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Clifton wins Colorado contest
| Wildlife artist Richard Clifton recently chalked up his 29th duck stamp win, taking first place in the Colorado Waterfowl Stamp Contest. Still, he’s not letting the success go to his head.
“Not a whole lot of glamour in it,” he said, reclining in his studio. “You don’t hit a home run every time, anyway.”
Clifton, a Delaware native, has been remarkably consistent since his 2006 victory in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, a prize his wife, Terri, calls the Pulitzer of wildlife art. After that win, Clifton said he stopped entering contests until October 2009, when he took first place in the Louisiana Duck Stamp Contest.
Both Colorado and Louisiana were first-time entries for the artist, who photographs most of his subjects in his expansive back yard.
Clifton said duck stamp triumphs sometimes yield a small purse, but money isn’t the point. The stamps commissioned by states are used on hunting permits, Clifton said, or they go to collectors; the true reward is prestige.
Clifton won Colorado with a pair of pintail ducks landing in a pond, their feathers ruffled from air-braking.
Entirely self-taught, Clifton favors sharp lines painted in acrylic against a partially airbrushed background.
When he started entering contests in 1989, Clifton said, two ducks floating in the water would satisfy almost any judge; these days, they seem to look for action and mood.
Clifton’s pintails have both, but he said he wasn’t stretching for style.
“It was in the reference photo,” he said.
He said judges can vary in their preferences. Some are naturalists and prefer realistic details like ruffled feathers; others look for smooth, unbroken lines in a blue-ribbon painting.
A relentless perfectionist, Clifton stays close to nature.
“I’m so nitpicky that the odd little things I pick on most people wouldn’t notice,” he said.
“But that’s how it has to be.”
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