It seemed as though Lorelle Carr’s bird paintings flew off the walls at the Old Market Artists Gallery.

She loves to create animal art and has had a soft spot for creatures with wings ever since her childhood in North Dakota and Minnesota. There, she was taken with the song of a particular bird, but she didn’t learn its name until she heard it again after she had settled in Nebraska as an adult.

“It was the red-winged blackbird,” she said. “It was my favorite and I didn’t even know it.”

Inspired, she drove around taking photos of birds and filled her gallery walls with their acrylic likenesses.

But as quickly as the pictures went up, they came down for new owners.

Carr devised a plan to build up a supply: She would paint 90 birds in 90 days and asked people to submit their bird photos as subjects.

By day 18 she had more than 300 photos. Today is day 30.

One woman sent 30 bird photos from Ecuador. Another sent a sampling from Trinidad.

Carr had no idea the project would generate so much interest. She’s getting more out of the effort than she thought she would.

For one thing, she said, it helped her get into a painting routine, because she has to have a finished bird by the end of the day — she chooses a photo in the morning and is done no later than midnight.

“I like doing that, because I’m not thinking about it. It’s more spontaneous, and you just do it and you’re done,” she said.

Carr worked ahead, creating abstract backgrounds mounted on boards. Then she paints the birds over the background.

The abstracts, she said, “get me out of my perfectionism and let me have fun. Then I can paint the birds in more detail.”

So far, she hasn’t painted the same bird twice. She’s gotten more cardinal photos than any other, and they’re the most popular with buyers.

Carr recently moved to a “wonderful” studio in the Hot Shops Art Center. She said she’s mostly self-taught, although she earned an associate degree in art at Metropolitan Community College a couple of years ago. Her desire to be an artist, she said, “has just always been there.”

In addition to birds, she also likes painting portraits and horses and has a series of ripples, leaves and reflections from nature.

“I’ve kind of been on a journey to get away from realism and get more into the abstract,” she said.

She sells her artwork for anywhere from $40 to $200.

Carr has lived in Nebraska since 2001, when her car ran out of gas on her way through and she couldn’t afford to return to California. After that, she said, she couldn’t leave because “the people did me in” — they were too nice.

She also spent eight years in the Air Force.

“I’ve had a very interesting life,” she said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1267, elizabeth.freeman@owh.com

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