PUBLISHED: 5:13 PM on Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Juneau art students win awards in national contest

When Adam Axmaker, 15, decided to participate in the national Junior Duck Stamp program this year, he wasn't too concerned with his chances of winning the competition designed to teach the importance of wetlands conservation.

"I just like sitting down and drawing," he explained. "The competition itself didn't matter much to me. I just really enjoy art."

And this enjoyment obviously came through in his final product. Axmaker's submission of a Blue-winged teal came in second in the state of Alaska, winning him a ribbon, bird book and art materials, as well as statewide recognition. "I was very surprised to come in second; I wasn't expecting it at all," he said of his submission. "I looked at other pictures that were done in past years, and I didn't think that mine was nearly the same quality."

Adam's artwork showcased a Blue-winged teal standing on a log amid a fall background of trees, grasses and a small lake. "I was told that the judges usually like artwork with bright colors, but I'm not so great at color so I picked a bird that has a lot of black and white, and just a little color on the wings," he explained. "And I drew it with colored pencils, because that's what I'm most familiar with."

Adam wasn't the only Juneau art student to receive praise for his work. Six other students, who along with Adam receive instruction from local artist Tisket Seslar, won honorable mentions in the competition. "It is just phenomenal how well the students did," said Seslar, who teaches art through her private studio. "I am so proud of them! They worked for months on these drawings, and their work showed a lot of detail and depth. I might have offered a little advice, but the end result was all theirs."

Seslar's students who won honorable mention in the nationwide contest include Lily Burger, Rosie Jones, Tesia Meade, Kaleigh Hohenthaner, Olivia Raster and Denali Wentz. The contest, which is sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is open to students in grades K-12 in public and private schools, as well as though youth groups or as individual entries.

"What's really great about the competition is that it doesn't exclude anybody since it's open to all age groups," said Seslar, who says her students got more and more excited as the deadline approached. The winner of each statewide contest goes on to participate in a national competition in Washington, D.C, where the overall winner takes home $5,000 and has their art displayed in different venues and also on a poster designed to promote conservation. Alaska's Best of Show winner was Aurora Firth of Anchor Point, and the overall contest winner was 17-year-old Kerissa Nelson of Grantsburg, Wisconsin.

Though Adam, who is home-schooled, doesn't plan to have a career in art, he does plan to continue to draw. "I've never really considered myself good enough at art to make a living at it, though I have gotten better over the years," he said. "I play piano, and I thought I'd probably major in that at college. I'm not sure what I'll do about art, but I might see if I can draw stuff and sell it for a little side money."

In the meantime, Adam and the rest of Seslar's students will be gearing up for next year's Junior Duck Stamp competition. "This was our first year, and everyone did so well that they're all hot to trot for next year," said Seslar.

To see winning entries in the Junior Duck Stamp competition, visit