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Stamp champ

Freeport artist has landed on several prestigious wildlife stamps 

Scot Storm had never heard of a wildlife stamp contest until the 1990s when, working as an architect in the Twin Cities, his roommate’s artist girlfriend told him about it.  Today, some 45 such honors later, the Freeport artist is the creator of the Ducks Unlimited National Conservation Waterfowl Stamp, the Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, and the North Carolina Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, all for 2015. The national award shows a pair of canvasbacks soaring over a South Dakota wetland, while the state stamp features a colorful harlequin duck surfing a Minnesota lake.

His acrylic art consists only of wildlife subjects, some viewed from his camera lens.

“Actually I do a lot from memory, especially ducks, because I’ve painted them before, but I use a lot of photos when it’s stuff I haven’t painted a whole lot of,” he said. Pointing out a picture of three mischievous raccoons frolicking in an old wringer washer, he says that a lady in Oklahoma sent him the picture and left the rest up to him.  A painting of a deer in a clearing “is somebody’s specific spot where he saw this particular deer, so he hired me to put his favorite hunting spot together with the deer he saw there.” But he much prefers to do his own photography. He sometimes travels to other states just to get the light and the atmosphere just right. Recently, he flew to Alaska to photograph the background for a duck picture. Then he went to Louisiana to do a commissioned painting of a landscape with ducks. He took photographs there and did the actual painting in his studio. He is particular about these photos.

“Most people don’t know how to take pictures,” he said. “I want to make sure I work with the light. They might have an evening setting, where the sun right before sunset is so vivid on things. I want to hear the story. I want to walk the property. I have done it for people who have sent a photo, but I really try to persuade them to let me do it. I think it’s more successful if I can do that.” The results are obvious.  Scot’s pheasants appear to fly right out of the frame; a Kodiak bear looks triumphant as he snags an unwary salmon; raccoons scamper; ducks negotiate turbulent waters.

He sells his work as originals or prints, many of which he turns out himself.

Scot, who grew up in Walker, did some art as a youngster, but he tended to use superheroes as subjects. He earned his degree in architecture at North Dakota State University in 1986, then worked in his field in the Cities and then St. Cloud. Painting gradually became an evening pastime, his only art education consisting of a couple of artists’ workshops in Montana. By 1999 he was ready to turn his talents to full-time art.  He points out that there are no monetary awards for stamp competitions, but artists retain the rights to their paintings, which become highly prized to collectors.

An artist’s career might not be as many people envision. “To do art professionally is not something you can just jump into. You have to establish your name. You win contests, do publicity, go to different sorts of shows.  One year I did over 26 shows in one year, from the East Coast to the North and South. I traveled a lot. You do a lot of that stuff to try to build your name,” he said.  “You can sell a lot at one event and none at another. Sometimes you do those shows just to get your name out there.”  They include Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever events.

By 1999, he said, “I was at a point where enough money was coming in that I could take the chance.  It was actually my wife, Kristin, who pushed me. We had two young kids, twins, and I had to pick, because I was spending as much time in art as at a full-time job. The third painting I did was for the Minnesota Duck Stamp competition, and I took second.

Minnesota is known as a hotbed of wildlife artists, and in that contest there were Federal Duck Stamp winners, so it is a very high-prestige competition. I started to think that maybe I had something that I could work with.”  One major award was the 2004 Federal Duck Stamp.

In the beginning, Kristin helped with the business end, such as marketing, shipping, and setting up shows. Today most of these chores are done by an agency called Wild Wings of Lake City, which handles some 70 artists.

Federal Duck Stamps are not valid for postage. Their correct name is Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps. Created in 1934 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they were to be attached to a license to hunt migratory waterfowl.  Today they generate funds–some $800 million to date–to purchase or lease wetland habitat.  They can also be a pass to national wildlife refuges, and they are highly prized by collectors, along with the matching prints. These contests are open to anyone 18 or older.

State duck stamps work in much the same way, but the Minnesota contest is open to Minnesota residents only.  Some other states let anyone enter, which accounts for Scot’s winning awards in North Carolina and Indiana. Both federal and state stamps are required for hunting waterfowl. Scot’s current winning stamp, issued by Ducks Unlimited, does not go on a license. It can only be purchased at Ducks Unlimited events, the proceeds going to conservation projects.

Storm’s work is available at Art Barbarians, Rogers; Wild Wings, Lake City and in several galleries across the country, and at his Freeport studio. For more information, see

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