READERS OF THE MONTH: October
Hey folks, here are four loyal readers who say that Zen Pencils has helped them in their daily lives, something that I still can’t quite believe is possible.
Gerardo Valdes is a doctor from Mexico.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a 34 year old male, born in Mexico city and raised in a city about 50 miles from there called Toluca. I am a medical doctor with a specialty in ophthalmology and high specialisation in glaucoma diagnosis and treatment.
You told me that you knew you had to become a doctor. Can you explain?
My mother is also an ophthalmologist and from a very early age I saw what it was all about. Nobody ever told me that I had to be a doctor, but I felt like people were expecting that from me. My mother always nurtured my creative side, but I kinda suck at drawing and am very good at memorising random data; a trait quite useful in medicine; and in fact she tried to convince me that being a doctor is no walk in the park and that I should take up architecture or graphic design. As every other teen who thought they knew everything, I was thinking to myself: ‘She wants me to be a doctor but doesn’t want to push me’, and to make a long story short: I graduated from med school, trained in a specialty and got a fellowship in glaucoma. The hardships of that road were many but the satisfaction is great.
But you always wanted to be an artist from a young age? Did Zen Pencils help reignite your love for art?
I love to draw, never had formal training or anything, never been in art school and through the years I became stagnant. I couldn’t draw anything that really satisfied me. The perspective was wrong, hands and feet are impossible to me so I stopped doing it. A few years ago, something happened to me that plunged me in a deep depression and had to read a lot and draw a lot to escape my reality. That’s when I took up drawing again as a hobby. I was already in med school and wasn’t about to change courses, but I kept drawing. A couple of years ago, another incident struck and I decided that I really needed to leave Mexico. During those dark times, I stumbled upon various webcomics, including Zen Pencils. I thought, “Wow! These guys are great!” And then the epiphany – I read your Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art quote and said “I am going to be an artist as well!”. I had been thinking about it for three or four years but your comic finally made me commit.
I’ve enrolled in a digital art and 3D animation course. I was interviewed and reluctantly accepted (they thought I was too old, and that my previous career was not compatible with the other students). Now I begin classes in two weeks. Even if I don’t succeed in being an artist, I’ll have the satisfaction of stepping up to the challenge.
Shaun Myandee quit his job to follow his passion.
Hi Shaun, how old are you and where are you from?
I’m 23, and I was born and raised in London to an Irish mother and Mauritian father.
What were you doing in your previous job and why did you feel so unfulfilled?
I previously worked in online marketing. Specifically Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). There wasn’t anything wrong with the job itself, as such. I worked for a pretty good company (albeit a small, start-up one), I got on with my colleagues and boss, but it was never a job I especially wanted. I just sort of drifted into it. When I left university, the jobs market was incredibly tough and I was willing to take almost anything rather than be unemployed. As it happened it was a decent job, but it wasn’t something that really excited me as an industry.
After a while, I started to feel like I was almost “marking time”, waiting for something more exciting, more interesting to happen to me. But obviously it never did. It took me a while to realise that I was actually quite unhappy with the state of my life. I realise that sounds odd, how could I not know I was unhappy? But I’d never been full-time employed before, I just figured that everyone struggles to adjust, and nobody really enjoys going to work. It’s just something you have to do.
You quit your job to follow your dream of becoming a writer. What made you finally decide to take the risk? Did Zen Pencils help with your decision?
As I mentioned above, I was feeling a sort of dissatisfaction without really knowing why, that I was just going through the motions of life without really doing something that excited me. I eventually realised I needed to change something, but I wasn’t sure what. At first I thought maybe buying my own home and moving in there would help, that it would give me a new level of independence and enjoyment.
However, I stumbled across Zen Pencils (without really looking for it), when someone posted one of the comics on a site called 9GAG. It was the Hunter S. Thompson one, The Happier Man, and I think I was just in the right frame of mind for it to really hit me. I realised then that I had to do something reckless, stupid and drastic if I was to really enjoy my life, and that there was a huge difference between life and existence.
So yes, Zen Pencils absolutely helped me with my decision. I later came to the site when I was in the process of making that decision, and reading through some of the earlier comics I hadn’t seen before really helped validate it too.
What are you writing?
I’m writing a novel. It’s a sort of sci-fi thriller (how I describe it to most people), told in three parts from the perspectives of three totally separate characters. Its set in a post-apocalyptic future (a bit like the future of Judge Dredd :P) and tells the story of of a social/political revolution in this world, with elements of transhumanism and human augmentation thrown in. Y’know, for sci-fi goodness.
Divya Tak was comforted by this site during some tough times.
Hi Divya, can you explain how Zen Pencils helped you through a difficult period in your life?
I am an illustrator and as such, Zen Pencils has been a source of inspiration for me since the time I have discovered it. I have been visiting it a lot whenever I feel like I can’t create anything anymore. Especially the Neil Gaiman Make Good Art piece. Even reading the same comic over and over will still give me goosebumps every time I read it. I think rare are the artists who can take something like a quote which is so open-ended and weave it into something which when you read, you feel that this story was what the speaker has in mind when thinking that quote or poem.
Recently I lost my father, and it was not his age to leave us. It came as a very hard thing to cope with, and especially I didn’t ever feel like creating anything new. But then when I visited your site and went through all of the comics from start to finish. When I was done all I did was open up my sketchbook and start sketching. I think the impact your stories and the quotes have had on me is probably the deepest amongst anything that has inspired me. I think the comic adds a whole new dimension and a deep meaning to the quote, even to poems like The Road Not Taken which has always inspired me. I will keep looking at Zen Pencils for inspiration and hope that someday, if my art manages to inspire one person, my work as an artist will be done.
Aaron Nathan is an old friend from Perth. He recently made a huge decision and moved to Brazil.
Why did you decide to leave everything behind and move to Rio?
For me, I love what I love and as difficult as it is here to earn anywhere near what you can earn in Australia, I am extremely happy living in a beautiful dynamic city with so much life and so much of what I love (football, beaches, music, culture, good food and very nice people). I’m a simple person and this place makes me happy.
And Zen Pencils helped you settle in after a tough first couple of weeks in your new home?
Yes, feeling down and homesick, I was specifically looking for material on Zen Pencils to boost my spirits and found the Mark Twain comic An Educational Journey and it really reassured me about the reasons I made this move. Plus I started watching the Bruce Lee interview you linked to which brought back my strength because he is also one of my heroes.
What’s your favourite thing about Brazil in the short time you’ve been there?
I can do what I want when I want! Eat, play, live and drink at any time of the day!
Well there you go, a little sample of the diverse Zen Pencils community and their great stories. If you would like to be featured in the next Reader of the Month post, just shoot me an email. A big thank you to Gerardo, Shaun, Divya and Aaron.