By Patrick Glenn
With two weeks left in the 2014 California Duck Stamp Contest, alumnus John Harris was still torn between which of the required ducks to paint—the greater scaup or the lesser scaup.
Harris, who works as an artist preparator for Engineering Services at Epcot and has worked at Walt Disney World for 25 years, settled on the lesser scaup. A month later he received word from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that he won the competition.
"My goal was to give the painting a softly-lit, serene background and put the viewer right out in the water with the subject," he says. "I used the contrasting white and dark colors of the duck against the soft lighting of the warm and cool colors coming off the water and waves.”
Harris’ lesser scaup painting now becomes the official design for the 2014-2015 stamp, which is offered to anyone who purchases a California Duck Validation required for hunting waterfowl in the state. In addition, his work was displayed at the Pacific Flyway Decoy Association’s 44th Annual Classic Wildlife Art Festival in Sacramento, California, in July.
Harris has always been interested in painting but attributes his passion for painting wildlife and the environment to his years at UF. “I started to focus more on the sculpture of animals working in the ceramic medium,” he says, noting that his black labrador, Webbers, was one of his first subjects. This, along with his love for wildlife and enjoyment of bass fishing and duck hunting were major influences in his early work as an artist.
Harris, who graduated with a BFA in ceramics in 1984, began entering conservation and duck stamp contests after seeing a painting in a Florida wildlife magazine. In addition to his recent honor he has won the Florida Waterfowl Stamp competition three times.
“It is great honor, and I feel very fortunate to have won the California contest this year,” says Harris. ”California has a long history of having some of the finest and most successful artists as the designers of their conservation stamps. What a wonderful feeling knowing that my artwork will soon join this classic tradition.”