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Archive for the ‘Conservation Stamps’ Category

Well, I sure hope so! I can tell you one thing for certain though, I know that I’ve missed blogging and now, I’ve got so much to catch up with that I don’t really know where to begin! And, I’ve never really been far away either, just incredibly busy.

For one thing, I finished another decoy head painting, a Mallard this time. (Hey Bill, looks like I’ve got a series going now too. However, with your third painting,

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is from a Charles Hart Mallard drake decoy in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

you’re still one ahead of me.) I’ve been using these decoy paintings to experiment with different media or methods for the details and such. For example, on the Canvasback painting, I used watercolor with airbrush and traditional brush and on the Mallard, it’s watercolor with airbrush, traditional brush and colored pencils with “stumps,” specifically on the bill (and no, that’s not Bill) and the neck. I’ve also been laying down the background color first which worked well on the Canvasback but not so well on the Mallard.

I’ve now started working on a decorative Green Wing Teal carving that was done by a friend named Francis X. McHugh. He passed away in late 2000 from lung cancer and, to my knowledge at least, he never smoked a day in his life! But he did carve decoys, which creates a very fine sawdust that’s more like baking flour and he used acrylics in an airbrush without wearing a mask or using some other means of ventilation. There’s a lesson in there folks! But, enough of that, now back to the painting. This time, I won’t lay down the background until I’m finished with painting the head, we’ll see how that works. In addition, I thought I might take photos of the work in progress then post them on this blog (or maybe another blog I’ve been putting together [on WordPress, of course]).

Another project that has been keeping me busy is my latest “e-commerce” venture. I’m now on CafePress! (Have patience, though, it’s brand new! A work in progress. I’m still learnin’ how the site works, how to promote it, and so on.) You see, I noticed a number of my images from this blog that many of my visitors seemed especially drawn to, so, I decided to open a CafePress shop where I submit my images, select products that I want my images to be printed on such as post cards, note cards, mousepads, mugs, sweatshirts, etc. and CafePress does the rest. Earlier, I had started putting my images on Etsy (note my Etsy page), however, that site took on a life of its own and became more of an outlet for my sewing or handmade items. CafePress will remain for photos and art from this blog as well as some new stuff.

So, what do you think? I’ve got so much more to write about but I’m still busy with other things too. I promise, though, I’ll be back with blog entries a bit more often ’cause I just can’t stay away from it! It’s addictive! 😀

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Just yesterday, I was reminded (via an e-newsletter) about an art festival that I had attended far too many years ago yet the memory of that event stays with me as though I had attended just yesterday!

It is held each November (the 14th through the 16th of this year) in Easton, MD and this year’s event marks the 38th. It’s “official” title is, simply, the Waterfowl Festival, however, most folks refer to it as the Easton Waterfowl Festival. The whole community gets involved, closing off the colonial center to automobile traffic and using its many fine shops and galleries as venues to display wildlife art, prints, decoys, crafts, etc.

When I attended the event, the Tidewater Inn was the “centerpiece” so to speak. One room called the “Gold Room” was used to display the original works and many of the artists were there, too, to talk to visitors, sign autographs, and so on.

Folks lining up to enter the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Folks lining up to enter the Gold Room in the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Hot refreshments are provided to visitors by street vendors.

Hot refreshments are provided to visitors by street vendors.

At least in past years, and probably so even today, a World Class waterfowl carver is invited to create a special piece that is then displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn. During the year that I was there, the carving was that of our nation’s symbol, the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

Bald Eagle carving by Jett Brunet displayed in the lobby of the Tidewater Inn, Easton, MD.

I know, I know! This is just a tiny sampling of what you would see there and, I really can’t show you any art. There are those artists who are opposed to having their works photographed by the general public. But, really, if you love art, especially wildlife art, then you MUST attend this event at least once in your lifetime. It is, after all, an art festival extraordinaire!

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This past May, with much sadness and disappointment, one of my all time favorite magazines titled Wildlife Art, ceased publication. Perhaps what makes this an even sadder event for me, at least, is the fact that it was this magazine that was the first to publish a nature photograph of mine with a byline as well as a few Field Notes and even a Letter to the Editor.

Nature's Perfection Magnified appeared in the September/October 1998 issue of Wildlife Art magazine.

Nature's Perfection Magnified by Janet P. Wilkins appeared in the September/October 1998 issue of Wildlife Art magazine.

