Ducks Funlimited

Published 9:20 am Thursday, September 25, 2008

An Albert Lea wildlife artist has earned another feather in his cap.

A duck feather, that is.

Mark Kness has been named the winner of the 2008 Iowa Migratory Waterfowl Stamp (Duck Stamp) contest, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Ducks Unlimited.

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Kness painted a pintail drake swimming in a marsh. He worked off a photograph he took of the bird.

“This is the third time I entered the contest,” Kness said. “The first time I entered, I got second. The third time I won.”

Kness said the Iowa contest is open to all species of ducks. “They tell us what has won recently and they try to mix it up a little bit,” he said.

While the contest doesn’t carry a monetary award, winning can boost the professional reputation of an artist. Winning artists retain the right to reproduce their works and stand to make thousands of dollars from the sale of limited editions of prints of their Duck Stamp designs. Waterfowl hunters are required to purchase and carry Duck Stamps, which support both the DNR and Ducks Unlimited.

“Minnesota’s contest is strictly DNR,” Kness said.

For the first time in the history of the contest, an exclusive artist edition of the print will be released. It includes two different stamps that go with the print. There will be 100 artist’s proofs released.

Kness said the honor will also put his prints at every county Ducks Unlimited banquet in Iowa.

Kness is no stranger to wildlife art contests. He won the 2003 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp contest and the following year took fourth in the Federal Duck Stamp contest among more than 200 entries. Last year, his entry was in the top 25 in the federal contest.

Kness said his goal is to someday win the Federal Duck Stamp contest. This year’s contest is being judged in Bloomington next month. Kness has painted a Canada goose.

“The winning entry goes on a national art tour of wildlife and waterfowl festivals with a week or two stay in each place,” he said.

Kness has previously entered the Minnesota Turkey Stamp contest, the Minnesota Pheasant Stamp contest and this year is entering the first Walleye Stamp contest.

The artist’s publisher is Wild Wings. More information on his work can be found on his Web site,

A print of his dog, Maddie, has been licensed to a calendar company and a billiard company that makes lights. He will also have one of his pieces included in the 2009 Albert Lea Art Center calendar.

Kness works full time for Larson Contracting in Lake Mills, Iowa, and fits painting in on the evenings and weekends. He stays busy painting wildlife and doing commissions and has plans to attend more shows in the near future.

Kness is a native of Worthington. He said as a youngster, he was inspired by his pastor, Jerry Raedeke, who since became a nationally known artist.

“His artwork at the time amazed and intrigued me,” Kness said. He added that he has also admired the three Hautman brothers from the Twin Cities, who have all won both the Minnesota and Federal Duck Stamp contests.