Inspiration comes from different quarters. The only way Gavin Aung Than found he could survive his job was by reading passages by presidents, artists, naturalists, monks and other great thinkers. Employed as a graphic artist, he found no resonance with his work. He spent a lot of his time doodling and the rest dawdling. After eight years of hmming and hawing and unable to take it anymore Gavin decided to follow his passion, cartooning. What a leap of faith it has been. Starting in 2012, Gavin drew out all the inspirational quotes by those living and dead who urged him through their words to get on with, seize the moment and do it well.
Gavin has since released two volumes of the comics he has published on Zen Pencils in a steady stream. Many of the quotes Gavin illustrates are sent in by his readers. In one of his blog posts, Gavin details how he brought the Maya Angelou’s timeless ‘Phenomenal Woman’ to graphic life. He takes us from word association, first rough, reference, dtailed roughs, pen work and colouring before reaching the final output. You can read it here.
A personal favourite is Gavin’s rendition of Sir.Ken Robinson’s testament of how the conventional education system focuses on the head alone, rather than all the brilliant faculties we are all endowed with as children. The education system Robinson notes tends to focus all it’s attention on the brain alone, ignoring completely our need to express ourselves through dance, music or art. They are often relegated to the background as lesser forms of study, while in fact they need to be pursued with as much dedication as maths, literature or science.The speech by Sir.Ken is laced with much humour and I visit it often. I love Gavin’s interpretation, especially how he weaves an entire story into words that would otherwise be edified and set in stone. What a colourful, beautiful expression of wisdom. It is wisdom that can be read and understood by children and parents alike.
In his interview to Washington post, Gavin spoke about how he picks the quotes. “I just use ones that really make me think or challenge the way I view the world,” the Australian artist tells us. “Sometimes you read a quote that just takes the wind right out of you — those are the ones I’m looking for.”
The comic is not presented in its entirety, some panels are not included.
The ZenPencils books are an extract of the best minds through time that does not have to be pushed down the throats of children, but will be eagerly read and re-read by them.
Zen Pencils: cartoon Quotes From Inspirational Folks is a compilation that ranges from Marie Curie to Neil Gaiman. They travel through time including passages by Henry David Thoreau to Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Zen Pencils -Volume Two: Dream The Impossible Dream has Isaac Asimov, Maya Angelou, Kahlil Gibran, Robert F. Kennedy, and William Shakespeare, Amy Poehler, Jim Henson, and Kevin Smith in its second run.
As Gavin publishes steadily, fans new and old can be assured that there will be more volumes to come. In a parting note, pay heed aspiring little artists to the advice Gavin gave the viewspaper “Talent and hard work always speak for themselves, especially for artists. I don’t remember anything worth knowing from my three years at university.Like I said, talent and hard work always prevail, but hard work is much more important!”