In his youth, Richard Clifton woke up before dawn to go duck hunting in the marshes of Delaware. He pushed his boat into the water and waited. Sometimes a mallard flew overhead, a silhouette in the dark with the wind whistling through its feathers.

His memories of the quiet waters of Slaughter Creek have inspired his art for years. Now one of his paintings has entangled him in a controversy in one of the nation’s top competitions for duck painters: the Federal Duck Stamp Contest.