something more formative than she initially expected. Pluck maintains that she finds it most rewarding to “make people’s memorable pictures into art.” 

Eventually the commissions were coming in faster than Pluck could draw, and she started having to become selective with the requests she would commit to. Particularly around the holidays, when the number of inquiries spiked, she came to realize that she had uncovered a “gifting kind of market.” As a psychology major seeking her certificate in the Masters of Management Studies (MMS) program at Duke, Pluck remains appreciative of the lessons the experience has taught her from a business standpoint

“It gave me a little eye to what the creative side of business would be if I were to work in production or any kind of creative setting where the client wants something specific, but you have to balance your own design with what they want,” she said.

Pluck has been conscious to not over-extend herself, sharing that among the difficult things about this business venture has been learning when to say no. 

“I like to keep it at a level where it is fun,” she said. “I didn’t want this to start feeling like a job.”

Art, at its essence, has always served as a release for Pluck – a way to deviate her focus in a healthy way while her schedule playing for an ACC women’s soccer program at an elite academic institution can often become overwhelming. That ability to channel her energy into her illustrations, she believes, has enabled her to keep from overthinking on the field. Her favorite subjects to sketch are people, and specifically people in motion, fueled by her deep love of sports.

While her success on the pitch – she notched her 50th point in her 72nd game with the Blue Devils this past Sunday at Virginia Tech – may lead to a spot in the professional ranks, Pluck also has aspirations for corporate career. And whether she planned it or not, Scribble Bird has provided an opportunity to apply what she has learned in the MMS program while continuing to develop the online platform.

“I learn about this in all my classes,” she said. “I learn about how to do direct-to-consumer business. When you actually do it, it’s kind of cool. You really figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

Mac Pluck Landscape

When questions arise about her plans for the future and how she might grow Scribble Bird from here, Pluck remains inspired by large scale installations, such as a work of movement art she came across that depicts Jackie Robinson swinging a bat. She even did mural art in windows for local businesses during her high school days in Pennsylvania, and moving forward Pluck can envision herself exploring ways to upscale the artwork in her newfound illustration style.

“I have so many ideas – I just don’t know when to do it,” Pluck said. “I’ll find time. I always want to fall back onto art. I want to go into the corporate world and I want to see how things work in the real world and I want to make money, but at the same time, I always know this is a deep passion of mine. I can either fall back on it or really explore it when the time is right. This is just a preview – Scribble Bird is just a preview, hopefully.”

Until then, Pluck is a Divison-I student-athlete with a marketable talent away from the game. The demands of her schedule may occasionally obstruct the progress of her online presence – Pluck’s short-term goal is to create a Scribble Bird website – but her excitement for what will happen in the coming months, particularly now that she has the ability to promote the work as her own, only keeps growing.

“I know I’m going to be able to make it work, and NIL is so huge in terms of promoting and how people can hear about it,” Pluck said. “I can actually use my name as a student-athlete to promote my business, which will help tremendously in marketing. When I have the time – hopefully by the spring – I can really start to focus on it.”

While the rest of the season for Pluck and the top-five Blue Devils is untold, those closest to her know what is on the horizon for the senior with a gift for graphic illustrations. 



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