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Stamp of approval

CCHS seniors gain state honors in national art contest

An oil painting submitted by CCHS senior Breuklyn Opp, which took first place among her age category in Iowa.  Contributed photos
An oil painting submitted by CCHS senior Breuklyn Opp, which took first place among her age category in Iowa.
Contributed photos

By Kate Hayden

khayden@charlescitypress.com

Colored pencil and white gel pen submitted by CCHS senior Megan Roethler, which won second place in Iowa.
Colored pencil and white gel pen submitted by CCHS senior Megan Roethler, which won second place in Iowa.

To many citizens, ducks are either inherently peculiar birds or a nice dinner at the right time of year. But to the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program and Art Contest?

Portraying North American duck species is serious business. And Charles City High School seniors Breuklyn Opp and Megan Roethler have serious talent. The two students placed first and second in their age group at the contest’s state level, which is hosted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

While Opp and Roethler’s portraits won’t continue on to the next round of judging for the 2016-17 national duck stamp –– Iowa’s Best in Show portrait, chosen from across age categories, will make that step up –– it’s another addition to a growing portfolio for the students, who dabble in multiple disciplines as part of Brian Bohlen’s Studio Arts class.

Artists chose from a list of pre-approved duck species, and were judged on portrayals of anatomical and environmental accuracy, appropriate textures/colors and the ability to scale a portrait down to a 1 1/2 x 2 inch stamp. Students were allowed to use photos or other pieces as references, but where asked to produce original, horizontal pieces instead of copying a photograph.

Roethler and Opp had varied wildlife-portrayal experience before submitting entries in early March: Roethler, who focuses on realism in her work, had never done a wildlife-focused portrait before, and was inspired to begin a mixed-media, blue heron sculpture that goes on display at the high school’s art show. Opp spent nearly all of last year portraying wildlife in her projects, and decided to switch gears after turning in her contest entry.

“Man, this is just kind of a rut, I need to do something different. So then I ended up with a bunch of crazy stuff all over. It kind of made me stray away from all the similar things,” Opp said.

“We switched places,” Roethler added.

The inspired department from canvas to sculpture was new for her, too: “I’m not really a sculpture person, so that was kind of a big step for me,” she said.

Roethler created her portrait of a bird covered in water droplets with colored pencil on mat board, outlining the droplets with gel pen to make them stand out. Opp’s piece of two geese taking flight was oil paint, “probably a little more impressionistic” than what the contest typically awards, she said.

“I didn’t really do the style that they want for the competition. They have a very specific style for these stamps that have actually won in the past,” Opp said.

Their contest entries may not be returned to them until June, but community members have an upcoming chance to see more of their work: both seniors will be displaying pieces in the school’s Art Show, opening Thursday at the Charles City Arts Center. The CCHS art department will a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

“We both have some sculptures and different stuff this year. I have some photos, I did some photography this year,” Roethler said.

For both artists, it’s the final stretch for tweaks and touch-ups, although their final item list is settled.

“I’ve got a few things that need final adjustments at home, I have to bring them in. I have a little bit of work to do,” Opp said.

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