The handsome shoveler duck stares out of the painting with the complicated mixture of pride and defiance that waterfowl lovers admire. He's guarding his turf: a placid female, a gray patch of shoreline stubble, a glassy sheet of blue. It's a painting about the transitional sensations of the mating season.
Artist David T. Turnbaugh photographed the male duck at wood carver Jim Sprankle's pond on the Eastern Shore. He found the female duck swimming in Henry Singer's pond near Westminster. Bringing the two together created a magic moment in duck art history.
"Almost Spring" defeated 93 other contest entries to become the 1991-1992 Maryland Migratory Waterfowl Stamp. It appears on the license required of every waterfowl hunter in the state. And hundreds of waterfowl art lovers have signed up to collect the stamp's limited-edition prints.
The Baltimore painter will be introducing his duck stamp prints to a regional audience this weekend during the 21st Easton Waterfowl Festival, held in the Eastern Shore town. Officials expect the festival, one of the biggest regional fund-raisers for waterfowl conservation, to attract roughly 20,000 visitors.
The celebration includes an auction of antique and contemporary decoys -- scheduled at 2 p.m. today -- exhibitions of waterfowl paintings, wood carvings and photographs, and demonstrations of decoy carvings by many of the 500 exhibitors. The ever-popular World Championship Goose Calling Contest and the Mason-Dixon Regional Duck Calling Contest are scheduled tonight.
The festival also features a demonstration of how hunting dogs work at retrieving game and a demonstration of sporting clays, a form of target shooting.
Conceived as a non-profit conservation group, Waterfowl Festival Inc., which organizes the annual festivals, has raised $2.3 million for the state's waterfowl conservation and education projects since its beginning. The group is run by roughly 1,000 volunteers.
The Maryland duck stamp contest, begun in 1974, also started as a conservation benefit; each year the program raises about $270,000, according to the state's Department of Natural Resources. So far, the state has printed 65,000 stamps of Mr. Turnbaugh's shovelers.
The 54-year-old artist is known throughout the region for his meticulous, smooth-surfaced renderings of waterfowl, skipjacks and rural landscapes. It is the second time he has won the stamp contest: His oil painting of wintering Canada geese was chosen in 1985.
A Towson native, Mr. Turnbaugh studied at the Maryland Institute, College of Art with the late Jacques Maroger, a restorer and the former technical director of the laboratory of the Louvre Museum.
After teaching art for 12 years in Baltimore County schools, Mr. Turnbaugh began to paint full-time in the basement of his Ramblewood home, supporting his wife Maureen and their three children on his skill and popularity as a realist.
When he won his first duck stamp contest six years ago, he and his wife founded Maryland Realist Ltd. to publish and wholesale prints of his paintings. So far, the couple has printed limited editions of five skipjack paintings -- he is painting a series of portraits of the Chesapeake's 25 remaining skipjacks -- and two waterfowl paintings as well as the duck stamp compositions.
Four hundred "Almost Spring" prints will also bear remarques, small sketches or paintings on the border that make each print unique. Painting remarques -- each one takes about four hours -- has occupied a lot of Mr. Turnbaugh's time for the past few months.
Somehow, though, he found the time to finish an oil painting of merganser ducks, which will be exhibited today in the "Gold Room," the festival's pricey venue for wildlife and waterfowl paintings and sculpture. This year's exhibition includes such nationally known artists as Ken Carlson, David Shepherd and David Moss.
Other regional artists include John W. Taylor, Ned Ewell, Paula Waterman, Martha Hudson, Shirley Walker, Peter Hanks, Claiborne Gregory and Paul McGehee.
Mr. Turnbaugh will also sell his duck stamp prints at the festival's Christ Church site.
"Life is not normal when you win the duck stamp," he says. "But it's fun. A lot of nice things happen."
The 21st Easton Waterfowl Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow. General admission is $8 per day; children 14 and under are free.
The 21st annual Waterfowl Festival continues this weekend in Easton. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow.
A one-day ticket costs $8; children under 14 are admitted free with an adult. Only the calling contests and decoy auctions require small additional fees.
While hotels within a 25-mile radius of Easton are typically booked months before the festival, the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce at (410) 822-4606 can provide information on accommodations.
Decoy auction: 2 p.m. today, Easton High School.
Goose and duck-calling contests: 7 p.m. today, the high school.
Retriever demonstrations: 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. today; 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. tomorrow, Bay Street.
Market gunning demonstrations: 3 p.m. today and 1 p.m. tomorrow, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels.
Here is a list of locations of major events.
High school: Buy, sell and swap; collectibles.
Elks Lodge: Blue Room art (priced under $700).
St. Mark's Church: Artifacts, museum showcase.
Middle school: Gift Shop, collectibles.
Christ Church: Duck stamps.
Academy of the Arts: "Through Artists' Eyes" This exhibit of traditional wildlife art on loan from galleries and private collections will be at the academy through Nov. 30.
Armory: Carving, festival headquarters.
Mayor and Council Building: Eastern Shore artists.
Tidewater Inn: Collectibles, Gold Room art (priced above $700).
Avalon Theatre: Waterfowl Festival seminars.
Historical Society: Photography.
Fire Hall: Workshop.