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Painting Her Way to the Top
On April 20, 2006, 15-year-old Rebekah Nastav of Amoret, Missouri, took first place in the 2006–2007 Junior Duck Stamp Contest with her acrylic painting of a redhead duck.
After her third time entering the contest, Rebekah Nastav won the annual junior duck stamp contest sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As contest judges and an audience listened, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Marshall Jones notified Rebekah by phone. “It is my great pleasure to tell you I’m here in an auditorium full of people in Washington, D.C., who’ve been admiring your painting of a redhead for the past several hours,” Jones said before congratulating the young artist. Rebekah’s painting will appear on this year’s $5 Junior Duck Stamp. She also won $5,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the first day of sale ceremony.
Rebekah first entered the Junior Duck Stamp contest two years ago. She won first place for her age group in Missouri in 2004 and 2005. “Winning the first time, I thought I might as well do it again,” she says. After winning best of show for Missouri in 2006, her painting was submitted along with each state’s best of show to the national contest. Her design, entitled “Morning Swim,” beat 51 other entries at the national level.
When Rebekah decided to enter the duck stamp contest for the third time in a row, she first had to settle on a subject. “I didn’t exactly pay much attention to what breed I was going to paint this year; I was just looking through duck photos,” she says. “All I wanted was a picture that had good structure to it, that would look good on a stamp. It happened to be a redhead.” After using the photographed duck as a model for her painting, Rebekah had to create a background. “I’ve always liked pictures that have light shining on them, like in the morning,” she says. Her art teacher taught her how to cover her duck with a paper shape that exactly matched its outline and airbrush the background—a slate-gray sky flooded with sunlight.
The 9th-grader has been painting “pretty much forever.” From her earliest experiments with finger paint, Rebekah has tried out a variety of media, but she now uses mainly pencil and paint. Her subject is usually wildlife, especially horses. Since she is homeschooled, she says, “I get to spend a lot more time outside instead of being in a public school all day.”
“She’s always pursued whatever she’s interested in with a passion,” says her mother, Janice Nastav. Rebekah has managed to learn the fiddle, guitar, mandolin, piano, viola, and electric bass—even though nobody else in her family plays an instrument. “My dad had a guitar and he never played it, so I had fun playing around on it,” she explains.
“I really don’t believe she would have been able to excel if she had not had the time,” says Janice. “All of her childhood she spent every spare moment doodling or drawing. She had to express herself.”