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Contest winner narrowly beats out four competitors
|The 2001 United States Federal duck stamp contest, held in Washington, D.C., in early November, was charged with excitement.
The winner narrowly edged out four other competitors for the privilege of seeing his artwork appear on the 2002-03 federal duck stamp.
Joe Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., won the 2001 contest with an acrylic painting of a black scoter drake and three black scoter hens flying near an ocean shoreline. This painting, shown nearby, will appear on the 2002-03 federal duck stamp.
It was not an easy victory for Hautman, as five entrants were tied for first place after initial voting in the final round.
After an unprecedented four additional rounds of tie-break voting, Hautman won by only two points over second-place finisher Richard Clifton of Milford, Del.
Third place went to Daniel Smith of Bozeman, Mont., a previous federal contest winner whose artwork appears on the 1988 $10 Snow Goose duck stamp, Scott RW55.
Frankly, any of the top five artists could have easily won.
But the panel of five judges was resolved, consistent and firm-as-rocks in its voting. Gradually, the five first-place finishers were whittled down to three, then two.
The two then tied with scores of 21 each. On the final tie-breaking round, Hautman prevailed with a score of 22, just two points more than Clifton's score of 20. It was that close.
The two other first-place finalists were Greg Farrell of Lexington, N.C., and Robert Steiner of San Francisco, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Only a few votes separated greatness from obscurity. Do you remember who finished second and third in the 2000 contest? Well, Gerald Mobley finished second and Joe Hautman finished third.
Joe also won the 1991 contest with his painting of a spectacled eider, which was featured on the 1992 $15 duck stamp, Scott RW59.
Joe's brothers Jim and Bob also are multiple contest winners, with Jim winning three times and Bob twice.
Together the three brothers have won seven times in the past 13 contests and finished in the top five several other times.
It seems the Hautman clan could be more legitimately termed the Hautman dynasty of duck stamps.
There is no doubt other artists could get frustrated, but the fact is others need to learn how to win in order to unseat such dominance.
Past winners of the contest who submitted entries this year were Art Anderson, Neal Anderson, Al Gilbert, Wil Goebel, Ron Jenkins, Ken Michaelsen, Dan Smith and Robert Steiner.
An artist who has not personally attended the contest could question the fairness of the selection process.
Actually viewing the voting and procedures, as I did, reinforces the contest's validity.
As a former judge, I can attest to the absolute integrity of the voting process.
One way to get me on a soapbox preaching the fairness of the contest is to hear a nonwinner, of which there are many, griping about the outcome.
The panel of five judges changes each year, and the judges are separated from one another during voting.
During the voting, each judge has no idea how his peers are voting. He's made aware of the votes only after voting is completed.
I assure you that it is lonely on the judging panel in the main auditorium of the Department of the Interior, with the crowd staring at you, and having no idea how your fellow judges voted.
Basically, you use your experience and background, try to be consistent, and stand alone in your thinking.
The system works, and it has for many years.
It's too bad only one picture out of 246 could be the winner in 2001. So many artists spend countless weeks and months preparing their work, only to be disappointed, sometimes for many years.
Bob Steiner, the artist most represented on state duck stamps, entered the federal contest some 17 times before finally winning it in 1997. His work is featured on the 1998 $15 Barrow's Goldeneye duck stamps, Scott RW65-65A.
It takes that kind of perseverance. After all, that is why it is called a contest, and a great contest it is.
Judges for this years contest were excellent, even though readers may question my bias after learning their names.
First, Eric Hansen, an award-winning outdoor wildlife photographer; Cindy O'Connor, Executive Director of the Wetlands Institute of Stone Harbor New Jersey; John Rogers, former Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Wayne Youngblood, publisher and editor of the Stamp Division of Krause Publications; and Rita Dumaine, ten-year editor of The Duck Report, and VP of Sales and Marketing of a major duck stamp company, and happily, also my wife.
For the first time, a single species, the black scoter, was the only eligible waterfowl.
This species had never before appeared on a Federal duck stamp, being the last waterfowl species to claim that dubious distinction.
I believe the single-species concept is the only way to conduct the federal contest in the future.
This better allows for subjective comparison of artwork and avoids simply selecting the painting of the prettiest duck.
All artists I spoke with were in favor of the single-species comparison, and I recommend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopt this format.
Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, personally attended the contest and notified the winner by telephone.
This marked the first time in nine years that the Interior secretary attended the contest, and Norton's presence was a most welcome change. Many major television networks were filming the voting and judges and interviewing various attendees.
A fire on the night of Oct. 17 virtually destroyed the Depot Gallery and Frame Shop in Sullivan, Ill.
The firm was a major producer of many state duck stamps and art prints. Many collectors know the firm by its retail name: Stamp Fulfillment Center (not to be confused with the U.S. Postal Service's Stamp Fulfillment Services). The Depot was responsible for many foreign stamp programs, as well as for fishing and conservation stamps.
The loss of the firm's inventory will unquestionably have an effect on the market for duck stamps and prints. There is no doubt this unfortunate event will greatly diminish the availability of many issues.
As more information becomes available, I will pass it along in a future column.