How Mackenzie Pluck uses art to inspire change

Mackenzie Pluck
Angel City midfielder Mackenzie Pluck uses her art business, Scribble Bird, to express her opinions and make a difference.

LOS ANGELES — When a few of Angel City’s players returned from the World Cup, they were welcomed with tremendous support. They were congratulated for their achievements with social media posts and other gestures. Among the praises, one act stood out to them: a drawing from their teammate, Mackenzie Pluck. 

Pluck gifted a drawing to each player. She drew them as they represented their national team, plus a stadium where they won a memorable game. For New Zealand and Angel City captain Ali Riley, Pluck drew Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. There, Riley and New Zealand won their first World Cup game ever, beating Norway 1-0. 

Despite six World Cup appearances (five with Riley), New Zealand had never won a World Cup game prior to 2023, but they finally did it on home soil.

“I wasn’t expecting it [the drawing] at all,” Riley said. “I’d seen that she [Pluck] was really talented and some of her artwork, but I never thought she would take the time to do that for us, and especially the stadium like to commemorate our first ever win.” 

When Riley returned to Los Angeles, she thought about ways to honor New Zealand’s first World Cup win but had not come up with anything. Then, when Pluck gifted her the drawing, she thought a larger version would be the perfect way to do so. 

“I’ve been wondering what I could get or do to commemorate that moment, and I couldn’t come up with anything. And so then when I arrived, and she gave it to me, I started tearing up,” Riley said.

Pluck enjoys commemorating accomplishments through her art because she feels it is memorable. She noticed many people appreciate handwritten notes or artwork more than digital messages, etc. And she kept that in mind when crafting the World Cup pieces.

Usually, when people do something crazy cool, I always want to send something to them,” Pluck said. “Whether it’s a handwritten letter or just something more personal, because achievements are amazing. I feel lucky to have Scribble Bird and the ability to draw because it helps me do something different for people that appreciate it in a different way.”

Pluck posts many of her drawings to an Instagram account @scribble_bird_co representing her business, Scribble Bird. She offers sketches and digital illustrations done by her for a commission. Potential clients can reach out to her via direct message. However, most of her work is for friends as she is overloaded with requests. 

Pluck began Scribble Bird in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to attend school from home. She was bored and needed money for gas, so she drew and eventually launched her business. Since she could not use her name for the company as National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) regulations at the time did not allow athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL), she started it anonymously.

Pluck had many orders come in quickly, and she was surprised by the high demand for her work. She did not want Scribble Bird just to be an ordinary business, though; she hoped to use it to promote causes meaningful to her. She does not always feel comfortable expressing her opinions in front of large audiences. But through her art, she can share her views creatively and comfortably.

“I think it was my way to show I see what’s going on,” Pluck said. “I’m not that great at putting out my voice in things because I don’t feel as comfortable in front of people. Saying what I want to say in front of a crowd is hard for me sometimes. When I draw, I can have time to prepare and focus on why I am doing it. It helps me immerse myself in the movement more so than saying, ‘I hear this, I hear that, that’s bad, that’s good,’ just have an opinion.”

Pluck donated half of her profits to small black businesses for a couple of months in 2020. She also contributed to Starfinder Foundation, a soccer organization serving the underserved youth.

“The first couple of months, we tried to donate half of the profits to small black businesses that were struggling in the time,” Pluck said. “I was like, ‘what can I do that is going to have a decent, direct impact.’ And then, in the second month of it, we started donating the profits to this one organization called Starfinder, a grassroots inner-city program for soccer. I wanted to do more than just draw.” 

Pluck has also used her art to honor legends who have passed away. She has drawn former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and musical artist Mac Miller, among others.

Pluck experimented with digital art when drawing Bryant because she did not have the materials to complete the piece. She wears the No. 24 because of Bryant and wanted to honor him after he died in 2020.

“That was the very first thing I drew that kind of made people interested,” Pluck said. “When [Kobe Bryant] passed away, I was like, ‘I need to do something.’ This is a guy who I looked up to. He was one of the only famous people I ever met at a camp. And I was blown away by the way he spoke to us. And partially the reason I was 24. Everything about him kind of just was a mentality thing that I loved. And then that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, I can draw my iPad’ because I didn’t have everything I needed to actually draw him. So I was like, let me just try here.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh, this actually turned out decent.’ And then I printed it. And people were like, ‘can I have copies? Can I have copies?’ So that’s what I first posted on Scribble Bird to kind of have the attention.”

Pluck enjoyed drawing the piece digitally because she could quickly correct mistakes using the undo button. And now, many of the commissioned works she completes are done digitally. 

Mackenzie Pluck.

Pluck learned how to draw at a young age from her grandfather. He taught her how to draw Donald Duck, and she was amazed. Then, she almost exclusively drew Donald Duck for the next six years because she loved people’s reactions when they saw the drawings.

“For maybe six years, [drawing Donald Duck] was my thing. I was like, ‘I’m only drawing this because everyone thinks it’s really cool,’” Pluck said.

Eventually, Pluck moved on from Donald Duck when she took art classes in high school. One day, a woman from a shop asked her if she could paint her windows. Pluck did not have any experience with window painting but gave it a try. Using the skills she had learned through drawing Donald Duck and honors art classes, she drew a botanical scene that amazed many of the people in her community. Soon after, other shops came calling for her services.

Mackenzie Pluck.

Painting the window sparked Pluck’s interest in other art mediums. She started by painting one of her walls with chalk and began exploring her creativity through other large pieces.

Mackenzie Pluck.

One extensive piece she drew was of former Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. She drew a portrait of him using all the dates he coached winning games. The piece took her six days to complete, and Krzyzewski signed it. She was unsure whether she wanted to sell the piece, but she eventually did for $1600. 

Mackenzie Pluck.

Pluck has created other large pieces now three years into her Scribble Bird journey. However, she hopes to move away from commissioned work to focus on works using her creativity. Like the Krzyzewski piece, she wants to honor other legends in a collection; she plans to draw tennis greats, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, among others. 

“I am planning to do a collection of those with all of the greats. My next one, I am currently working on Serena Williams,” Pluck said. “It is hard to get a lot of dates because she has won so many dates. I have an order of who’s next, but it depends on the copyright pictures and which ones I can use.”

“I have [Billie Jean King] on my list. I do not know who to draw next because there are so many. I am moving into doing art for my own work rather than for commission for people because I have done that for the past three years, and it takes away kind of your own ability or your own creativity.”

Pluck is not sure if she wants to keep the Scribble Bird name as NCAA regulations no longer restrict her. She is also considering making her business a limited liability company (LLC) but is wondering if she is ready to take the next step. 

Pluck is making business decisions and running her company while in the middle of a season with Angel City, who she signed with during the last offseason. She plays as a midfielder and previously attended and played for Duke.

Chuck Burton-USA TODAY Sports.

Pluck has spoken with her teammate, goalkeeper Didi Haracic, about balancing outside projects with soccer; Haracic is a photographer when she is not Angel City’s goalkeeper. However, Haracic and Pluck’s business models differ, so Pluck is trying to find new ways to run Scribble Bird. 

“As a professional player, it’s hard to know what I’m gonna be able to handle,” Pluck said. “I’ve been talking with Deeds [Didi Haracic] a lot about how she does her photography. But she doesn’t do a lot of commissioned work, which is what I’ve based [Scribble Bird] off of. So I’m trying to kind of create a new model for it.”

Whichever direction Pluck moves next, her art will continue to motivate social change and leave a legacy beyond soccer.