GAVIN AUNG THAN doesn’t pretend to be an expert on quotations, but he knows a good one when he sees it.
“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.”
Than is the graphic designer-turned cartoonist behind Zen Pencils, a new blog that matches up motivational quotes with comic strip art. In the month since he’s launched the blog, he’s tackled great quotations from Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, the Dalai Lama, and Hunter S. Thompson. One strip, featuring a quote from Carl Sagan, has gone viral.
Don’t let the cartoon characters fool you — Than is also unafraid to take the quote comics into deep, meaningful and dark places. Some of his images have addressed the topics of spousal abuse, bullying and war.
“The subject matter is dictated by the quote most of the time,” Than says in an e-mail. “Sometimes however, the comic is driven by an image that comes to me after I read the quote over and over again. For instance, the image of two soldiers playing ping pong came to me after reading the Carl Sagan quote and I worked backwards from there.” His Carl Sagan comic is pictured below.
Than publishes cartoons three days a week, and he’ll soon be tackling Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” as well as quotes by Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Frost. See more at Zen Pencils.