About the cartoonist
Gavin Aung Than is a freelance 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, News.com.au, ProBlogger and The Design Files. It was named one of the best 100 websites of 2013 by PCMag. 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:
And this is a talk I did at The World Domination Summit in 2014 describing how I started the site:
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 once every 1-2 weeks give or take a few days 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 where 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.
This 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 totally 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?
Can I buy prints of your cartoons?
Yes – I’ve finally launched the Zen Pencils poster store!.
I can’t afford those, how about some free posters?
Ok, you can get a free 3-part motivational poster series by Ralph Waldo Emerson when you sign up for Zen Pencils email updates. Each poster is a hi-res pdf download suitable for printing.
Hey dummy, one of your quotes is incorrect or misattributed.
I get most of the quotes from the interweb 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 sometimes make small grammatical changes to better match the flow of a story.)