Friday, December 19, 2014

The Duck Stamp to increase in price!

A short post with some big news! H.R. 5069, The Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014, has been signed into law! This means that the duck stamp face value will increase from $15 to $25 starting in 2015, with "my" stamp. This is the first price increase since 1991!

More reading:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Easton Waterfowl Festival and Redlands trips: Recap!

Hello everyone! It is December-- wow! How did this happen? Time sure does fly when you are having fun... and traveling with the Federal Duck Stamp!

I am just now having the chance to write about my adventures! First up was the Easton Waterfowl Festival, in Easton, MD.

Easton Waterfowl Festival

On Thursday the 13th of November, my husband and I had a lovely drive down through the rolling hills and mountains of Pennsylvania; the scenery was lovely and very much like home for most of the trip. A neat drive over the Chesapeake Bay, and we were there! I loved the small artsy town of Easton, and all of its very welcoming inhabitants.

On Stage during Opening Ceremonies. Courtesy of the Star Democrat.
I quickly checked in to my hotel, freshened up, and headed over to the Premiere night opening of the festival. I knew I would be giving some remarks about my win, but I was a bit unprepared to be seated up on stage during the entire event! Gulp!! My nerves were very high, but I was told I did all right (more photos here). I survived, and then had a very exciting evening of meeting other artists and viewing their work in person. It was very humbling and wonderful to see so many beautiful artworks in life. It was very enriching!

Shortly after, the kind folks at Attraction Magazine took us, along with the good folk from the Duck Stamp Office, out for a meal. It was really a fantastic evening and in the end they had me cluster around for a photo. I held a copy of the magazine with my painting on the cover.

Jennifer with the wonderful Attraction Magazine crew!
The next day, the festival began in earnest! I was set up over at the Federal Duck Stamp display in the high school gym. My very first action was to scurry over to the Federal Duck Stamps-- the originals-- on tour and press my face into them  (not literally-- don't worry, fellow artists!) to see them for the first time. I was tremendously excited to study them, as prior to this I had never had the opportunity to see a duck stamp painting in person. They all looked so vibrant and wonderful, much nicer than any online scan or photo can show. Even during the rest of the weekend, I kept venturing back to look at them closely. I'm really honored to be amongst such fine artists!

The beautiful top 2014 entries! Finalists in no particular order; here is a PDF file of the scores.
Over the course of the weekend, I met so many wonderful people, and faces old and new alike to the duck stamp program! The Duck Stamp Office ladies treated us like family and we enjoyed meeting all of the waterfowl enthusiasts. It was particularly fun to meet some younger enthusiasts, and had several children talk to me about not only ducks, but artwork and their experiences in nature as well. I made connections with several really great birders; many of which turned into new fans of the Duck Stamp program once they learned what it was all about. It was exciting to see individuals go from thinking it was a fancy postage stamp to realizing that the impact of the program is so huge that we may well thank it for even being able to have a festival to celebrate waterfowl at all!

A highlight for me, in addition to all of the above (and more!) was getting to meet a long-time online friend in person for the first time. Gunner Hilliard, who recently won Ohio's Wetlands Habitat Stamp, came to visit and in an incredibly generous and surprising gesture, gifted to me his 2014 Federal entry. I could hardly believe it, and there may have been a few overwhelming, heartwarmed tears shed by more than one person!

Gunner with his 2014 Federal Entry
One quirky and wonderful tradition that the festival has for the Federal winner every year is... drawing on the floor! No, really! In the high school, the floor is covered with huge heavy tarpaulins to protect it from all of the foot traffic. In the year of his win, artist Joshua Spies was caught doodling a silly cartoony duck on the floor with a sharpie. It quickly became a tradition (I suspect, much to poor Joshua's dismay!). So on Saturday morning, I rustled up a few sharpies, and got to work on the floor.
If you look closely, you will see some rather famous waterfowl artist names on that floor!

I suspect that someday this poor dirty tarp will be highly collectible!
Serious? Me? Well, perhaps not when drawing on the floor...

In all, the show left me full of hope and happiness, and we didn't want to leave! I will try my very best to attend next year. To you, Easton!!

