The daughter of Mike and Julie Sexton, Christa will be a sophomore at Newell-Fonda High School this fall. She was encouraged to take part in the contest by her art teacher Cassie Ballou-Kitt.
The contest rules provide some suggestions on what types of water fowl the young artists may want to pick from to paint. Christa chose the wood duck.
Students from around the United States submit drawings to their state, territory or district competition. Winners from these competitions, called the "Best of Show," are then submitted to the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest. One image from the 53 Best of Show entries will become the next Junior Duck Stamp.
Junior Duck Stamps are sold for $5 each by the U.S. Postal Service and various National Wildlife Refuges. Proceeds from the sale of Junior Duck Stamps are returned to states for their environmental and conservation projects.
The Federal Duck Stamp, designed by adults artists, is a required yearly purchase for waterfowl hunters and has also become popular with birdwatchers, stamp collectors and others seeking to make a difference for conservation. It is considered one of the highest honors in outdoors art.
Christa enjoyed the challenge of designing her wood duck.
The family living room contains plenty of wildlife art work. Her dad was pleased she was entering the contest and has already picked a spot for her painting to be displayed.
"Art is my passion," she commented. "My brother is the athletic one in the family and I'm the artsy one. But like a sport, you have to keep practicing."
The girl's great-grandmother was an artist. Though the two never met, Christa has seen much of her work and wishes that they would have had the opportunity to paint together. She is glad the talent has been passed down to her.
Christa's art work began at a young age; she recalls being caught coloring on walls as well as coloring books. She has graduated to other mediums and using other things to put her art work on (which makes her mother very happy!)
High school art classes have been an awesome experience, she said. "In high school, art is for people who like it and there is a lot more expected from you." But that's okay - she enjoys the challenge.
"I hate starting a new piece but half way into it, I find it to be fun and when I'm done, I feel proud of what I've accomplished. It takes a lot of patience to complete a project. I don't have a lot of patience for some things but in art I do."
The patience has paid off as she has competed in and earned recognition in other contests as well. She had two block printing pieces accepted in the Scholastic competition and another piece received the coveted silver key award.
She also entered and won the Dick Blick Linoleum Block Contest and received a prize of $50 - which she immediately used to purchase more art supplies.
It seems the artist is always working on something. "My goal is to draw realistic-looking people."
With intense practice, her work is getting to where she wants it to be.
The duck painting was done in water colors, a medium she is becoming more comfortable using. "I like it more now than acrylics or tempera paints."
The Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program is a dynamic arts curriculum, according to officials, designed to teach wetlands and waterfowl conservation to students in kindergarten through high school. This program incorporates scientific and wildlife management principles into a visual arts curriculum.
USFWS Director Steve Williams commented, "Buying a Federal Duck Stamp has been the best and simplest way for citizens to make a difference for conservation for more than seventy years, with nearly 98 cents of every dollar going directly to acquire important habitat for the Refuge System."
Christa said she had fun taking part in the contest and will prepare a painting again for next year's contest.
As an honorable mention, she received a certificate, a stamp-size copy of her art work and a unique ribbon.