Zen Pencils Design Challenge

imagesJointly Issued by: Gavin Aung Than and Allison Zmuda

I have been a fan of Gavin’s cartoons for awhile now and I reached out to him to describe his creation process as well as a design challenge for students.

AZ: Why did you create Zen Pencils?
GAT: I was working in the boring corporate graphic design industry for 8 years before finally quitting at the end of 2011 to pursue my passion for illustration and cartooning. At my old job, when my boss wasn’t looking, I would waste time reading Wikipedia pages, mainly biographies about people whose lives where a lot more interesting than mine. Their stories and quotes eventually inspired me to leave my job to focus on what I really wanted to do. The idea of taking these inspiring quotes, combining them with my love of drawing and sharing them with others led to the creation of Zen Pencils.
AZ: What type of quotes do you adapt?
GAT: Anything and everything. Poets to Presidents, comedians to colonels – anyone who inspires me, challenges my way of thinking, wakes me up or just makes me laugh.
AZ: How do you move from a quote to a cartoon? What does your creative process look like?
GAT: First I find a quote that I really like and then basically I just daydream until a small idea pops into my head. I also usually print out the quote onto a piece of paper and then doodle rough sketches onto the paper. I’ll make a connection with some words or a sentence from the quote and just scribble whatever comes to mind. I just keep scribbling away until something happens. If nothing happens (which is normal) I walk away and do something else, then come back to the problem later.
AZ: What is the quote to cartoon challenge?
GAT: Here’s a quote students can try: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
AZ: Would love to see what the students come up with. Maybe I can publish the best 5 on my website?

Please submit cartoons to az@just-start.com and I will forward along to Gavin directly. If you would like more inspiration, please visit Zen Pencils.


Wow, that was fast! Nasrin Lin was so inspired, she created this in 24 hours. Keep the submissions coming!

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10 years ago

When would you like submissions in by?