But, what makes Wildlife Art‘s disappearance even worse is that for wildlife or nature art enthusiasts like myself, Wildlife Art magazine was an invaluable source of information; everything from listings of new original art or prints, gallery and exhibit announcements, artist accomplishments, upcoming competitions, etc. No doubt, other art magazines and art websites will take up at least some of the slack; in fact, some have already begun to do so. But Wildlife Art magazine was so much more; it was a beautiful print publication, one whose issues became “collectables” in their own right! To put it another way, Wildlife Art magazine had, at one time, been all things to all lovers of the wildlife and nature art genres.

So, what part can I play now? Well, while I certainly can’t do all that Wildlife Art magazine managed, I can, like those aforementioned other art magazines and websites, contribute to taking up at least some of the slack too. Thus, to begin, I have already created a new page for this blog where I will post contact information, due dates and websites (when one is available) to those conservation stamp art competitions that are open to all. Later, I will create other new pages for some of the wildlife and nature art exhibits and calls for entries as the information is made available or, to be more accurate, as I find the information. Actually, to some extent, I’ve been doing this all along for a few competitions and exhibits; they are listed in my blogroll. I feel that this is a good start! And, as time goes on, I’m sure that I will find many more ways in which I can contribute too.

Finally, to those of you planning on entering a few of these competitions, may I wish you all the best of luck!

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A couple of summers ago, I took a course called Environmental History. On the first day of class, as had been true in every other class I’d taken before then, we were asked to tell our classmates a little bit about ourselves. When I mentioned my interest in conservation art (or art for conservation), I was surprised that no one, including the professor, knew anything about it but I was also encouraged by the student’s and professor’s enthusiasm to know more.

Okay then, what is conservation art?

First of all, look in any dictionary and you will find that the term conservation means the preservation from destruction and/or neglect. Well, to me, because I am a nature lover, conservation means the preservation of wild animals, birds and habitat. Thus, in the case of conservation art, that means any art (though, in most cases, the genre or theme is nature or wildlife) that is used to raise funds for wetlands purchase and protection, or the preservation of threatened and endangered species, or the protection of wild lands against human encroachment, and so on. Admittedly though, when one mentions conservation art, more often than not, it’s “duck stamps” or waterfowl art that comes to mind.

Duck stamps?

Yes, they’re affectionately referred to as duck stamps! But, they’re really called migratory waterfowl stamps. Every duck or waterfowl hunter must purchase a Federal Migratory Waterfowl Stamp as part of their license, although, you don’t have to be a hunter to buy one, they are available for purchase by anyone. In addition to the Federal Duck Stamp program, many states also have conservation stamp programs and many of those are also required as part of a hunter’s license. And, again, these stamps are available for sale to non-hunters as well.

But now, back to conservation art … before any of these stamps are issued to hunters, stamp collectors or conservationists, they are art competitions or commissioned works of art. The granddaddy of them all is the Federal Migratory

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Original artwork by William C. Morris

Stamp Art Competition. It was started in 1934 as commissioned work then later changed to an art competition. I first learned about this stamp art program back in 1984 (or, maybe it was 1983), from an article that appeared in an issue of Smithsonian magazine, when the program was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Well, the program is now 76 years old and, through the sale of those stamps, has “raised more than $700 million that has been used to acquire more than 5.2 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System” (see The Federal Duck Stamp Program).

Massachusetts Duck Stamp is “Unique”

Many state duck stamp programs aren’t nearly as old as the Federal program, probably around thirty-five to forty years old on average, however, for most state programs, it was the Federal program that set the standard, so to speak, when it came to the rules that artists must follow, that is, the design must depict “[a] live portrayal of [the duck].” But Massachusetts duck stamp art rules are “unique” in that the design must portray “a WORKING (not decorative) decoy of a duck, goose, or shorebird made by a known or unknown deceased, Massachusetts decoy maker” (see my earlier entry called “Massachusetts ‘Duck Stamp’ Competition to be ‘Revisited'”).

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Canvasback Drake Decoy head by unknown carver. This working decoy is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

This is NOT a duck stamp entry but is from a series of decoy portraits that I’ve been creating as a personal project. The artwork is in watercolor and watercolor gouache applied using an airbrush and traditional brushes on Ampersand Claybord.

