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Paul Sahre is a graphic

Two-Dimensional Man U.S. $37.50

Paul Sahre
Two-Dimensional Man
Can. $45.50 U.K. 26.99

designer, illustrator, and


author. He is a frequent
visual contributor to the New Paul Sahre In Two-Dimensional Man,
Paul Sahre shares deeply
York Times, has designed
book covers for authors revealing stories that serve as
including Chuck Klosterman, the unlikely inspiration behind
Rick Moody, and Clarice his extraordinary thirty-year
Lispectorand has built design career. Sahre explores
and destroyed a life-size
his mostly vain attempts to
monster truck hearse made
entirely of cardboard and
A Graphic escape his suburban Addams
Epson prints for the band Memoir Family upbringing and the
They Might Be Giants. death of his elephant-trainer
brother. He also wrestles with
He works in New York City
and New Jersey.
the cosmic implications involved
in operating a scanner, explains
the disappearance of ice
machines, analyzes a disastrous
meeting with Steely Dan, and
Author photo by Pascal Bjean

laments the typos, sunsets,

Tw
and poor color choices that
have shaped his work and
nal

o-
ensio point of view.

Dim

Ma
Two-Dimensional Man portrays

U.S. $37.50 Can. $45.50 U.K. 26.99


9 7 81 41 9 7 241 52

ISBN 978-1-4197-2415-2

Paul Sahre
the designers life as one

n
moir of constant questioning,
Me
inventing, failing, dreaming,
and ultimately making.

537 50
9 7 81
41 9 7 2
41 52

A
Abrams Graphic
Press ISBN 97
537 50 8-1-419
Abrams
7-2415-
2

abramsbooks.com | Printed in China Press


Prologue: Demon Eating Human Flesh

During a recent visit to my moms house, I couldnt help but notice it.
It was a drawing I did years ago, probably as a teenager. Untitled
and forgotten, I now refer to this work as Demon Eating Human Flesh
(or DEHF). Apparently my mom found it in a box somewhere, put it in
a frame, and hung it near the front doorwhere any visitor to the house is
guaranteed to see it.
For years Ive lived with the shame of seeing my early efforts on
the walls of that house. In that regard, DEHF joins a rogues gallery that
includes Handprint, acrylic on wood (1970); Dandelions, crayon on news-
print (1974); Einstein, etching (1979); Glue?!, after a still from a Tonys
Pizza commercial (1981); Tyler, Family Cat #4, gouache on illustration
board (1982); See No Evil: Three Cats Wearing Glasses, graphite on paper
(1982); Indian Woman with Pox-Infested Blanket, graphite on paper (1984).
Dadaist John Heartfield decided at one point to destroy all of his early
workfor liberation, he said. But it was probably because of his mom.
It gets worse. Yes, Demon Eating Human Flesh is incredibly embar-
rassing. But thats not the problem, Im used to embarrassing. The prob-
lem is that with its reemergence, this drawing is now exhibiting dark,
even supernatural qualities. Just when I think its gone, it reappears,
straight out of a nineteenth-century W. W. Jacobs short story, instead of
Wonder Bread America of the 1970s.
This is a cautionary tale, one that can serve as a warning to all
who make things. Once something is createddrawn, in this casethe
maker, while exerting complete control over its creation, has virtually no
control over what it ultimately means to others, nor, apparently, where
it ends up.

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I am often asked how I got into graphic design and I always answer that I
drew a lot as a kid. Everyone draws as a kid, but most people stop at some
point. I didnt. While other kids became interested in normal things pre-
adolescents get interested in, I kept drawing, past the cute years, into my
teens. For me, drawing was the activity that eventually led me to study
design, and Im glad things worked out the way they did, I just wish a visit
to my mom wasnt so disturbing.
In these early efforts, I can look through the eyes of earlier versions
of me. Im reminded of place and motivation, yet most of what I see is
totally unfamiliar, like I could never have been the person who drew these
things in the first place.

Here is what happened, as best as I can remember.


