Zen Pencils is an online comics feature by cartoonist Gavin Aung Than, in which he interprets inspirational writings, sayings and quotes from various sources in the form of comics.
The main page of the site is arranged as a blog, and the strips are intermixed with supplementary commentary and other material. New readers may want to sample the “10 most popular Zen Pencils comics of 2013” or use the “Archives” drop-down to the right of the main navigation, the Archives page, or some of the recent selections in the right-hand column.
Be aware that the strips are loaded as single, sometimes quite long sets of panels, and may take a moment to load into the page. I’ve selected a few representative sets of panels from the middle of several different strips, above.
Than draws his material from a fairly wide selection of sources, from Carl Sagan to Shakespeare to George Carlin to Ben Franklin to Chinese proverbs and actual Japanese Zen stories. Those inclined to find inspirational quotes and aphorisms a bit too “Reader’s Digesty” may find the effect leavened by the fact that… hey, it’s comics!
The comics are Than’s freely imagined interpretations of the meaning of the words, given form in a way that may or may not be in the context of the original. Often, they also serve as a tribute or homage to an individual, as in his homage to Bill Watterson’s style in the course of “A Cartoonist’s Advice” (above, second set of panels from the bottom).
Among my favorites is his interpretation of highlights from Neil Gaiman’s wonderful commencement address to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts here in Phialdelphia (image set above, bottom — if you haven’t seen Gaiman’s original speech, by the way, it is definitely worth 20 minutes of time on the part of anyone involved in art related fields, see my post here).
In addition to the blog-like format of Than’s site, there is a separate blog section. There are also features like translations of some strips in several languages and an about page. Than also has prints available on society6.