Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Flag of the U.S.A.
Flag of the U.S.A., wood, 9.3x17.7 in.

I hope everyone who lives in a Super Tuesday state took part today in this complex rigamarole (our voting day is next Tuesday). I can never figure out this process, but I guess that’s why they have panels of pundits on TV to talk about it.

While watching the tiresome, recycled news analyses last night, I decided to start something I had been wanting to for a while - a painting of the flag in its
proper proportions. Is this a big deal? one may ask. I don’t know. But I know that almost all of the U.S. flags I have seen in my life have been drawn wrong, and I’ve seen a million of them just as anyone else has. Seeing the flag as it was meant is to me like a fresh reading of the Bill of Rights, so maybe it is sort of important.

Our flag is a beautiful thing. Graphic artists, more than anyone, should care that our most important symbol be reproduced like a trademark exactly the same everywhere. Imagine any famous company’s logo and lettering printed at different proportions from one location to the next. For whatever reason our flag ended up with the ratio of 1:1.9 – although "Executive Order 10834" permits official flags in three other sizes with different ratios. One of these is 3:4, which is also great for a bumper sticker, but I'd prefer the flag be more than a mutable and generalized pattern of stars and stripes. Do a search of U.S. flags and see the differing dimensions and the usually careless arrangement of stars in the union which leaves too much extra space. Notice the flag in the background when a government official speaks on TV. Perhaps many flags used by government are drawn to the specifications but I've seen a wide variety. Even if they're all being made in China, I would think their measurements could be regulated. If shirt companies can lay out embroidery according to a specific pattern, why can’t flag manufacturers do the same?

Some people don’t care about etiquette, and some don’t care about flag etiquette (I might not if I owned an inaccurately drawn and cheap piece of visual garbage). Some people refuse to salute the flag, and a candidate for president (I won't say who) was recently photographed doing this while the national anthem played. It seems bizarre to me that a person hoping to become the representative of the people would refuse to honor that symbol which represents them all. It represents each and every one of us and we really ought to treat it well.

Here I’m drawing it in its right proportions. I find sometimes I need this kind of mindless, mechanical and masochistic exercise. There’s no way to get it wrong because the numbers tell me what I need to do - I can’t imagine how long it took the person or committee to officially decide on these measurements, but they are what they are. Originally I had wanted to use a large wooden board, but last night I went with a small piece of scrap just under 18 in. (45 cm.) across. I hope all the little stars don’t drive me crazy....

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