- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Chris Smith is as comfortable painting in the studio as he is hunting in the woods.

The Suttons Bay artist has made a living from his combined love of art and the great outdoors. His latest piece - a pair of green-winged teals riding an autumn breeze over calm water - earned Smith a first place finish in the 2016 Michigan State Duck Stamp competition.

“You’re putting all your heart and soul into a painting,” Smith told the Traverse City Record-Eagle ( https://bit.ly/1FTaYj2 ). “Sometimes all your hopes get trampled on, and other times you win and you feel great.”

Smith, 43, won the state contest for the first time in 2005. He placed second in 2013, took first again in 2014 and returned after a one-year hiatus to claim the 2016 title.

“If you win you’re not allowed to enter for a year, but they ask you to come back as one of the judges,” he said.



His first-place painting will be reproduced on the Michigan Duck Hunters Association’s annual duck stamps, which until a handful of years ago were distributed to every duck hunter in the state who bought a license.

The licenses now are electronic, but hunters can still order the stamps for their collection directly from the association.

Smith grew up fishing and hunting and graduated in 1995 from Lake Superior State University with a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management. His firsthand and textbook knowledge of North American wildlife feeds his artistry.

“That gave me a background in the wildlife I was going to be painting and drawing,” Smith said.

His work has been featured on the cover of national hunting magazines, including The Pointing Dog Journal, Just Labs and The Retriever Journal, but his favorite paintings are more personal. He specializes in dogs and wildlife scenes commissioned by pet owners and nature-lovers from across the country.

“So instead of trying to find a print of their Labrador retriever, they come to me and get an original oil painting of their actual Lab,” Smith said. “It’s one-of-a-kind, and people really have fun with that.”

He’s thrilled to capture another first-place finish in the Michigan Duck Stamp competition, but he has his sights set on a more competitive accolade. He’s submitted a painting every year for the last dozen or so to the Federal Duck Stamp contest, and while he’s made the top 20 he’s never received a first-place nod.

The federal stamps still are handed out to duck hunters across the country when they buy their licenses.

“That’s the big one,” he said. “That’s the one we all want to win.”

Smith goes hiking every day in the fall with his black Lab, Mabel, combing his surroundings for inspiration - and looking for waterfowl during hunting season. He returns home to his studio and gets to work while Mabel naps beneath his feet.

He’s already brainstorming the scene for his next Michigan Duck Stamp entry while out hunting this season.

“There are so many good artists out there, and to have a bunch of judges say, ‘I think we like yours a little better,’ that’s just so cool,” Smith said. “I’m already thinking of my entry in two years.”

___

Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, https://www.record-eagle.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide