In 2013, I was honored to win the Walleye stamp competition for the state of Minnesota. In the process of creating the design, I became fascinated with this fish, whos ghostly eyes and spinny fins made it seems almost pre-hostoric in charater. Because of the DNR rules, I could not enter the contest again until 2016, so had time to poner a new design.
I decided to try something different-having the walleye out of the water. No design from past years ever won with such a depiction. Walleye are known to fight in the water, but unlike bass, trout or northern, are seldom seen jumping, if ever. Yet, I knew such a composition could be compelling if created accurately.
Such a composition gave me the chance to depict a landscape, sky and shoreline. I choose to create a sunset scene on the Northshore, communicating the drama of the light on the walleye and water. By depicting a strongly fierce walleye throwing a lure at the point of capture, I calculated my design would be unique and have a chance to win.
It has been an honor to win the 2016 Delaware Trout Stamp contest. Over the many years of its history, this competition has drawn the interest of the nations leading wildlife artists. To take top honors in this contest in not easy. It is my first win in a habitat competition outside the state of Minnesota.
My design was inspired by the comment of a fishing buddy. He stated it was interesting that so many designs depict a singular trout when they so often move in schools. Inspired by this thought, and the recent success I had in catching some beautiful browns on the Rush and Kinickinick rivers near my home, I composed my design. My focus was the depiction of penetrating light on trout poised to dine towards the surface of a deep clear stream pool.
Nicholas T. Markell studied art at a young age in southern Minnesota where his interest in landscape painting and wildlife art began. He earned a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul where Nicholas' artistic pursuits engaged him in many different subjects in a wide array of styles and forms. The quality and diversity of his portfolio won him respect as a commercial artist in Minnesota where he became an Art Director, guiding creative projects for several prominent organizations.
In 1987 Nicholas attended to his religious yearnings by studying for Christian ministry, earning a Master of Arts degree in Theology and a Master of Divinity degree from the Washington Theological Union, now located in Washington, DC. After seriously considering ordination, Nicholas ultimately favored the art studio to the pulpit, where his creative quest continues and remains strongly evident in his art. He has received numerous accolades and awards in his career, most notably those given by the Washington Building Congress, PRINT publications and Ministry and Liturgy magazine.
Nicholas was chosen the winner of the 2012 Minnesota Trout & Salmon Stamp competition. His design of a rainbow trout was chosen for the 30th anniversary of the program. The following year, Nicholas design depicting several walleyes feeding naturally while they move in shallow waters at daybreak earned him top honors as winner of the 2013 Minnesota Walleye Stamp.
For the past three years Nicholas has been in the Minnesota Wild Turkey Stamp finals, placing third, and second twice. This year he won the contest with a depiction of a hen and strutting tom.
“This year I thought I had a good chance, but a lot depends on the judges and the other artist who enter. An artist for this particular competition has a better chance if they depict a strutting tom-it’s the classic stance we think of for wild turkeys. Of the twenty designs which have won since 1997, sixteen have depicted a strutting tom. The other two characteristics of my image that I thought might make it distinct from other entries were the snowy landscape and the shed antler.
My vocation and career is that of a sacred artist. For the past 25 years, I have focused on art for worship, such as paintings, murals and art glass. Nature keeps me connected with the reality that God is also known through the majesty of creation. What¬ I enjoy the most about wildlife art is that it challenges me to pay attention to the details of the natural world. I always end up seeing things I never saw before.”
I would not have entered the 2012 Minnesota Trout Stamp contest if the government offices had not shut down. The deadlines for the contest were extended which gave me the time I needed to complete a design. After a trout fishing trip with friends to the Brule in Wisconsin and Baptism River on the North Shore, I returned home to finish the design before I hand-delivered it to the DNR building in St. Paul just before the deadline.
The lures I use for fishing trout are spinners, most handmade. That is what I know best and depicted in my design. I tried to go beyond a naturalistic rendering to show something of the personality and the “grace” of the moment. I have imaged the trout in a crescent shape, the form of a rainbow, echoing the name of the species itself. For me, this meant seeing within the “natural” something of the divine. Entering habitat art contests is a bit like fishing itself. I always hope to catch the “big one” and this time I did.
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This particular contest was of interest to me as an
angler, but also as a Minnesotan. Walleye fishing certainly has a long and venerable tradition is this
area of the country. As our state fish, walleyes have been referred to as an
icon in the minds and hearts of Minnesotans. Like the loon, lady slipper and
monarch butterfly, the walleye has a special place in our culture, imagination
and regional identity.
Last year I decided to enter the walleye contest for
the first time. I submitted a design of
a single walleye going for a plastic lure under the ice. I thought the design was good, and learned
a lot from its creation. It received third place honors, behind the designs of
John House and Mark Kness, two highly accomplished wildlife artists. I was
encouraged by the results. After the
contest, I immediately knew what I was
going to do differently the next year.
Walleye are a unique looking fish, named for how
their eyes become pearlescent when exposed to light. However, depicting a
walleye with reflective eyes can be tricky. I did not want them to appear void of personality. So, for this design, I chose to depict
several walleyes feeding naturally and just starting to be affected by bright
streaming light as they move in shallow waters at daybreak. The judges
apparently agreed that this was a good decision.