All-Stars of Wildlife Art

From the earliest days of Ducks Unlimited, the nation's finest wildlife artists have supported conservation with their work
By Gary Koehler

Throughout its storied history, Ducks Unlimited has received important cooperation and support from the wildlife art community. This year, as the organization marks its 75th Anniversary, DU will showcase an all-star cast of premier artists, whose works will be available at fundraising events nationwide. 

But first, perhaps a bit of history is in order. At least one notable artist lent a helping hand to the wetlands and waterfowl conservation cause before DU was even incorporated.

That would be Roland H. Clark, who in 1936 illustrated a 32-page booklet for the More Game Birds in America Foundation. This book was simply titled Ducks Unlimited, and laid out More Game Birds' new program to aid North America's waterfowl. The next year, Clark produced the first DU membership certificate, an etching of pintails. He also provided illustrations for the DU quarterly, forerunner of Ducks Unlimited magazine, during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and contributed a second certificate in 1942.

But Clark was hardly alone in his support of DU's conservation programs. Frank Benson and Richard Bishop, who along with Clark are considered the finest waterfowl etchers of all time, also became active DU committee members and contributing artists.

Bishop featured scaup on the 1938 DU certificate, and later illustrated the classic book Prairie Wings, written by Edgar Monsanto Queeny and published in 1947. Bishop also designed several pins used as incentives for the DU Sponsor program.

Benson designed the masthead of the DU quarterly in 1937. This etching, featuring canvasbacks, mallards, and other ducks crowded across a five-column-wide marsh, first appeared in the inaugural April 1938 issue and ran continually for more than 25 years. His bird illustrations were used regularly in this publication. Benson also produced the 1943 DU certificate. 

The annual production of the DU certificate was the precursor of DU's Artist of the Year program. Featured artwork was printed each year and presented as a premium to those who renewed their DU membership. Contributing artists included the likes of such noted masters as Francis Lee Jaques, Lynn Bogue Hunt, and Ogden Pleissner.

DU's first art print, Green-Winged Teal, was painted by James Lockhart in 1971. DU's Artist of the Year program was launched in 1972. The initial winner was Ohio artist John Ruthven, whose Oak Grove Pintails rendering was printed on rare English Whatman paper—the same type of paper used more than 100 years earlier by John James Audubon.

Since the early days, the DU Artist of the Year program has featured the works of the best of the best in the wildlife art world. The roster includes several federal duck stamp winners and many other high-profile wildlife artists. 

This year, Ducks Unlimited is proud to offer the works of an all-star lineup of our most popular contemporary waterfowl artists. DU's anniversary art package features five prints and two canvases. Contributing artists include Jim Killen, Art LaMay, David Maass, Harold Roe, Phillip Crowe, Terry Redlin, and Ralph McDonald.

Pintail Majesty 

Harold Roe 

Harold Roe's work has appeared in DU's national art package 10 times. This print captures the natural elegance and grace of pintails flushing off the water. 

What you may not know: Roe graduated cum laude with a bachelor of architecture degree from Ohio State University.




Great Beginnings

Jim Killen 

Jim Killen's work has appeared in DU's national art package 23 times. This print showcases a pair of Labs and their puppies—and more. The background features Big Grass Marsh Duck Factory No. 1 in Manitoba. 

What you may not know: An ardent conservationist, Killen has planted more than 30,000 trees on his property near Owatonna, Minnesota.




Coming Home

Phillip Crowe

Phillip Crowe's work has appeared in DU's national art package 10 times. This piece depicts a flock of mallards returning in spring to the Prairie Pothole Region, this continent's most important waterfowl breeding area.

What you may not know: Encouraged by his mother to pursue his interest in art, Crowe attended Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.




Mission Accomplished—Canvasbacks 

David Maass 

David Maass's work has appeared in the DU national art package 15 times. In this print, a flock of canvasbacks and a cairn signify a successfully completed DU wetland restoration project. 

What you may not know: A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Maass became friends with fellow waterfowl artist David Hagerbaumer while stationed in California.




Next Generation

Art LaMay

Art LaMay's work has appeared in the DU national art package 15 times. DU's 75th anniversary theme is "Conservation for Generations." This print highlights a DU wood duck nest box and its splendid residents.

What you may not know: LaMay has proudly served as the Waterfowl Festival's exhibition poster artist since 1987.




Duck Tales

Ralph McDonald

This limited-edition canvas pays tribute to acclaimed author and staunch conservationist Nash Buckingham and his favored shotgun, 
Bo Whoop. Buckingham supported waterfowl conservation as early as the 1920s.

What you may not know: Early in his career, McDonald was commissioned by the governor of Tennessee to paint the official portrait of the state bird, the mockingbird.




Night Flight

Terry Redlin

Originally published in 1983 as DU's Artist of the Year print, Night Flight depicts Canada geese flying over a farm by the light of the moon. It is available as a limited-edition lithograph canvas.

What you may not know: Named in the artist's honor, Terry Redlin Elementary School opened in 1998 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.




75th Anniversary Merchandise Includes Collectible Firearms

In addition to an outstanding selection of wildlife art, Ducks Unlimited's 75th anniversary fundraising events will offer a wide variety of other merchandise. Featured items will include bronzes, decoys, and many other collectibles. Of particular interest are three special firearms designed specifically to celebrate this historic anniversary year. Included are a Browning Maxus 12-gauge shotgun featuring special engraving and game scenes, a Ruger Vaquero .45-caliber Long Colt single-action revolver, and a Kimber 8400 rifle in .300 Win Mag. Each of these firearms will be adorned with special serial numbers and the DU logo.
FIRST DRAFTS To see the sketches submitted by DU's all-star artists for this year's art package, visit the DU website at www.ducks.org/sketches.