Published September 30, 2009, 11:03 AM

Albert Lea man wins Minn. duck stamp contest

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (AP) — If you ask Mark Kness what his favorite duck is, he'll most likely answer the wood duck.

By: AP wire report, West Central Tribune, The Associated Press

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (AP) — If you ask Mark Kness what his favorite duck is, he'll most likely answer the wood duck.

The Albert Lea artist said he spent about a week on his painting of a wood duck that was chosen as the winning design for the Minnesota 2010 Migratory Waterfowl Stamp (Duck Stamp) contest.

"It just clicked," he said of the painting.

His entry was chosen from among 46 entries in the stamp contest, sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.

Sixteen entries advanced to the second stage of judging, from which six finalists were selected. The other finalists were Robert Hautman of Delano, second place; Stephen Hamrick of Lakeville, third place; and David Chapman of Minnetonka, fourth place. Kevin Nelson of Burnsville and Thomas Gross of Cottage Grove were also finalists.

This is Kness' second time in winning the state contest. His painting of longtailed ducks (formerly called oldsquaws) was the winning design for the 2003 Duck Stamp contest.

Last year, he won the Iowa Migratory Waterfowl Stamp contest. He also had a fourth-place finish in the Federal Duck Stamp contest in 2004.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work.

Kness said this is the first year Ducks Unlimited has teamed up with the DNR for the Duck Stamp contest.

"My painting will get a lot more exposure at Ducks Unlimited banquets," Kness said. "Their goal is to sell more stamps for the DNR, which means more money for conservation."

All Minnesota waterfowl hunters ages 18 through 64 are required to purchase the $7.50 stamp. Stamp sales generate between $500,000 and $900,000 per year for habitat enhancement programs in state wildlife management areas and shallow lakes.

Each year, the entries are limited to a predetermined species that breeds or migrates through Minnesota. The eligible species for the 2011 stamp design will be the red-breasted merganser.

The artist said he was encouraged by the fact that there were 46 entries — up from the 30-some entries in the past.

"I think Ducks Unlimited is (bringing) the collectability of the whole stamp program back around," Kness said. "They're getting big-name artists to compete again."

In a congratulatory letter to Kness, Ray Norrgard, DNR wetland wildlife program manager, wrote: "As you well know, the quality of entries submitted by our artists makes Minnesota one of the finest state stamp contests in the country. This year was no exception. The overall quality of the entries was as high as I can remember. Your selection by the judges attests to the quality of your painting."

Kness said he enjoys entering the contests.

"I love the competition of the waterfowl contest," he said. "It's all about the art and the elements the space is in.

"I'm trying to capture the reality — make you feel like you were there."

Kness sent in his entry for the Federal Duck Stamp contest, a blue-wing teal, on Aug. 1. He also recently entered the Pheasant Stamp contest and may enter the walleye contest as well.

Kness is a native of Worthington. He said as a young man, he was inspired by his pastor, Jerry Raedeke, who is now a nationally known artist.

Kness started painting more than 25 years ago, first with watercolor. Today, he uses mostly acrylics.