Delaware artist’s paintings soar to new heights

A love of birds gave Richard Clifton’s art wings, wings that carried his work far from the farm where as a child he first began to draw.


Richard’s first inspiration came from his father, watching him work the fields of his family’s Delaware farm.

“I used to draw tractors and farm equipment with crayons and colored pencils,” remembers Richard, who has been painting now for about 25 years.

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As Richard got older he began to draw various birds he would see around the farm and paint them in using a basic watercolor set.

Richard is now a full-time wildlife artist. His works include not only birds but other wildlife, like wolves, deer, even killer whales. They have a life to them, you can almost see the duck swimming or hear the sound of the water as the geese come in for a landing.

Richard works from the back of a painting to the front. He starts with an air-brushed background, that blurred background effect makes the painting seem more alive more deep. You can almost picture yourself there, wherever “there” may be for you. That look is by design, of course.

“You can look at this and get lost in this painting and start to think, I could have been there or this reminds me of a place,” Richard said.

Painting has many stages, for Richard the beginning and ending are the most exciting. Most artists will tell you the excitement of thinking of a painting, sketching it out and getting the work down on canvas is the best part. The middle can cause many problems for an artist as they have already begun and may be thinking of the end or starting the next work.

“Finishing is another exciting part of painting, because you’ve got it complete, you can sit it up, you can look at it. That’s a good moment, makes you feel good.” Says Richard.

The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp

If you are an avid waterfowl hunter you may already be familiar with the federal or state duck stamp. The stamps serve as a hunting pass and raise money for conservation of wildlife and the natural habitat where wildlife lives.

“Our family were waterfowl hunters, so I knew my dad went water fowl hunting and he had to buy one of the federal duck stamps every year”, says Richard.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency’s duck stamp competition is the only art competition sponsored by the federal government.

Richard would see the stamps his father bought every year and was inspired by them, eventually states started offering their own stamps and having competitions to be featured on them. Richard kept working on his art trying to get better and began entering the competitions.

In 1992 Richard finally won his first competition, it was for Idaho’s duck stamp that year. Eventfully Richard won in Delaware and in 2006 he went on to win the federal duck stamp competition. Currently Richard has won the privilege of having his work appear on 43 different duck stamps.

This year Richard got another surprise; he was selected as the Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year.

“That’s kind of almost like winning the federal duck stamp contest for me as a personal goal as an artist that was one of my career goals”, says Richard.

Now by this point you may be asking yourself why the fascination with ducks, there are so many other things to paint. If you have ever sat by a lake and watched ducks, geese, or other birds go about their day and found yourself getting lost in it, you may have an idea of how Richard feels.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching ducks work. When they circle and set their wings and their working a wetland and thinking about coming in, I could sit there and stare at that all day long,” says Richard.

“It makes you want to do them justice by painting an image that you feel like nature would be proud of.”


You can get more information on Richard and his work when you visit him on the web. You can also visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the web to find out where to purchase duck stamps to help with conservation efforts.

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