Local artist wins statewide duck stamp contest

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 14, 2002

For the last nine years of entering the Minnesota Duck Stamp contest, Mark Kness has always checked the finalists’ table to see if his work has made it that far.

This year the Albert Lea artist didn’t bother.

&uot;I was never a finalist before,&uot; he said.

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So when his painting was held up as one of the five finalists, and ultimately named the winner, he was quite surprised.

&uot;If it had been my first or second time entering, I don’t think it would have meant as much,&uot; he said.

Kness painted longtailed ducks (formerly called oldsquaws) for this year’s 2003 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp contest. His painting was chosen as the winning design from among 36 entries in the stamp contest sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Three Mississippi Flyway species were eligible as subjects for the 2003 stamp, according to Ray Norrgard, the DNR waterfowl stamp contest coordinator. Next year the contest will include the two remaining species, the white-winged scoter and common merganser.

Kness said all the finalists painted the same duck.

&uot;It was the only one with any color in it,&uot; he said, adding there are 29 species of ducks in Minnesota, and now only two remain as subjects for the duck stamp.

&uot;They started with the pretty ducks,&uot; he said.

To paint his longtailed duck, Kness worked off photographs.

&uot;I actually went back to the photos I used in my first duck stamp that everybody liked,&uot; he said. &uot;I did more research on the environment of Lake Superior. That’s the only place you’ll see these ducks.&uot;

Kness said he was the only finalist to put his birds in flight. &uot;The other artists had a foggy Lake Superior background, and I had a sunlit day. I tried to capture some good mood and the elements,&uot; he said. &uot;I think that helped me win.&uot;

The artist estimates that it took him between 80 and 100 hours to paint the ducks. He also works full time as a mechanic/artist for Larson Contracting in Lake Mills, where the boss is one of his allies.

&uot;Al Larson has been a big admirer of my work,&uot; Kness said. &uot;He’s done what he can to promote that.&uot;

Kness’s painting will now get a lot of exposure. It will be put on the 2003 Duck Stamp. The $5 Duck Stamp is required for all Minnesota waterfowl hunters ages 18 through 64. Stamps sales generate between $400,000 and $600,000 per year for habitat enhancements projects in state wildlife management areas and designated waterfowl lakes. The 2003 waterfowl stamp will be available for sale in March 2003.

While the DNR doesn’t offer a cash reward to contest winners, the winning artist does retain the right to reproduce the work, which is usually done in limited-edition prints. &uot;I’ll be contacted by a publisher, and it will be marketed nationwide,&uot; Kness said. &uot;There are a lot of collectors out there.&uot;

He also hopes working with a publisher will clear the way for some of his other works to get published.

&uot;It’s been a dream of mine for 10 years,&uot; Kness said of winning the contest. His other goals are to paint full time and to be able to contribute to the area’s waterfowl management efforts, like those of

Ducks Unlimited.

&uot;Art is a big source of income for them,&uot; he said.

There is also a Federal Duck Stamp contest, which Kness has never entered but now will.

&uot;The majority of the winners of that &045; probably 80 percent &045; are from Minnesota,&uot; he said.

&uot;The quality of wildlife artists in Minnesota is No. 1,&uot; he said.

Kness, a native of Worthington, said as a young person he was inspired by his pastor, Jerry Raedeke, who is now a nationally known artist.

&uot;His artwork at the time amazed and intrigued me,&uot; Kness said, adding he’s also admired the three Hautman brothers from the Twin Cities, who have all won both the state and federal duck stamp contests.

Kness started painting more than 20 years ago, first with watercolor. Today he uses mostly acrylics.

&uot;Wildlife art is my passion,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s made me pretty versatile. I’ve painted everything from cars to dogs to houses &045; whatever people want me to paint.&uot;