Colorado wildlife artist Dan Andrews is no stranger to winning the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s conservation stamp art award. His art was selected in 1986 (pronghorn) and 2016 (swift fox).
Still, when his oil painting of a Pacific marten was crowned the winner of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s 39th annual collectible conservation stamp art contest this spring, it felt as rewarding as it did 36 years ago.
“It’s still as exciting as the first time,” Andrews said.
As the contest winner, “Out on a Limb” will be featured on conservation stamps and prints sold by the department.
Wyoming Game and Fish leadership selects different species each year to be featured in the conservation stamp art contest. The subject for next year’s competition will be the beaver.
“We try to select species that represent the full breadth of Wyoming’s wildlife,” Sara DiRienzo, a Public Information Officer for the department, said.
For many years, the conservation stamp functioned in a regulatory manner; most Wyoming recreationists were required to purchase a stamp featuring the art to supplement their licenses before going hunting or fishing.
That changed in 2020, when Wyoming Game and Fish decided to go electronic with the conservation stamp licensing process, DiRienzo said.
But the artwork still plays a role in conservation funds.
Nowadays, the department sells stamps and prints of winning artwork as collectibles, with the profits going toward funding wildlife projects around the state. Original pieces of winning artwork, including Andrews’, are kept at Game and Fish headquarters in Cheyenne.
“We’ve kept the tradition of that going because it’s such a good way for the public to still participate in a project with Game and Fish,” DiRienzo said. “We are so lucky to have so many great submissions from artists that really love wildlife and depict them in a way that embodies Wyoming.”
Beyond artistic merit, the panel of judges also evaluates depictions based on scientific accuracy, including the animals’ appearance and the correctness of the habitat in which they were placed.
Having traveled to states across the Western U.S., including Wyoming and Alaska, Andrews often snaps his own photos of animals and landscapes as reference material. However, this year’s featured carnivorous weasel, the elusive and rare Pacific marten, isn’t easy to spot in the wild.
“This presented a challenge of an animal that I don’t get to paint very often. It was fun to get into it,” Andrews said.
After a series of preliminary sketches, Andrews painted the piece over about a month.
“I hope that the stamps, as always, help get people to think about conserving wildlife and helping to preserve their habitat,” he said.
This story is supported by a grant through Wyoming’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the National Science Foundation.