Do what you love — even if its just sharpening pencils.
Cartoonist David Rees is doing just that. Best known for the strip “Get Your War On,” published in Rolling Stone magazine, he has written a whole book about the art of perfecting graphite tips, “How to Sharpen Pencils,” and he will take the stage at Williamsburg’s Public Assembly, along with his pencil-pushing friend, John Hodgman.
“When I got the book deal, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fill the whole thing. But then I got writing, and they ended up having to cut 60 pages out of it,” Rees said.
The whittled-down version of Rees’s how-to guide runs 224 pages, with detailed instructions on how to get the best possible point for different kinds of writing and drawing.
Rees said his obsession with tapered #2s started while he was working for the 2010 U.S. Census.
“They gave us a supply bag with three or four pencils and a pocket sharpener. It’d been a long time since I’d sharpened a pencil, since I use my computer to make comics,” Rees said. “The more I did it, the more I realized that I wanted to get paid to sharpen pencils.”
Soon Rees had become a pencil sharpener to the stars, with customers ranging from “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert to “Sandman” comic book mastermind Neil Gaiman. He sells his artisanally-pared wares on his website for $15.00 a piece plus shipping and handling. Each order comes with a lovingly-crafted pencil in a point-protecting case, a little bag of the pencil’s shavings, and a certificate of sharpening—and something even more valuable.
“You can tell someone that you paid someone to sharpen your pencil, which is totally baller and tough,” Rees said.
The lead specialist has spent the past few months taking his impassioned manual to audiences nationwide, reading the directions out loud while volunteers hone their pencil points. But Brooklynites will get a special treat at Public Assembly on May 18: Hodgman — best known as the personal computer in Apple commercials — an old friend of Rees’s who wrote the foreword to the book, will join him onstage. Rees said he has no plans on how to incorporate Hodgman into his presentation.
“I have no idea what he’s going to do. I don’t wanna know. He’s probably going to steal the show and make me look stupid,” Rees said.
David Rees and John Hodgman, “How to Sharpen Pencils” at Public Assembly. [70 North Sixth Street between Wythe and Kent avenues, Williamsburg] (718) 384-4586. May 18, 6:30 pm. $20. Visit www.wordbrooklyn.com. For pencil sharpening, www.artisanalpencilsharpening.com