Zenpencils – your new everyday pick-you-up

By Laurence Herfs

Whenever I open my laptop, my fingers automatically make the following pattern in the url-tabs: f – 9 – g – t. Facebook first to up the social life, 9gag to chuckle at cats doing silly stuff, Gmail for the serious stuff and a bit of tumblr for a few pick-me-up quotes. Yes, I confess, I follow those cheesy kushandwizdom and other wise-words-tumblrs. “No matter how good or bad your life is, wake up each morning and be thankful that you still have one” – sentences like that. They’re like coffee; they get you to do stuff. But just like with coffee, you get used to the effect after ten rations of the ‘get up and do something, woman’ quote.

Lately I’ve switched from coffee and tumblr to a new kind of pick-you-up-drug. It is a little gem of a website called http://www.zenpencils.com, where illustrator Gavin Aung Than adapts inspirational quotes from famous people into cartoons. He has produced over a hundred cartoons, ranging from Churchill, Lewis and Dickenson to Dr. Seuss, Einstein, Buddha, Bruce Lee and Plato. Most recently, he drew a quote by the 15-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to go to school. They deal with subjects like strength, happiness, love, beauty, family, and the miracles of life. Whenever I need something to kick me out of procrastination, this is my jam. It could be yours too.

Comics are cheesy and sometimes childish, sure, but they are an art form quite unlike any other because they are so interactive. They’re not quite books and they’re not quite illustrations, they’re somewhere in the middle. That’s where Zenpencils grabs you, dragging you into a world that promises strength and hope with its simple images and bold colors. Admittedly, Gavin gets a little help from the famous people whose words he illustrates. As the often quoted Dr. Seuss puts it: “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.” 

Don’t feel like studying for that science-test? Read the Zenpencils comics about the discoverers of the world like Einstein and Armstrong, expressing their admiration for the Earth and its many wonders. Have a long literature essay to write? Get inspired by the comics based on literary geniuses like C.S. Lewis, Dickinson and Frost. Comics make the world a better place – so why not let them improve your grades too?


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