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December 11, 2012


Replies: 23

When historical accuracy is unpopular

BrandonSPilcher Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I consider myself a fantasy artist more than anything else, but I do sometimes draw historical or prehistoric subjects. Unfortunately I often envisage these subjects differently from how the majority of artists reconstruct them. For example, I like to draw the Tyrannosaurus rex as having feathers like a bird and the Ancient Egyptians as Black African people, because I believe that's how they really looked in life.

Unfortunately feathered T. Rexes and Black Egyptians are not at all mainstream; most artists portray the former as scaly like lizards and the latter as racially European or Arabian. To make things worse, these artists often insist with fanatical energy that their depictions are historically accurate and mine are erroneous, and reasoning with them has proven impossible. As tired as I am of arguing with these idiots, I worry that the issue might come up again whenever people comment on my art. If it does, what should I do?

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Devious Comments

Black-Allison Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2012
We live in the part of the world that believes Jesus was caucasian. Also they've been doing this since the Middle Ages. I think it might be partly because many artists aren't too familiar with other racial groups and their histories. For example, Aladdin is Chinese. If you actually read Aladdin, he's Chinese. But everyone around him has a muslim name. People think it was because they either got the story from a Chinese origin or based the story in China, but the guy who wrote it wasn't sure what a Chinese name looked like. Biblical characters are often painted as white romans, because that was what the concept of 'ancient peoples' were in Europe. If you tried telling a European then that Moses' wife was from Ethiopia so she'd have dark skin they'd probably ask you what's a dark skinned person (think about all those years it took for people to realize Ethiopians aren't literally BLACK coloured).
godofwarlover Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2012
I think it's always been unpopular. Feathered dinosaurs aren't popular in the mainstream is mostly because of Jurassic Park and other media, which they based on the obselete belief that dinosaurs were more reptilian than avian
BrandonSPilcher Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've thought more about this question and have decided that however I think the ancient Egyptians or tyrannosaurs really looked, as a fantasy artist I am not obligated to let historical accuracy get in the way of my vision. Sure, artists in the business of reconstructing subjects as accurately as possible should pay heed to the facts as we know them, but I'm not in the accurate reconstruction business, am I?

If you look back at the history of art, a lot of popular artworks recreate historical or mythical figures in ways we would consider inaccurate today. No one today thinks Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper properly recreates 1st century Israelite dining, yet that has not prevented the painting from enduring popularity.
Xadrea Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
When you're taking artistic licenses on a particular subject such as the origin of species or a people group you should be prepared to deal with a backlash (especially if you yourself are not of that heritage). You do understand that the depictions of people of African descent throughout art history have been very negative also correct? You have to take all of those things into consideration. Arguing about who's right won't get you anywhere.
I don't understand what good feathers would do an animal the size of an adult T.rex. I totally buy the babies having feathers.
Maybe T. rexes or relatives (Albertosaurus) that lived quite far north would retain their feathers into adulthood. I can buy that.

I also think that the ancient Egyptians were the color they drew themselves as.
FionaCreates Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional General Artist
Well Pirates didn't exactly run amok the way they are portrayed to run amok either. They certainly pillaged and all that jazz but the ships themselves were run in a more civilized mannor than is shown by film and novel.

Even films and stories set in the 1980s now cannot be truly accurate and we have photographs, videos and human beings who can describe what it was like. Never mind Egypt or Medieval eras where there's so much less written.

The funniest for me is to look into Victorian fancy dress. It is actually responsible for many of our modern preconceptions for things like Medieval gowns and Egyptian things.

In various accounts of Ancient Egyptian history and Pharaohs and such it is shown that at different times the seat of power was in different places. At one point it was much further south and there's evidence to suggest Pharaohs and Egyptians in that area were Black, but that other more northern Kings were Middle Eastern.

Of course the White Egyptians etc as we see it is the responsibility of Hollywood and I'm sure you're aware of the race issues within Hollywood not solely pointed at films about Egypt.
opiumtraum Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
I'd worry about a couple things...sometimes in the "Everyone else is wrong, I'm the only one who's right" scenario...chances are excellent that sometimes you're the one who's wrong. Forget what historians say- there are thousands of years of Egyptian art & statuary- how did they depict themselves? I'd say the greatest flaw in your assumption that Egyptians because Egypt is in Africa & connected to the Sudan that the Egyptians have to be Black Africans. Why do they have to be Africans at all? It is just as possible that Egyptians, like most of the people who populate Northern Africa, are of Middle East descent, especially when you consider that Ancient history is rife with war, invasions, migrations of populations...Then again...maybe a very ancient Egypt...

I'm pretty sure that T-Rex didn't depict himself in art, & unless you believe in a somewhat dubious timeline- no human being has ever seen a live T-Rex, so it's all supposition. Was T-Rex covered in feathers? Who really knows?

The real issue here, & this is just my opinion, isn't historical accuracy. You have some interesting ideas. And there's this marvelous thing called artistic license- I'd run with it.

I wrote a paper about the Minoan Labyrinth & the minotaur, saying they truly existed- but my idea was that they existed in political" sense. The Greek nobles were forced to send their youth Crete where they were "consumed" by the minotaur. I take that to mean not literally eaten, but absorbed into Cretan society, extremely well-treated hostages, whose existence would make the Greeks think twice about challenging Crete's superiority in the Med. The half-man half-bull monster was just the symbol of the situation. The labyrinth is a two-fold reference- a reference e to the confusing set up the city of Minos as well as a reference to the politics between Greece & Crete. I also did well on my paper, which was complete conjecture. Unfortunately, compelling arguments don't make you right, they just reflect the fact that you have a brain & aren't afraid to use it.
KyteGlory Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
If this is an argument you get into often, you might consider saving a selection of scholarly resources supporting your argument. Maybe even some good sources explaining how these images of the "golden-skinned Egyptian" and the "giant lizard" dinosaur came about in the first place, even though they're wrong. Then, instead of arguing, you can just share your sources.
Even if it doesn't convince them that you're right, it is sufficient grounds to prove that you're not just pulling things out of your ass and that you do have legitimate scientific support for your interpretation.
BrandonSPilcher Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Actually I've written a whole paper advocating for my view of the Egyptians. It got a 95% from my history professor too.
KyteGlory Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
Do you have a Ph.D in Ancient Egyptian History? If not, then anything you write, even if it does score well in a history class, does not count as valid historical evidence. But you've already written that whole paper, and I'm assuming that whole paper included a bibliography full of acceptable scholarly sources. Just send those to whoever's doubting you. Don't even try to argue with them--internet arguments almost never work, especially not when the only evidence you can bring to the table is "I wrote a paper on it once." Just send them your scholarly articles, tell them that's your peer-reviewed support for your interpretation, so regardless of whether it's "proven" or not [though, at least in the case of dinosaurs it is] it's a legitimate theory, and if they don't like it they can piss off.
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