David Rees on the Similar Constraints of Cartooning and Pencil Sharpening

David Rees is an unusual sort of humorist, as he is best known for Get Your War On (check out some below), a satirical cartoon about the War on Terror, and sharpening pencils. (Seriously, watch a short documentary about it below.) The Rumpus has a very long interview with him. The most compelling moment came when the interview saw a parallel between the “very specific parameters” Rees has created for himself with the comic and with his pencil sharpening pursuits. Rees’s response:

“In my mind, one of the appeals of [Artisanal Pencil Sharpening] was that there’s no political subtext, it’s not satirical, it’s nothing like Get Your War On. And that’s true, insofar as the content goes, but structurally…it is kind of the same thing. You work in a really limited box and you just do as much as you can within that box. So, when I was a cartoonist, I didn’t want the responsibility of drawing, a.) because it’s a pain in the butt, and b.) I felt intimidated knowing that I could just put anything in the universe on the page. For me, it was like, all right, just work with six images, or whatever, and just have as much fun as you can with those images. And that fueled my cartooning career for, like, eight years. And I never made that connection with pencils, but this is the first prose book I’ve ever written. I’d always been really intimidated by prose writing. But I think it was a good introduction to that art, because I did just focus on one very particular thing and that was a thing I knew very well: sharpening pencils. And then by the end of the book, when everything’s gone completely bananas, it’s just because I’m having fun with it. You know? So I feel like those constraints are really helpful to me.”

Afterward, Rees stormed off when he realized the writer was transcribing the interview with a PEN.

David Rees on the Similar Constraints of Cartooning […]