Conclusion

Of course, conservation art is so much more than just duck stamps. As was mentioned earlier, conservation art is any art used to raise funds for the preservation of all that is wild and can be rendered in oil, watercolor, colored pencil or graphite, or it can be sculptures in wood or stone or metal, and so on. Oh! And other labels apply to conservation art as well such as art for conservation, environmental art and art for sustainability, although fair warning here, some of these labels, in particular, environmental art can have other meanings too (in this case, environmental art is sometimes applied to outdoor sculpture that poses no harm to the environment). But, it really doesn’t matter what label you apply here or what medium you choose to work in. What is important is that the purpose of the art be for the preservation of planet earth and all of the life that call this planet home!

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In many ways, the Massachusetts Migratory Waterfowl Stamp program differs little from programs in other states. For example, the stamp is a required part of a waterfowl hunter’s license but non-hunting conservationists wishing to protect wildlife habitat can also purchase the stamps. Once the stamps have been produced, prints are made from the original art then signed by the artist. To add value, a remarque (a small original drawing) may be included in the prints margin. The prints are then purchased by collectors. And, since 1974, the Massachusetts “Duck” Stamp program, conducted by MassWildlife in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, Inc., “an international non-profit conservation organization,” has generated roughly $1,150,000.00 (through 2006) in funds that have been used to purchase and improve waterfowl habitat in Canada’s Maritime Provinces and to contribute to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Yet, unlike the stamp art of other state programs, Massachusetts is the only series in which the design must feature a working decoy, “ducks, geese or shorebirds” that have been created by “known or unknown deceased Massachusetts carvers.” And, it is the responsibility of the artist to be able to verify that the decoy has, indeed, been created by a Massachusetts decoy maker. In this way, the “requirement celebrates both the art of decoy making–an integral part of Massachusetts’ migratory bird hunting heritage–as well as the artwork of the contestant!”

Still, the Massachusetts stamp program is approaching its 35th anniversary and, apparently, those members who conduct the art and stamp program feel that it is time to “revisit the program.” In a letter received this past week, Ellie Horwitz, Chief, Information & Education, Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, asked “What can we do to make the program more attractive to today’s working artist?”

Three specific questions were posed,

  1. Have you ever entered the Mass. Waterfowl stamp competition? Have you entered more than once?
  2. If you have not entered, why not?
  3. Whether you’ve entered before or not, what would make the competition really attractive to you?

If you have not received this letter and would like to respond to these questions, please email Ms. Horwitz at ellie.horwitz@state.ma.us or, if you prefer conventional “snail” mail, please address your letter to Ms. Ellie Horwitz, Chief, Information & Education, Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, Field Headquarters, One Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Oh, and if you have plans to enter this year’s competition, please be advised that the deadline has been changed. It’s now June 30th, 2007. This is NOT a postmark date! You can also access the website at MassWildlife Waterfowl Stamp Contest for complete rules.

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In recent years, a number of “duck stamp” (or, more appropriately, Waterfowl Conservation Stamp) art competitions have disappeared. And, if the stamp art program does still exist, then the art is being commissioned instead. So, it came as some surprise for me to learn that there’s a new annual “duck stamp” art competition that’s being added rather than removed. It’s called the First Annual State of North Carolina Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Competition and, the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild, in coordination with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, is conducting the art competition.

Now, according to the prospectus, this commission has had a stamp and print program in existence since 1983, which has led me to assume that North Carolina’s program is one of those that commissioned the art or, possibly, that the art competition was open only to residents of North Carolina. At any rate, the proceeds have been placed in a special “waterfowl fund” and those funds have been “used to help North Carolina meet its financial obligations in implementing the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, an international agreement with goals to restore waterfowl populations on the North American continent.” To date, this fund “has raised more than $4.2 million.”

But, as thrilled as I am about this new annual stamp art competition opportunity, I must also admit that I feel that the requirements regarding specie/habitat are incredibly restrictive. Not only has North Carolina specified the eligible species, which many art competitions do, but they’ve also specified the background habitat that each specie must appear in. For example, “Canada Geese in Piedmont pasture” or “Surf scoters flying low along the crest of the ocean waves.” This, in my view, leaves little to the artist’s imagination. But, then again, artists have been given plenty of time for their imaginations to “kick in.” Mail in entries are due January 14th, 2008 and hand delivered entries are due January 27th, 2008. The competition and judging will be open to the public on January 28th, 2008. It will be quite interesting to see the results.

Still, it is a new annual art competition and it is for an important cause. If you are interested in learning more about it, please go to the East Carolina Wildfowl Guild website or you can email them at sgossett@suddenlink.net or call at (252) 946-2897 or (252) 946-9326.

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