Common Grackles are known as being agricultural pests for pulling up sprouting corn, and notable for their harsh calls (their singing sounds like a rusty gate hinge), and indiscriminate droppings.
But to Carly Weaver, an artist, and maker in Austin, Texas, grackles serve as her muse.
Or as everyone affectionately calls her, “The Grackle Lady.”
We met Carly at the NY Now Show in New York City in February while we were searching for merchandise inspired by birds.
Grackles Painted on Wood Panels
Carly’s collection of Grackles painted on wood panels immediately caught our eye.
She capture’s the persona of this beautiful blackbird.
Its iridescent feathers, striking glowing yellow eyes, and crazy, keeled tail.
You’d think Carly was painting grackles all her life.
This Boston transplant only began painting them after moving to Austin to attend graduate school.
“I’ve been painting for over 20 years, and I was looking for new inspiration as my work shifted to more realism and I was soaking in my new surroundings,” she says.
These birds were very unique to Carly.
And making a huge impact, leaving an indelible imprint on her life.
Grackles were stealing her dog’s food.
The birds were squawking all hours of the night.
They were pooping on her deck.
Decorating her car with their own form of “splatter art.”
These blackbirds were lining the phone wires at night.
And even stealing her French fries at lunch.
A love/hate relationship was born.
The Grackle Lady
Carly decided to embrace the notorious pests of Austin.
She began painting them recreating their images in oil on small wooden panels.
Wood panels are Carly’s preferred medium.
She enjoys working with wood and has a wood shop where she creates a line of wood plant stands.
“When I was in college I realized if I wasn’t creating a masterpiece I needed to stop wasting money on canvas.”
She began incorporating more sculptural elements to the painting and gauging the surface with chisels and found the wood background brought a natural warmth that she liked to her subjects.
Influenced by Her Environment
“I didn’t set out to be a bird painter, but I’m heavily influenced by my environment and grackles are part of the Austin landscape.”
Grackles are an excellent subject for Carly’s artwork because of the bird’s great distinction with their glossy blacks and iridescent coloring and bright, glowing yellow eyes.
“These birds have so many personalities and provide endless possibilities for paintings,” she says.
Carly says grackles are either despised or beloved and it makes for great responses from the viewer.
“People have an immediate reaction to them which is a wonderful achievement as an artist. I welcome the haters and the fan club members.”
Grackle Series Takes Off
She started off painting a dozen grackles perching on her backyard fence.
Then an underground grackle fan club learned about her paintings and helped support Carly’s painting inspiration.
She’s brought her grackle series to art fairs, studio tours, and receives retail and gallery support.
Carly’s tripled the first dozen grackle paintings about five times over.
Now she takes grackle art commissions, sells prints on wooden blocks and recently painted giant 5 feet tall grackles.
People generously send her photos to use as inspiration.
“Grackles symbolize a sense of place and home, but can also be appreciated for all their other attributes,” she says.
She observes people viewing her work with varied interests.
And not always because they identify the grackle species, but because they like birds.
They reflect about an abandoned or hurt bird they nursed back to life, or a friend collects crows or blackbirds.
Or a poem they love about birds, but usually, people like Carly’s grackles because it reminds them of home.
Carly says she’s happy she found something to love about grackles because these birds aren’t going away.
They’re part of the landscape in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.
Since she started painting them, Carly has grown fond of grackles.
“It’s hard not to like these crazy birds once you start to see all the blues and get to know their gregarious personalities.”
And she even has a favorite grackle, the Great-tailed Grackle.
She says she doesn’t mind being called “The Grackle Lady.”
“You know you’ve hit it big when you’re in New York City 1750 miles from home, and someone recognizes you as “The Grackle Lady.”
Looks like the underground Grackle Fan Club has a new president.
You can see her art on display in the Wonderwall Studio, Austin Art Garage, Parts & Labour and ATown in Austin, Texas.
Carly’s art is also in the Abacus Gallery, in Maine, and the Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and other stores across the U.S.
Also, Carly started Hold Onto Your Plants, a business dedicated to making wood plant stands and other botanical themed décor and art made from wood.
Learn more about Hold Onto Your Plants at www.holdontoyourplants.com
If you’re ever in Austin, look for Carly selling her grackle art, or wooden plant stands at local markets and national art fairs.