Daniel Grant in the Wall Street Journal finds out what special misery awaits the wildlife or historical artist commissioned to bring past events to life:
All artists who focus on wildlife, historical and nautical scenes are confronted on a regular basis by people who are knowledgeable in these fields—outdoorsmen, hunters, birders, Civil War re-enacters, military historians (or military buffs), yachtsmen and boating enthusiasts—looking for mistakes. “People test me all the time,” said Jan Martin McGuire, a wildlife artist in Bartlesville, Okla. “I once did a painting of a meadowlark sitting on a metal fence in a western setting, and a man came up to me and asked if that was an eastern meadowlark or a western meadowlark. I told him that the only difference between the eastern and western meadowlark is the song they sing and, otherwise, there was no difference in their plumage. He just walked away.”
John Warr, a painter in Scottsboro, Ala., said that he knows how disputatious wildlife enthusiasts can be (“I call them feather-counters”), but they are nothing compared to Civil War buffs, his other subject area. “Civil War collectors are so much pickier, and they point out things more, especially in weapons.” A sharp-eyed observer noticed in one of his paintings that the cannon balls being used by Confederates were actually Union balls. For him, “the good thing about painting Confederate soldiers is that they wore and used equipment that they found; it was a mismatch of everything,” allowing Mr. Warr to depict a range of historically appropriate shoes, hats, clothing and guns. Federal soldiers, on the other hand, “had government issue,” which makes painting them less interesting.
There’s Little Room for Artistic License Here (Wall Street Journal)