The artist is inspired by nature | News, Sports, Jobs


Altoona artist Michael E. Kensinger places a birdhouse in the wetlands near Tipton. Kensinger is inspired by nature and received the “Best of Show” award at the 2021 Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management competition for his painting of wood ducks titled “Sycamore Retreat,” which has been turned into a conservation stamp. Courtesy photo

For Altoona artist Michael E. Kensinger, spending time in nature, creating wildlife-inspired artwork, and caring for the Tyrone region’s wetlands brings him joy and purpose.

In particular, Kensinger received “The best of the show” in the 2021 Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management competition for his painting of wooden ducks entitled “Sycamore retreat”, which has been transformed into a conservation stamp.

Pennsylvania Game Commission stamps are collected by hunters, bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts to support conservation. Proceeds from engravings and stamps are used to support the acquisition of wetlands in Pennsylvania.

As the winning artist, Kensinger received $ 4,000, 100 artist proofs and 200 stamps. He also had the opportunity to serve as a judge for the 2022 competition in September.

“Although this is my very first victory, I continue to compete in state and federal duck stamp contests,” he said. “This year, I participated in the Michigan Duck Stamp Contest, as well as the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Although I didn’t win, I love to compete with my paintings and look forward to supporting these essential conservation programs every year. “

Altoona artist Michael E. Kensinger created this winning design and the official design of the PA 2021 “Sycamore Retreat” waterfowl management stamp. Courtesy photo

His award-winning acrylic painting features a pair of wooden ducks inspired by an encounter on the Ray Amato Trail behind the Northern Blair Recreation Center in Tipton. “I knew I wanted to paint them (like its entry in 2021) because they are really beautiful stamp-worthy birds. Seeing these birds in search of suitable nesting habitat, which for a wood duck is a cavity in a tree, inspired me to start a fundraiser for wildlife nesting boxes that I call “Critter Condos.” “.

The fundraising effort raised $ 1,400, which Kensinger and other supporters used to purchase and place wildlife nesting boxes in “Site 11” and “Site 12” PennDOT attenuated wetlands at the exit of Grazierville.

“With the money raised and with the help of a few friends, I was able to place nine wood duck boxes, 21 blue bird boxes, a large bat box, two flying squirrel boxes and I will hang them up. two little owls and a barred owl very soon. Donations from the fundraiser were spent on supplies such as boxes, screws, tools, poles, predator protection, spray paint, wood chips and more.

Kensinger hopes to fundraise every year. The boxes are placed in the fall, as many wildlife start to watch them for the following spring, ”Kensinger said.

“This year we have had great success with the Bluebird nesting boxes placed in March. All the boxes were placed a little later than I expected, but we have seen a significant increase in the nests of bluebirds, tree swallows and house wrens where the boxes had been placed ”, he said.

“Oshidori”, by Michael E. Kensinger (acrylic). Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Boxes benefit many species, he said, blue bird boxes are widely used by tree swallows, chickadees and house wren, while wood duck boxes can be used by sea owls from the east.

“It all goes back to the ecosystem and the delicate balance of life around the wetland. I never evict a tenant, because in the end, they all depend on the nesting boxes to survive when there is a shortage of cavities in the trees ”, Kensinger said.

Tom Yocum, an environmental manager with PennDOT District 9 in Hollidaysburg, said Kensinger’s request to look after an area is rare – the district has another warden in Huntingdon County.

“It is greatly appreciated because it is doing a great service to the community by enhancing the natural places that we are fortunate to have in central Pennsylvania. Any home improvement job is usually labor and time consuming and beneficiaries are not able to say thank you. I am sure the wildlife appreciates their efforts to provide nesting sites and remove waste from their habitat ”, Yocum wrote in an email.

Kensinger said, “I hope to bring an appreciation and a desire to protect and conserve wildlife habitats for our posterity.”

Michael Kensinger’s European nuthatch (charcoal).

His love of the outdoors started early and fueled his artistic drive.

“I wanted to reproduce what I saw. I would study the birds and learn their songs, then once inside I would draw and replicate my experiments.

Although largely self-taught as an artist, it was when Eric Feather, a teacher at Tyrone Area High School, allowed him, as a student, to work on art projects after the school that had a huge impact. Kensinger, who was walking home from school, lingered after the last bell to avoid the bullies.

“He took me under his wing – no pun intended”, Kensinger said. “He taught me different things, like airbrushing techniques, that weren’t covered in class. It gave me purpose and made what happened to me negative.

With Feather’s support, Kensinger entered his first waterfowl conservation competition – and won the best of 669 entries for his acrylic painting of his favorite duck, a blue-winged teal.

His victory in the state competition sent him to the national competition where he placed in the top 10. The prize included a show with his winning entry presented at the Eastern Waterfowl Festival in Ocean City, Maryland, followed by his entry to the Smithsonian of Washington. , CC

“The saddest thing is that I didn’t drive and I couldn’t get there” he said.

Undeterred, he continued to participate in such competitions and will continue to do so as his ultimate goal is to win at the federal level because “It’s the Grammy for animal art. Artists typically make $ 1 million in sales in their first year of sales. “

Hollidaysburg resident Nicole Hartman met Kensinger in high school as a participant in the Envirothon, an annual environmental-themed academic competition for high school students.

“I remember being amazed by him. He knew every bird cry. It was his specialty. she said, noting that her specialty was trees and soils. She’s also a collector of her artwork, including a matted, framed, and signed duck stamp that Kensinger personalized for her with a small hand painting beneath the print.

His wonder continues today with his art.

“He only got better. Every time he does something new I am even more amazed. … He is always improving and is now on a whole new level.

The Kensinger dossier

Name: Michael E. Kensinger

Age: 37

Address: Altoona

Family: Mari, Timothy Settle; parents, Michael D. and Leslie Kensinger; brother, Tyler Kensinger, all of Tyrone

Education: Lyrone of the Tyrone area, 2002

Profession: Artist

Awards: His work “Sycamore retreat” received the Best of Show award for 2021 PA Waterfowl Management, commonly known as the Duck Stamp. Prints and stamps are available by calling the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 888-888-3459 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Artist proofs can be ordered by email at [email protected]

On display

Two of Michael E. Kensinger’s works are on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art exhibition “The artists among us” until December 22 at the Altoona gallery. They are “Oshidori”, a mandarin duck made in acrylic, and “European nuthatch” done in charcoal, both in its characteristic photo-realism style.

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