Well, I thought I would make this a semi-regular thing – a post every few months to fill you all in on what’s going on with me, because let’s face it, this site is ALL about me right? 😛 It’s been three and a half months since I launched Zen Pencils and the site continues to grow and find new readers. My work’s popping up all over the internet – it’s been on 9GAG a few times, Metafilter, Reddit, Stumbleupon and appeared on the front page of Digg not long ago. So firstly, I have to say a big thank you to all of you who are sharing my work on these sites, or with their friends on Facebook or Twitter and basically just spreading my work all around the world. It’s pretty crazy to think that from my little room in suburban Melbourne, I’m making comics that are being seen by so many different people in different places.

As you know, the big deal for the site is that I’ve made my first foray into monetisation by selling prints. So far, it’s going well and orders are slowly increasing. I’m planning on introducing some other merchandise very gradually (Zen Pencils is a one-man operation so everything is done in baby steps I’m afraid). Probably T-shirts next.

(By the way, the Neil deGrasse Tyson prints are finally for sale with 50% of profits being donated to the American Museum of National History, which is where Dr. Tyson works.)

I also upgraded the web hosting for the site last week. Since the old server was in Melbourne, the pages were taking pretty long to load on the other side of the world. I’m using a cloud server now and it should make the site faster. Can some of you confirm that the site is loading faster/the same/slower? Thanks.

Personally, the biggest surprise has been all the beautiful emails, comments and messages I’ve been receiving from all of you. I can honestly say that when I started this site, sure, I wanted to make people smile with these comics, but I wasn’t planning on being able to truly inspire and motivate people. I was initially just doing it for fun and because I thought it was a cool idea to adapt inspirational quotes. Who knew these little toons could be so powerful? Here are some of my favourite stories from readers:

– Cheryl from Kansas said the Litany Against Fear comic was the kick in the pants she had been waiting 11 years for. Cheryl was in a constant cycle of domestic violence for almost eight years that got worse and worse until her husband was finally jailed for spousal abuse. Even though she has become an advocate for abuse victims since then, Cheryl hasn’t been in another relationship for 11 years. She said that reading my comic was the reality check she needed and reopened her online dating profile. Go get ’em Cheryl!

– Kevin from Germany was in a funk. He was feeling depressed and alone when he stumbled upon the Neil deGrasse Tyson comic and was reduced to tears. He told me that he felt that the comic was illustrated especially for him at that very moment and it touched him and totally lifted his spirits.

– Phil from California was a big comics fan as a kid and in high school. He even started up a few of his own webcomics. As he got older he started reading less and less funnybooks and quit reading comics altogether in college. But he told me that reading Zen Pencils has reignited his passion for comics and has inspired him to start drawing again.

– Quite a few teachers have been in touch with me saying how they are showing my comics to their students to help them connect with literature and history. Paul from Saanichton, BC, said he plans to use my work to get his high school students to apply famous quotes to their own lives. One teacher even plans to get his students to make their own comics from inspirational quotes. Teachers, if you do this, email them to me and I’ll post them on the site.

– Ashley is the President of the Society of Physics Students club at the University of Central Arkansas. He told me that his club has gone gaga over the Neil Tyson comic and he can’t wait to get a print so they can proudly display it in their department … if their faculty advisor allows it in their budget. C’mon, Mr. faculty advisor, don’t be a tight arse!

– Mara is struggling with health issues at the moment and she’s turned my comics into her desktop wallpaper to help her through a difficult time.

– Syed Ali Shehryar just sent a short and sweet note saying that going through my archives every morning provides inspiration for the day ahead.

This is just a tiny sample of the email love I’ve been getting and it’s extremely gratifying and humbling. To go from a mind-numbing, soul-destroying job six months ago to getting emails like this … words just can’t describe.

Overall, the site is going great, I’m loving creating these cartoons and I’m looking forward to Zen Pencils growing and growing and growing.

Ok, that’s enough from me. Less typing, more drawing.

Thanks again for all your support.
– Gav