About the cartoonist

Gavin Aung Than is a cartoonist based in Melbourne, Australia. After working in the corporate graphic design industry for 8 years he quit his unfulfilling job at the end of 2011 to focus on his true passion, drawing cartoons. Gavin launched Zen Pencils at the start of 2012, a cartoon blog which adapts inspirational quotes into comic stories, and hasn’t looked back since.

Zen Pencils has been featured by The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Slate, Mashable, Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Gawker, The A.V. Club, Brain Pickings, Comic Book Resources, National Geographic, ProBlogger and The Design Files. It was named one of the best 100 websites of 2013 by PCMag and there are two New York Times bestselling book collections of Zen Pencils comics currently available. You can read the articles or contact Gavin via the PRESS page.

Below is a short video about Zen Pencils created by Winfred K, the super-talented videographer behind Another Beautiful Story:

FAQ: What is Zen Pencils?

It’s a website where inspirational quotes from famous people are adapted into cartoons.
It launched in February, 2012.

How often does it update with new cartoons?

Roughly every 1-3 weeks depending on the length of the comic.

Who the hell are you, anyway?

My name’s Gavin Aung Than. I’m a cartoonist living in Melbourne, Australia (although I was born and raised in Perth).

Why did you create Zen Pencils?

I was working in the boring corporate graphic design industry for 8 years before finally quitting at the end of 2011 to pursue my passion for illustration and cartooning. At my old job, when my boss wasn’t looking, I would waste time reading Wikipedia pages, mainly biographies about people whose lives were a lot more interesting than mine. Their stories and quotes eventually inspired me to leave my job to focus on what I really wanted to do. The idea of taking these inspiring quotes, combining them with my love of drawing and sharing them with others led to the creation of Zen Pencils.

Here is a pretty thorough article I wrote for GoComics describing my ‘journey’ from frustrated cartooning hobbyist and full-time graphic designer, to where I am now.

What type of quotes do you adapt?

Anything and everything. Poets to Presidents, comedians to colonels – anyone who inspires me, challenges my way of thinking, wakes me up or just makes me laugh.

I have the perfect quote that you should illustrate.
How do I submit a quote for you to draw?

I love discovering new quotes and learning about new historic figures and these days, most of the quotes I adapt are submitted by readers. The best way for me to see your favourite quote is to post it on the Zen Pencils Facebook page, where you can interact with myself and other fans. Of course, I can’t illustrate all the requests but I will add my favourites to my ‘To do’ list.

What’s your favourite quote?

Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech. TR is one of my heroes and I’ve had his famous speech memorised since I was a teenager. You can read the Zen Pencils version here.

What’s your process when creating a Zen Pencils cartoon?

I’ve written a few blog posts detailing my cartooning process. You can read them here. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook where I post a lot of behind-the scenes stuff.

Can I buy prints of your cartoons?

Yes, you can buy high-quality posters at the Zen Pencils online store!. The posters take time to design so keep checking for new releases. Some posters are not available due to copyright and permission reasons.

I can’t afford those, how about some free posters?

Ok, you can get a free 3-part motivational poster series when you sign up for Zen Pencils email updates. Each poster is a hi-res PDF download suitable for printing. You’ll also be notified of new comics and receive other news and promos when you subscribe via email.

Hey dummy, one of your quotes is incorrect or misattributed.

I get most of the quotes from the internet so I realise that some of my sources can be incorrect. Please contact me if I’ve made a major mistake and I’ll do my best to fix it. I’m a lot more thorough with my research now, as opposed to the early days of the website.
(I sometimes make small grammatical changes to better match the flow of a story.)

How can I contact you?

You can email me at gav@zenpencils.com – Unfortunately, I get a lot of emails and can’t respond to every one of them. I try my best!

Enough talk, take me to the archives!