Tag Archives: art

The Art of the Duck Decoy

Whether you prefer watching birds wiz through the air or waking up to the crisp, colorful mornings of fall, we can all agree that beauty can be found in nature every day. For accomplished artist Michael Braun, he recreates the beauty he finds in nature through his talent of carving. Though he is an award-winning and talented painter, duck decoys are Mike’s specialty, and a gift that’s been shared with him from his father since he was nine years old.  The pair bonded over the beauty of waterfowl, the art of carving, and the family tradition of hunting. With over 25 years experiences in the art of carving, Mike is still finds joy in creating a custom, one of a kind pieces of art for others to use and enjoy.

Historically, duck decoys were made out of any material and feathers one could find to resemble a duck. Using decoys to draw ducks to an area where they feel comfortable and secure gives a hunter an advantage when attempting to harvest a meal. Today, decoys are still made by hand, but usually out of wood or foam materials. Creating a decoy can take 12 to 15 hours, a process that spans two days, and sometimes even longer for art competition pieces.

Mike begins the process by cutting and roughing out the shape of the decoy. Once carved, he hollows out the duck shape and glues the pieces together. After the glue dries, the seams are cleaned up and sanded to produce a fine finish. When the wood is properly sealed, the vibrant colors of the duck are produced with oil paints. The finishing touches include adding proper weights to provide balance for proper flotation.

In a world full of new technology and less time spent outdoors, Mike hopes to keep the art of decoy carving alive for future generations. You don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of duck decoys. These beautiful works of art are often elevated to showpieces, never touching the water. And if you love ducks and duck art, the Federal Duck Stamp is a great way to show your love of ducks and contribute to conservation.  Michael and his father are avid hunters and conservationists, and hope that the craft they share continues to inspire and connect the next generation of birders and hunters to conserve and protect waterfowl and the habitats they call home.

Click here to see more great works of art by Michael Braun.

Saving Endangered Species One Artwork at a Time

Young artists from around the country are collectively using their talents to save threatened and endangered species.


2016 Grand Prize Winner – Miles Yun

This year the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, which is a national celebration to recognize endangered species and their habitats, is on May 19th. There are over 2,054 species worldwide that are endangered or threatened, and over 1,436 exist in the U.S. alone. These species are an important part of our ecosystem.

As part of this event, young artists across the U.S. are getting involved to raise awareness of the decline of these important species.  The Endangered Species Coalition (ESC), along with partner organizations including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, is hosting the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest.


2016 K-2 Grade Category Winner – Rachel Yang

The 2017 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest is open to K-12 grade students, also including students that are homeschooled or are in youth/art programs. The Endangered Species Coalition is asking youth artists to use their artistic talents to become an ambassador for these species by submitting and original pieces of artwork.

Nationally, a panel of judges will choose winners in four categories: Grades K-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th and 9th-12th.


2016 3-5 Grade Category Winner – Sophia Xie

The grand prize winner will be selected from the grade-level winners. The grand prize-winner will receive a round-trip flight arranged by the Endangered Species Coalition to Washington, D.C. and accommodations chosen by the Endangered Species Coalition for himself/herself and one guardian to attend a rewards ceremony in May, 2017. The grand prize-winner will also receive an art lesson from a professional wildlife artist (in person or via Skype) and $50 worth of art supplies.

It’s a great way to be part of an important cause and to help make a difference in your community. Deadline for entries is March 1st. Keep a look out for your local Endangered Species Day celebrations on May 19th!


2016 6-8 Grade Category Winner – Katrina Sharonin

For more information about the Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest and to gain access to rules & information on judging criteria, visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org


2016 9-12 Grade Category Winner – Elizabeth Kiernicki

A project of the Endangered Species Coalition, Endangered Species Day is also supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),along with numerous conservation and education organizations,including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, National Audubon Society, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Jane Goodall Institute, North American Association for Environmental Education, National Garden Clubs, Sierra Club, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association,  San Diego Zoo, Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation, and Defenders of Wildlife.

Flying into Philly: 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is gearing up for our favorite art contest. The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest is being held in Philadelphia this year on September 9 and 10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Federal Duck Stamp is one of the most successful conservation initiatives in U.S history. Since the program began in 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $800 million to acquire and preserve more than 5.7 million acres of bird and wildlife habitat.

Duck Stamp

Photo 1: This year’s Duck Stamp is currently being sold for $25. Put your stamp on conservation and purchase Duck Stamps here!

Throughout the summer, the refuge will be promoting the contest with some special programming, including bird themed summer camp weeks, film showings at various locations around the city, waterfowl related activities and tabling on the refuge every Wednesday in August from 9am-1pm, plus much more! Click here for a full list of what’s happening and the latest information about the contest.

Hooded Merganser Drawing summer camp

Summer camp participant working hard on a Hooded Merganser drawing

We’ve also partnered with Art Sphere, Inc to promote the contest and get young people excited about celebrating conservation through art. Art Sphere will be leading 10 art workshops at different rec centers throughout the city in July and August.  So far, John Heinz staff has visited one of these workshops at the Towey Rec Center in Philadelphia, bringing with them some taxidermy ducks, and teaching the students about duck anatomy, adaptations and the importance of wetland habitats.  After the presentation, students drew ducks using a variety of mediums and techniques, including individual drawings and a group collage. We saw some amazing work come out of their projects. The artwork ranged from very realistic to very colorful and abstract. Everyone did a great job and had a lot of fun!

Art Sphere urban mallard

One student’s project featuring a Mallard Duck in the city

Students also had the amazing opportunity to paint a permanent mural featuring ducks and duck habitat on the walls at the Towey Rec Center. How exciting that they will be leaving a lasting impression on the rec center!

Duck mural

Two students having a great time making their mark on conservation by painting this awesome mural at the Towey Rec Center

We are having a great time in Philadelphia this summer celebrating the Duck Stamp and connecting conservation through art, so follow our updates using the hashtag #DuckStampPHL. Be sure to come check us out on September 9 and 10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. General admission to the museum will be free on those dates!

The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest and affiliated programming is made possible by our sponsors at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Friends of Heinz RefugeDucks Unlimited, Pennsylvania Game Commission, William Penn Foundation and National Audubon Society.