NORTH OGDEN — When it comes to drawing birds, the children of the Gray family are Utah royalty.
Brad Gray, 12, followed in the footsteps of his older brother and sister recently by winning Best of Show in this year’s Utah Junior Duck Stamp Contest. His colored pencil drawing of a male Ruddy Duck beat out more than 400 other entries to take the top prize.
“People seem to do mallards a lot, so I just kind of decided to do something different,” Gray said. “I thought the Ruddy Duck was interesting because I’ve never seen a duck with a blue bill.”
Gray had some big shoes to fill this year. Last year, his sister Jaycee took the top prize in the contest, and older brother Greg won it in 2008. That makes three out of the last four years that a sibling from this North Ogden family has been crowned Utah’s top young avian artist.
While the accomplishment may be unusual, it isn’t a coincidence, said Jeri Ann Gray, the mother of the talented young artists. She and her husband are both into art, and their children have been exposed to it since their earliest years.
“The kids always see the artwork in our home,” she said. “They’re always around it.”
Brad’s grandmother also has a flair for animal art, so the family’s artistic pedigree goes back at least two generations.
Brad is the youngest person on record to win the Utah contest. Kathi Stopher, coordinator of the contest at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, said the judges had to do a double-take when they heard the winner was 12 years old and not a 12th grader.
Winners of the individual state duck stamp contests are entered into a nationwide competition. This year’s national winner was a 17-year-old from Illinois. To see winning entries from every state online, visit www.fws.gov/juniorduck.
While they don’t fight over who is the best artist, Brad said there is a healthy sibling rivalry involved. They draw inspiration from each other, but Brad said he and his sister don’t share ideas or work together during contest time.
“We just kind of do our own thing,” he said. “One of the judges this year told us that me and my sister were really close. Either one of us could have won.”
At 21, older brother Greg is no longer eligible for the contest, but Jeri Ann Gray said he’s the one who got his younger brother and sister interested.
“They both look up to big brother and all the things he does,” she said.
As for the friendly competition between Brad and Jaycee, she said the explanation is simple.
“They’re siblings. They’re always trying to outdo each other.”