When Paul Makuchal won the 39th annual Maryland Migratory Game Bird Stamp Design Contest last month, he didn't think about it being his third win. He was humbled.
“It was a great surprise when I won. It's a pretty competitive art contest,” said Makuchal, 36, of Pocomoke City. “There are a lot of good artists in Maryland and a couple of them have won the federal contest, which is a really prestigious prize. So it's definitely an honor to win in a state that has a really competitive field of artists.”
Makuchal with his painting “Peaceful Swim,” inspired by a photograph of a lesser scaup, a species of North American diving duck. A panel of five experts in fields ranging from biology to stamp printing selected the work over 20 other entries.
“I get my reference from pictures and stuff like that, and I just happened to have just the right picture. Just the way the sun and the light was hitting it, I just thought it'd make a really great design,” Makuchal said. “Of all the three designs [I had], I thought that'd be the strongest piece.”
Makuchal's interest in wildlife art developed early. In 1998, at age 21, he became the youngest artist to win the Maryland stamp design contest. He won his second state contest in 2006.
“A lot of the artists who I admired had entered this duck stamp contest in the '80s and '90s ... when the popularity was at its height,” Makuchal said. “And a lot of artists I followed had won these contests, and that's something that influenced me to do it. A lot of the states around the country started having a junior duck stamp contest, and I got into entering that.”
But before he could follow in his idols' footsteps and enter the world of competitive duck stamp design, Makuchal had to get that junior competition started in the state of Maryland.
“Our state didn't have the funding to have a junior duck stamp contest yet, but I wrote numerous letters to the state legislature to try to get it started,” Makuchal said. “They ended up getting us the funding, and I ended up winning the state of Maryland and getting third in the federal [contest].”
While he would enjoy turning his craft into a moneymaking venture, Makuchal is content creating his art in his spare time.
“It's more of a hobby of love. I'd like to do it part time, but the way the economy is and everything else, it's a little hard to do,” he said. “But it's a great hobby for me.”