Clifton Wins Michigan Duck Stamp Contest
By Rob Kunzig, a reporter based in Lewes, Del.
Houston, TX –-(Ammoland.com)- It’s been a good year for duck stamp artist Richard Clifton. Since October 2009, the wildlife artist has won three state duck stamp prizes, making this year a bright spot in an already illustrious career.
“It’s still a hoot to win,” he said. “I don’t enter to get fourth.”
His latest victory, Michigan, was won with a lone drake mallard. Elegant and understated, the composition is less ambitious than the descending pair of pintail ducks that won him Colorado in March. In all fairness, he found out about the contest two days before the deadline.
Making a tight squeeze even tighter, Clifton was helping his wife, Terri, prepare for an annual 5K race she hosts as director of the Chad Clifton Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for wounded soldiers.
Terri told him to paint. “You can’t wait for optimum conditions to succeed,” she said.
He started at 6 a.m., Thursday, July 22, cutting and prepping the board. As the gesso dried, he drove to Rehoboth Art & Framing and ordered his matting. By Friday afternoon, the painting was on its way to the Michigan Duck Hunter’s Association in Midland, Mich.
Two weeks later, he sat in his gallery, knowing they’d be judging the paintings that evening, waiting for a call. When none came, he shrugged it off and returned to the house to watch TV. Terri came home a few hours later. Checking her email, she said to Clifton: “You didn’t tell me you’d won Michigan.”
“I didn’t know,” he said. The call had come minutes after he went inside.
Though he’s been painting for more than three decades, he never gets tired of winning, he said.
“Within the last year, I’ve won three, finished second in one [North Carolina] and got two top fives [Delaware, Oklahoma],” he said. “If you were a race car driver, you’d be having a pretty good year.”
He’s hoping to extend his good fortunes. A reference photo was pinned to a lamp above his easel for this year’s Oklahoma contest, which he last won in the early ’90s. His reputation as a painter is well established by now – especially after he won the Federal Duck Stamp prize in 2007 – but Clifton isn’t one to rest on his laurels. Every year brings a new crop of hungry young artists, he said, several of whom are very good.
“It only takes one to beat you,” he said. “But it gets tougher when there are several good ones.”
The fresh competition only fuels him, he said; it makes him hungrier. Clifton said he’ll be eligible to enter the Federal Duck Stamp Contest once again in 2011. He grinned at the prospect.
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