Star Power

One of today's most talented wildlife artists, Adam Grimm also played a leading role in a documentary about the Federal Duck Stamp Contest

Today, Tomorrow, and Forever: Grimm

© Adam Grimm

Today, Tomorrow, and Forever: Grimm's Artist of the Year print

Adam Grimm, the 2021 Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year, is a two-time winner of the federal duck stamp contest. He has the additional distinction of being the youngest person ever to claim that coveted prize. Grimm was all of 21 years old when his elegant design of a mottled duck stretching its wings emerged victorious in the competition for the 2000–01 stamp. The Ohio native, who now makes his home in the game-rich Prairie Coteau region of northeastern South Dakota, has worked full-time as an artist ever since.

If you Google "Adam Grimm," though, you might find him identified as a "film actor."

Say what?

"I've worked my entire adult life as a professional artist," Grimm notes in mild exasperation, "and they list me as an actor."

The confusion stems from his starring role in The Million Dollar Duck, the 2016 documentary that follows the fortunes of six artists, Grimm included, vying for the 2014–15 federal duck stamp. It's an affectionately sidelong look at what's been called the Super Bowl of wildlife art. With the outcome now a matter of record, no spoiler alert is necessary regarding how the story ends.

Photo © Courtesy of Adam Grimm

"It still makes me tear up to watch it," Grimm admits.

Grimm's winning entry on that occasion was a striking composition of canvasbacks bathed in dramatic autumn light—a design that's a direct descendant in mood, feel, and subject matter of the painting that started it all for him: Bruce Miller's 1993–94 federal duck stamp.

"It was on the cover of a magazine," Grimm recalls, "along with a headline that said something like 'What It Takes to Win the Federal.' I remember looking at that painting—a drake and a hen canvasback on water reflecting fall color—and thinking, Wow, somebody painted that. I also thought I'd sure like to win that contest."

He set his sights on doing exactly that, first getting his feet wet in the Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest. Then, when he turned 18, he began submitting an annual entry to the federal competition. His win as an unknown 21-year-old was the equivalent of an unseeded qualifier storming to victory at Wimbledon, the kicker being that it was also his ticket out of the Ohio art college where he was unhappily enrolled at the time.

"My parents told me that they'd only let me leave if I won the federal contest," Grimm recounts, chuckling. "They never imagined how that would come back to bite them!" When he got his mom on the phone to give her the news, he basically said, "I won the federal, and I'm packing up to leave."

Grimm's Artist of the Year image, Today, Tomorrow, and Forever, was born of his desire to do a painting that included pintail ducklings. "I'm so fortunate," he observes, "to have nesting pintails just a quarter-mile from my home. The ducklings are really adorable and fun to watch. They're so busy—swimming around, stretching, preening, nipping at this and that—and they're something that not a lot of people ever get the opportunity to see."

Today, Tomorrow, and Forever: Grimm's Artist of the Year print

He adds, "Pintails definitely have a special place in my heart—as I think they do in the hearts of most sportsmen—but I don't really have a favorite duck. It tends to be whichever one I'm working on at the moment."

After working in oils for most of his career, Grimm switched to acrylics a few years ago. "It's a very versatile medium," he notes, "and I can move a painting along faster using acrylics than I could using oils. It helps me feel like I'm making progress." And while in the past he relied on sketching to rough out a composition, these days he uses Photoshop to piece together a working sketch from the thousands of digital images he has at his disposal—images he's captured by spending countless hours stalking the marshlands, clad in a ghillie suit and toting a camera equipped with a long telephoto lens.

"This is a fantastic area for waterfowl," says the married father of four. "The number of breeding species we have in the summer is just incredible. Living here has been a dream come true for me."

Kind of like winning the federal duck stamp contest. 


DUCKS UNLIMITED'S 2021 NATIONAL ART PACKAGE CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS

MOVIN' ON 
by Richard Clifton

Photo © Richard Clifton

In 2019, Clifton was named DU Artist of the Year for the third time, and he became the first individual to hold the title two years in a row. He also won the 2020 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest with his painting of a lesser scaup. Clifton lives and works on a historic family farm near Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. His painting, Movin' On, captures a canvasback drake and hen flying over open water.

WOOD DUCK SLIDE 
by Scot Storm

Photo © Scot Storm

Scot Storm has won the prestigious federal duck stamp contest twice. His work appeared on the 2004–05 and 2019–20 federal stamps. Growing up in northern Minnesota, on the edge of the Chippewa National Forest, Storm developed a strong connection to the outdoors and conservation, which is reflected in his art. Wood Duck Slide captures the beauty of a drake wood duck coming in for a landing.

TREASURED DREAMS 
by Stephany Chavez

Photo © Stephany Chavez

Stephany Chavez's interest in waterfowl art comes from her enthusiasm for duck and goose hunting. A self-taught artist from Texas and a proud volunteer with the Brazos Valley DU committee, Chavez donates many original paintings to benefit wildlife organizations. Her charcoal drawing Treasured Dreams depicts a yellow Lab pup sound asleep, nestled beside a wooden decoy.

AUTUMN POND 
by Richard Clifton

Photo © Richard Clifton

In Richard Clifton's Autumn Pond, the fall colors make a magnificent backdrop for a pair of flying gadwalls. An avid hunter and birder, Clifton is a self-taught artist who grew up sketching wildlife and other scenes around his family's rural property, and waterfowl have always been one of his favorite subjects. Today, he hosts educational sessions for young artists at his studio, passing on a love for wildlife and wildlife art to the next generation.


DU Guns of the Year

DU's Rifle of the Year for 2021 is the Christensen Mesa, a premium quality bolt-action rifle chambered in .300 WM. This rifle comes ready to shoot with a Zeiss Conquest V4 3–12 x 56 scope, mounted and bore-sighted. The build features a 24-inch featherweight barrel with a muzzle brake, black Cerakote finish on outer metal surfaces, and a black composite stock with contrasting webbing. The DU logo is featured on the rifle and the optic. A premium aluminum rifle case and gun lock are included.

The 2021 DU Shotgun of the Year is the Beretta A400 Upland 20-gauge. The sister to the 2020 DU Shotgun of the Year, this exquisite semiautomatic firearm has a 3-inch chamber, 28-inch polished blued barrel, and oil-finished walnut stock. A wetland scene with gold-enhanced engraving on the satin-finished silver receiver features mallards, teal, and wood ducks. Also included are a special DU serial number, gun lock, and five interchangeable choke tubes.

The 2021 DU Handgun of the Year is the Kimber 1911 Wetlands Advocate. A classic 1911 pistol with modern upgrades, this firearm is chambered in .45 ACP and sports a 5 1/4-inch barrel, stainless steel slide and frame, multicolor DU grips, and a Vortex Venom red dot optic for accuracy and fast target acquisition. The DU logo is displayed prominently on the slide, and a gun lock is included.