The California drought illustrated: a new version of the state flag

The California drought illustrated: a new version of the state flag

It’s the small things, like the waiters no longer authorized to bring you a glass of water unless you ask for it. The much bigger things, like the sad brownish shade that replaced the lush green in so many places, or the fact rain sometimes seems like a distant memory. And of course, it’s in the news, and you may have heard about it even if you don’t live in the USA: California’s been experiencing a severe drought for the last 4 years. I tend to talk about the positive aspects of living here, but yes, it’s also a place where earthquakes strike and the drinking water supplies may not last another year, which is hard to forget.

Let’s keep the earthquakes for another time (or never) and focus on illustrating the drought, this week, shall we?

The concept imposed itself immediately for this one: I needed a symbol for California, and oh, look at the California flag, there’s a bear on it!



Symbol found. Bad, bad drought means sad, sad, bear. That was easy peasy. All I had to do was to draw a bear looking worried because of his empty glass of water, a simple and hopefully understandable idea.

What came next was the bear development phase, from the first rough sketches (there were many more!) to more direct copies of reference pictures found online, and then new sketches inspired by the reference but different, because I don’t want it to look like a reference picture I don’t own, and I don’t want anything too realistic anyway. I was shooting for simple and vaguely poetic (?), but I’m afraid I got cutesy and a little too sweet instead.





I also realized that the glass of water didn’t work, so I replaced it with a bottle, easier to understand. Blue, to avoid any confusion, since my goal wasn’t to illustrate the scourge of bear alcoholism.

And here’s the result, in a layout very similar to the original flag.




I really like the idea, but the execution, not so much. I’ll leave that here for now, and hope to revisit this image in the future. I’d love to say “in a future where the drought has become a bad memory and it’s raining again”, but alas, I’m not sure it’s very realistic. Still, let’s see the glass half full and keep hopeful. For all of us, and for the poor, worried and sad California bear.