I drew a picture.
I dont remember drawing it, but it does have my name on it, so
I must have. Due to the subject matter, I drew it in the late 70s. I would
have been fifteen years old at the time. This was my Frank Frazetta period
(especially, but not limited to, Frazettas work on Nazareths Expect No
Mercy and all of his Molly Hatchet album covers). I must have referenced
some preexisting art, as I would never have drawn something like this
from my imagination. DEHF was then forgotten. I moved on to Albrecht
Drer and highly detailed renderings of house pets.

The first time DEHF resurfaced was in 1986, on a circus train, in the pos-
session of my brother Angus, or Kenny, as my mom still refers to him. He
changed his name to Angus (after Angus Young of AC/DC) shortly before
he dropped out of high school and joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey Circus. There werent any circus people in our family, so this
was upsetting to my parents, who were both college grads. I sort of saw it
coming. He had been hanging around the local arena more and more over
the previous year, partying with the roadies and some of the members of
his favorite hair metal bands after the shows: Poison, Mtley Cre, Twisted

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Sister. A shy kid named Fred Coury who went to Sunday school with Angus
had grown up to become the drummer for Cinderella. I vaguely remember
Angus going to the show and then not seeing him again for a few days.
He did the same when the circus was in town. It was during one of
these visits that his circus friends said, Hey, why dont you come with us?
and off he went. He didnt give it any more thought than that. If he did, he
would have realized that he was a few months from graduating from high
school. I never figured out what his official title was, but he worked for
years with camels and was later promoted to taking care of the elephants.
By taking care, I mean mostly cleaning up after them, much of which
involved a shovel. He referred to them as his girls.
He had brought the drawing on the road with him, and I saw it when
the circus came to the Richfield Coliseum, thirty miles north of Kent, Ohio,
where I was studying graphic design. It was hanging above his bunk on
the circus train; it had acquired a dark blue matte, was unframed, and was
wrapped in cellophane. I was sitting on the end of his bunk, concentrating
on my breathing. This was my first experience dealing with the circus smell
that permeated everything on that train, even the beer he handed me tasted
like circus. Completely oblivious to the stench, my brother told me that
DEHF was the best thing Id ever done, or would ever do.
This experiencevisiting my brother on the train, seeing the
drawing, and trying to breathe through my mouthrepeated every time
the circus was in town, no matter what town I happened to be living in
over the next eighteen years . . . which brings me back to the reason the
drawing is currently in my moms living room.

I learned about the accident via one of those middle-of-the-night phone


calls. It was December 2004. My wife, Emily, handed me the phone, and,
half asleep, I heard through my fathers sobs that KennyAnguswas
brain dead. He had been drinking and had fallen down the stairs of my par-
ents home. This was the house we grew up in, he had been up and down
those stairs a thousand times. He died four days later. He was thirty-eight.

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This is how DEHF found its way back to my mom. She decided to
hang it on her wall and there is nothing I can do about it.

I have always felt a huge disconnect between my life as a creative person


and where I am from; that despite my seemingly conventional upbring-
ingsuburban, safe, normalI have ended up pursuing an unconventional
life. When I found design, I learned to think critically. I became self-aware.
I lost my past in a way. I learned to perceive the world in a fundamentally
different way than I had before design school. When this happened, I con-
vinced myself that my background had nothing to do with me being a
designer. I stopped drawing, thinking that drawingespecially the way
I was doing itwas uncreative. There was a disconnect. All of a sudden I
wanted to deny my past. I was critical of all sorts of things that seemed
totally fine before. The drawing appearing on my moms wall is an articula-
tion of this. My family seems to understand an awful drawing I did before
I was shaving, yet doesnt understand anything Ive ever designed, at least
not in the same way.
My brother held on to the drawing. I was embarrassed.
My brother dies and my mother hangs it on her wall. I am horrified.

I was standing in the hallway thinking about all this when Emily came over
and asked what was wrong. This is a disaster. I am going to have to look at
this damn thing every time I come back here.
This isnt a disaster, she said. This is how much your mother
loves you.

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