BREWER — Ducky. Just ducky.
That’s the sentiment around 14-year-old Abigail Bennett these days — and it’s not meant as any fowl wisequack. The eighth-grade from Brewer Community School just won a contest with 483 entries and will now represent Maine in the national competition in Washington, D.C.
It’s called the Junior Duck Stamp contest, run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Competition began at the state level, where Cyndy Loftin of Brewer was one of the five judges for the Maine contest on March 7. The entries were blind, meaning that none of the judges knew whose entries were whose.
“It was particularly exciting to see that the Best of Show selection was created by an artist from my town,” Loftin said.
There were four age-range categories: grades K-3, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, and grades 10-12. There were three first-, three second-, and three third-place entries per category, plus 16 total honorable mentions.
The entries could be in any medium such as paints, pencils, or inks and could be realistic or stylized. Repeated rounds of judging looked at the things like morphology, setting, and pose.
The judges then chose one of the first-place drawings as Best of Show, which sent Bennett’s drawing to the nationals.
For Loftin, Bennett’s stood out for her in many ways.
“I think it was the only artwork we reviewed that was drawn only with pencil,” Loftin said. “There was beautiful detail in the drawing, particularly in the feathers; she did a nice job capturing that as well as the pose of the blue-winged teal, and the setting and overall composition [were] accurate as well. Collectively, these characteristics made her drawing stand out.”
Sue Ann Gaitings, coordinator for the Gifted & Talented Program at BCS, said that officials told her that it was rare that a black-and-white drawing was picked; everyone tends to gravitate toward color drawings. But that didn’t sway this young artist.
“Abigail stood her ground,” Gaitings said. “The pencil has atmosphere. I think it was the detail, I think it was the pose; it was a combination of things.”
Bennett’s drawing wasn’t, as they say, duck soup; it was hard work. She spent about two weeks on it, although she’s not sure how many hours were involved. She just knows she loves drawing, as she has since she was very young.
“I like to enter a lot of art competitions because I really like doing art,” Bennett said. “I found this one and I thought that it would just be interesting to enter because I like drawing animals.”
This, however, was her first duck, but if this entry’s success is any indication, it probably won’t be the last time she dabbles and dives into such artwork. For her win, Bennett also received a prize package along with her blue ribbon and certificate, including colored pencils — an amusing irony for a girl who opted for a black-and-white drawing — the National Audubon Society book “The Sibley Guide to Birds,” and L.L. Bean binoculars suitable for bird watching.
Whatever happens at the nationals, this win is a nice feather in Bennett’s cap. And while she’s sure to take wing with future duck drawings, she has some advice for young artists who might be nervous about entering contests.
“I would say just try your best, because everybody has a chance to win,” she said.
The national judging will be on April 18, after which Bennett’s drawing, and all the other state winners, will tour the United States throughout the year. The national winner will create the $5 Junior Duck Stamp; proceeds from stamp sales will support environmental education through awards and scholarships for students, teachers, and schools.
To learn more about the Junior Duck Stamp competition, and to prepare to enter next year, visit www.fws.gov/juniorduck.