San Bernardino County Museum show, Redlands CA

Next up, only days later, I was to fly to Redlands, CA, to attend the Wildlife Art Show in the San Bernardino County Museum. The weather, however, had very different plans for us! The moment we got back from Easton, it started snowing. In Buffalo, about an hour north of us, it started really, really snowing. It was a little out of control, actually.

Not friendly driving conditions....
My flight was scheduled to depart the Buffalo Airport on Friday morning. As the days pressed on, and Buffalo got more and more snow (some places received over 7 feet in snowfall, plus winds drove it into drifts of over 12 feet at times) and the entire county shut down in a state of emergency. Funny enough, the airport itself was mostly clear of snow, but there was no way to get there as all areas south of the airport (and north of me) were completely buried. The poor people of Buffalo were in trouble, and sadly a few deaths resulted from the snowstorm.

Thursday night before my flight, my husband and I decided to stay up to see if there was any way to get through to the airport. We had lost hope of going and I was very upset over the idea of disappointing the people of the San Bernardino County Museum. Our Department of Transportation has a very nice online map system that the plow drivers update as they do their runs, and we were watching the conditions carefully. At about 2am, just before going to bed and giving up, in a half awake decision, we threw our bags in our little car and tried to brave the conditions. We found a route up around the worst of it, hours out of our way, that we thought would be good. If we started at 2am, we thought, surely we would get to the airport the next morning in time for our flight.

All was well until we got atop the high plateaus where the wind farms are. The wind was blowing snow in a lot further than we anticipated, and things got a little dicey. It is only at 4am, on nights like those, that you form a special sort of close friendship with the two truck tail lights in front of you on lonely, dark, snowy country roads. Thank you, unknown pickup truck, for letting us follow you in those dark hours. The red glow of your truck posterior kept us going, for there was no turning around at that point-- the snow had been plowed into 5 foot berms on either side of the road! Our little Civic crunched on through the wee hours, and we hoped we would make it.

Made it, we did... somehow. With just a little time to spare, we caught our 7:30 a.m. flight and made it out to the show!

I'm so very happy that we braved it all, because I really loved the people I met, and the museum itself!

The opening night was for invited partons only, and in my sleep deprived haste and madness in trying to get out of Buffalo, I had managed to forget many items. One of which was my carefully written speech. I felt that I really ought to have my speeches written because frankly, I get so nervous to talk in front of others that I figured I'd forget all of the important things I had to say! Well, nope, I forgot it. At that point in the evening I was what my husband and I call "sleep drunk"-- where you feel just plain silly because you haven't been to sleep in too long. Because of the events leading up to my flight and my inability to sleep on said flight, I had been awake for over 36 hours at that point. Hardly a record, but on top of travel I was starting to get into "sleepy sillies" territory. So when I was handed the microphone, I winged it (no pun intended) and I think I did even better than I did at Easton! So, lesson learned: To do speeches well, I must shoot from the hip and be exhausted!

One delightful person I met was Eric Scott, the museum's curator of paleontology. We met over a mutual love of chickens (honestly). He took me on a little adventure down into the museum's collections, and showed me some very neat stuff!

What is going on here? Am I really excited to be holding a bone?!
Well-- yes!! That bone is actually a fossil from the largest known (to date) flying bird from North America! It is to my understanding THE type specimen for Aiolornis incredibilis. An incredible and rare fossil, this is the only known specimen of this bird's humerus. It is only a part of the humerus, as this bird in life had a wingspan of approximately 24 feet! 

Holding an Aiolornis incredibilis fossil! With Eric Scott.
I also had the pleasure of meeting and spending most of the weekend with master carver Dennis Schroeder, and it was very enjoyable to chat with him and watch him work! We enjoyed his company very much, and he may have talked my husband into trying wood carving. This is saying something, because my husband is not (yet) a visual artist!

When things were quiet, I walked the museum halls and took in all of the natural history! They have a spectacular collection of North American birds and eggs, as well as a ton of beautiful mineral specimens, and succulents and cacti outside! I was even excited to see the huge hunks of petrified wood out in their walkways, sitting mostly unnoticed beside the walkway cobbles. I was tickled by the exotic (to me) orange orchards and lemon trees. It was all so very exciting, and I really enjoyed it!

Thank you so much everyone at Easton and Redlands, I enjoyed you all so much and it was a huge honor and privilege  to meet you all!