MINNESOTA: Home plate
Sam Melquist says he doesn't spend a lot of time trying to catch fish, but he certainly knows a thing or two about painting them. A graphic artist at George's Quick Printing in East Grand Forks, Melquist's mural of a walleye covers an entire outs...
Sam Melquist says he doesn't spend a lot of time trying to catch fish, but he certainly knows a thing or two about painting them.
A graphic artist at George's Quick Printing in East Grand Forks, Melquist's mural of a walleye covers an entire outside wall of the print shop. His latest walleye painting isn't nearly that big, but it puts him in a position to have his work displayed on an even larger scale.
This week, a panel of judges picked Melquist's painting of a leaping fish as one of six finalists for the state's new Critical Habitat License Plate. The winning entry will be selected later this month, and the new license plate will go on sale early next year, making it the first new conservation license plate available to Minnesota motorists since 2002.
Money from the license plates helps acquire and conserve land for numerous fish and wildlife habitat projects. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, sales from the previous conservation plates have raised more than $17.5 million for habitat conservation.
Melquist, who submitted his entry in September after reading about the contest in a weekly outdoors newspaper, said he didn't know he was a finalist until a couple of days ago, when a buddy from the Twin Cities called him.
The contest winner will receive $500 - and the widespread recognition of being featured on a license plate.
"It would be really exciting just to get something of this magnitude, I guess," Melquist, 26, said Thursday. "Everyone buying your artwork with the plates on their vehicle would be the most exciting part of all."
Melquist isn't an avid fisherman but says he decided to paint a fish because fishing is an important part of Minnesota's outdoors heritage. The two previous habitat plates featured a deer and a loon, so artists couldn't submit those species in this contest, he said.
Painting the fish, which is set against a brilliant orange backdrop with a forested shoreline and cattails in the foreground, took about six hours, Melquist says.
"I just thought fishing was a huge thing in Minnesota, and something kind of neat to display on the plates," Melquist said.
Other finalists for the 2007 license plate design are Nancy Scherer of Cambridge, Minn., with a lady slipper orchid; Vernon Morris of Minneapolis, black-crowned night heron; Kito Young of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., wolf; Erica Hurt of Apple Valley, Minn., moose silhouette; and Timothy Turenne of Richfield, Minn., walleyes.
The six finalist designs are posted on the DNR's Web site, where viewers also can vote for their favorites. Melquist says he was surprised to learn he was one of the finalists.
"I didn't expect it, especially after seeing the other ones," he said. "I think they're really good, and I think the competition is going to be pretty tough, so we'll see."
-- On the Web:
To view the plate finalists and vote for your favorite, go to www.dnr.state.mn.us and click on the "Help choose the new Critical Habitat License Plates" link on the right side of the page.
Reach Dokken at 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 148; or firstname.lastname@example.org .