Six-year-old Madison Grimm won the 2013 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest with an oil painting of a canvasback duck. Her artistic skills were awarded with first prize in the contest with a $5,000 scholarship grant. However, her young age and masterful technique have led some to question her work’s authenticity.

Madison Grimm is the daughter of Adam Grimm, an accomplished wildlife artist and photographer. Shortly after it was announced that his daughter had won the competition, Adam Grimm received a call from officials who told him that she would be disqualified after the fact. According to the Argus Leader, the reason was that Madison had used a graphite transfer based on one of her father’s photographs. A transfer is a popular technique used by many artists to print an outline onto canvas using tracing paper and pencil. Using a published work is prohibited specifically by the competition’s rules.

“A design may not be copied or traced from any published photograph or artwork,” Adam Grimm told the Argus Leader. “When they called and told me, I said, ‘This does not violate the contest rules and regulations. None of my photographs are published.’ Working from unpublished photographs has always been permitted. This does not violate some sort of code of ethics.”

The reward was then given to Peter Coulter, 17, who had come in second with an acrylic painting of snow geese.

The following public outcry strongly favored Madison Grimm and led to a change of heart by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who oversaw the contest. In a press release, the USFWS announced that the title and scholarship money will return to Madison Grimm, along with apologizing for the distress that the controversial move might have caused. Coulter will reportedly receive a $3,000 scholarship.

Madison Grimm and her family is pleased that matters are settled and the young artist intends on following in her father’s footsteps.

“I’m excited and I was amazed that I could’ve done that well,” Madison told “I kind of want to be like him, so I thought it looked like fun.”

Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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One thought on “Duck Stamp Controversy: Original Six-year-old Winner Reinstated

  1. Any of the people who were in on the original decision to disqualify Madison acted like doofuses when they made that ruling. Don’t they understand their own rules? What ever made them think that the photo was published? Why did they think that? I would love to get an answer from them concerning this.

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