Adam Grimm strained to think of what could be missing, what would have made the day any more memorable.
After a few moments, the winner of the 2013 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest shrugged, and came up empty.
“I don’t know how this could possibly be any better,” the Ohio native and now two-time winner said. “This has just been an amazing experience, in every conceivable way.”
Grimm had just had his oil painting of a pair of canvasback ducks named the top entry in the prestigious competition, which means his art will be used to design the 2014-15 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, known simply as the Duck Stamp.
For a wildlife artist, that’s the Oscar, the Emmy or the Heisman Trophy. But Grimm’s fairy tale day hardly ended with that.
Factor into that formula for perfection that earlier this year, Grimm’s daughter Madison had won the Federal Junior Duck Stamp competition at age six.
“My grandmother is in her eighties and she is here. My parents are here, along with my wife and our three children, and a bunch of our friends,” Grimm said. “My daughter won the junior competition, and now I’m back in Ohio where I’ve spent most of my life, and to win this for a second time — this has to be the perfect day.”
That assessment got an assist from the endless blue sky, bright sunshine, 70 degree temperature, and some of the best marsh and wetlands habitat in the country sitting nearby the expansive and modern host site at Maumee Bay State Park Conference Center.
“My initial reaction when they made the announcement was just stunned silence, I guess. For a moment, it is just disbelief,” said Grimm. “And that was probably followed by the world’s biggest sigh. The stress, the anxiety, the nerves, the butterflies in your stomach — you just kind of feel this huge relief from all of it in that one moment.”
Grimm, a fulltime wildlife artist who grew up in Elyria and moved to South Dakota six years ago, remains the youngest winner of the Duck Stamp contest for his prize-winning work in 1999 at age 21.
After being forced to sit out the next three years, per contest rules, Grimm has been entering his works in the competition ever since, but he was not sure he would claim the top award again. There is no cash prize for winning, but the fame and prestige has a significant value.
“When I won the first time it was an incredible blessing and it made all the difference in the world,” he said. “It meant going from having this as a hobby, to having it for a job. I would never be able to do what I’ve done without winning that 1999 contest.”
Grimm, 35, has been painting wildlife art since he was three, and selling his works since age 13. He said once he made the choice to paint canvasbacks for this year’s competition, choosing them from the announced list of five eligible species, he spent a week photographing the large diving ducks just to get the detailed images he needed to start working on his creation.
“There’s a huge investment of time, energy, and money that goes into this,” he said. “I take this very seriously, and I probably spent two months working on this piece.
"You never know what the judges will like, but just knowing it is possible to win is what pushes you. I hoped for this day to come, but I never believed it would happen again.”
Hoyt Smith of Tulsa, Okla., placed second with his acrylic painting of a single cinnamon teal. Ron Louque of Charlottesville, Va., took third place with his acrylic painting of a trio of canvasbacks.
Rachel Levin communications coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s division of bird habitat conservation said there were 202 entries reviewed by the panel of five judges, a group that included biologists, artists, educators, and stamp experts.
“We try to get a diverse panel of judges from all of the different disciplines,” Levin said.
Since its inception in 1934, the Duck Stamp has provided some $850 million for the acquisition and protection of more than 6.5 million acres of wetlands and grasslands in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Federal Duck Stamp sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year.
BATTLE DOC: On Thursday at 8 p.m. WGTE will present a half-hour documentary on the recent Battle of Lake re-enactment. Toledo Stories: The Battle of Lake Erie will feature footage of the ships preparing for the battle, as well as footage of the thousands of spectator boats that were out on the lake to view the event, and footage of the re-enactment.
The event, which took place in the open water of Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay on Labor Day, involved 15 tall ships re-enacting Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British fleet that was one of the most decisive engagements of the War of 1812. The event earlier this month is believed to be the largest marine battle re-enactment in maritime history.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.