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Wildlife art lovers celebrate art of conservation

Ben Sitz, Roth Mattson, Ryan Mattson and Rachel Thelen are entering their duck paintings in the Junior Duck Stamp Contest. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Four Park Rapids students are hoping their duck painting will turn into the next stamp.

The Junior Duck Stamp Contest is one of the largest art competitions in Minnesota, said Michael Hartung, Park Rapids Area High School art teacher.

It is the 16th year of the competition and Park Rapids has had two state winners during that time, he said.

More than 1,000 students generally enter the contest in Minnesota, Hartung said. Whoever is chosen as the state winner goes on to the national competition.

Ryan Mattson, Roth Mattson, Ben Sitz and Rachel Thelen submitted paintings from Park Rapids this year. Local wildlife artist Jeff Renner helped the students with their work by critiquing the paintings, Hartung said.

The students looked through photos for inspiration before starting their paintings that depict ducks in their natural habitat. They used oil paint.

It was not a simple task to complete the 9-by-12 inch artwork.

"Each of them spent probably close to 50 hours on the paintings," Hartung said.

Paintings were sent in to be judged this week and results for the state contest should be in by the end of March, Hartung said. The winner will have his or her painting used for a stamp.

The national competition is Earth Day, April 22. The winner of the national competition will have his or her painting featured on a national stamp, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sells to stamp collectors, conservationists and the general public. The proceeds go toward supporting environmental education efforts as well as awards and scholarships for winners of the contest.

For more information about the Junior Duck Stamp Contest, go to the Web site at