For the second year in a row, a talented young artist from Biddeford has edged out other young artists from across the state to win the Maine Junior Duck Stamp art contest. Ariah Lowell, 13, impressed the judges in a field of extremely talented artists with her oil painting of a Wood Duck in flight titled “Iridescense”.
Five judges gathered at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm center in Falmouth on March 10 to choose winners from more than 450 paintings, sketches, drawings, and other artworks from K-12 students ranging in age from 6 to 18. All the artwork depicted live portrayals of a native North American duck, swan, or goose. There were entries in ink, pastel, crayon, acrylic, watercolor, pencil. Many of the categories ended in tie-breakers and the voting for the prestigious Best in Show award was very tight.
Lowell won last year’s Maine Junior Duck Stamp contest and came in third overall in the national event with her painting of a Harlequin Duck. Last year was her first ever oil painting, and she repeated the technique this year to great success, capturing tremendous details from every feather on down to the glistening drops of water trailing behind the flying duck. Art runs in the Lowell family; her sister Elektrah, 15, was a second-place finisher in her age group, and her mother, Rebekah Lowell, an artist and writer, is a four-time Maine Duck Stamp winner.
A few trends were visible in this year’s Junior Duck Stamp entries: Wood Ducks were popular subjects given their colorful markings, and homeschoolers dominated the winners’ lists, including the six Lynch siblings from Eliot (Evan, Michael, Theodore, Margaret, Catherine, and William), ranging in age from 7 to 17, who were all either first or second place winners in their age groups.
The federal program, run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, encourages students to explore their natural world, invites them to investigate biology and wildlife management principles, and challenges them to express and share what they have learned with others through an art contest. This “conservation through the arts” program uses the winning artwork as the basis for the $5 Junior Duck Stamp. The program is coordinated in Maine by Maine Audubon and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Lowell’s Best in Show painting will go on to represent Maine in the national competition against all other Best in Show pieces from 50 states, Washington, D.C. and two U.S. Territories.
The panel of judges included Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist Doug Hitchcox, artists Michael Boardman and Bevin Holmberg, Peggy Page, and USFWS biologist Kirstin Underwood. For each of the four age group categories (grades K-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12), they chose three First Place winners, three Second Place winners, three Third Place winners, and Honorable Mentions. Along with the Best in Show winner, they also selected a Best in Show Conservation Message. Mia Hornschild-Bear, 16, from Freeport, was the winner with this statement: “By conserving habitat for wildlife, we are leaving a lasting impression on nature by allowing current and future generations of species to flourish.”