Each month (or whenever I can get my act together), I spotlight some faithful readers with an interesting story to share, whether it be how this site has helped them or what they do for a living.

OSCAR from Guadalajara, Mexico.

I’ve had a pretty traumatic life, I ran away from home when I was 11 years old because of an abusive step-mother and lived with an aunt for 2 years. But I was too much of a rebel and decided to live on the streets when I was 13 years old. I used to sleep on the steps of the Jalisco stadium in Guadalajara, and I eventually got a job as a car washer.

Since I was young I started creating stories in my head where I would fantasise about having enough to eat and a huge comfortable bed to sleep on. They would help me cope with the troubles I was facing.

Slowly, life became better. I even had the oportunity to go to America. In Texas, my eyes opened to the desire to write those stories I had imagined but I didn’t have the guts to do it because I thought I would suck at it. Things started to go bad again in November 2011 – I lost my job and separated with my girlfriend and was in real trouble emotionally and financially. Luckily, I found a job last July that gave me access to the internet. I don’t remember how, but I found Zen Pencils and I started reading the quotes and looking at the drawings and started laughing and crying so bad that my boss asked me to leave for a little while so I could control myself! I decided to follow the teaching of the great men and women on the site … I stopped trying to catch happiness like a butterfly, and I started to think (from my favourite comic) what really made me feel alive? After reading the Make Good Art quote I decided to write the old stories I used to dream up as a kid, but more importantly, I didn’t care if it was good or bad or what other people would think of them. I decided to at least create something! Now I wait anxiously for your updates each week while I work on my stories … and I don’t know why, but I know life will be better.

WYATT from Tampa, USA.

What’s the appeal of Zen Pencils?
readerwyattZen Pencils is something “good” on the Internet. I could name many websites for something funny or violent, but there are only a few that I could actually call “good”. Zen Pencils is one. It’s a nice site for another artist to see. I’m also a history buff, so it’s nice to see what those who have gone before me have had to say. In particular, I love the Invictus and If comics. Both are incredibly powerful, and everytime I read them, I get a tiny chill because of that power. Overall, it’s one of the best ways to use a blog.

What type of art do you create and how has Zen Pencils helped in your own work?
My medium is the written word; I love to create my own characters and the worlds they live in. Further, I am a musician, and so lose myself in the music I play and listen to. Zen Pencils helps with my writing as, on occasion, I can see the things writers before me have said and shared. This is a source of inspiration to me, and sometimes it makes me stop and think of my own quotes. Maybe if I become successful, perhaps my words will grace one of your comics!

CATIE from Manilla, Philippines.

readercatieI’ve been following your art on your website for a long time now. It’s a constant reminder of a passion of mine that I almost lost which and later became an inspiration for me to get back to my first love, which is art.

I can still remember the very first drawing I made when I was in kindergarten. It was a picture of a boy and a girl in their underwear! My mom was shocked for two reasons: first, that I made such a good drawing at a young age and second, that her daughter’s drawing would need to be censored because it wasn’t acceptable to be submitted to the teacher. Over the years my talent for art became more evident with each figure I drew. Unfortunately my so-called ‘gift’ met so many discouragements from the people around me who should’ve been helping me to develop and nurture it. “No one can earn a decent living by drawing pictures! Don’t waste your time with such nonsense!”, my dad would always say every time he saw me doodling. Most of the people around me maintain that becoming a doctor or engineer or lawyer or some sort of computer technician was the only acceptable career path to pursue.

But to be honest, art was the only thing that made sense to me. I don’t care about making money through my art or making a career out of it. Life would be unbearable if we didn’t have ways to express our innate creativity. I guess some people just don’t know that feeling of satisfaction one can get after a long day (or several days) of being hunched over a desk, working on an art project and then taking the time to take in the entirety of all that your hands have created, whether it be a sculpture, a painting, a comic strip or caricature.

Through the years of constant repression and rejection I came to the brink of forgetting my talent for drawing because growing up for me meant having to focus on a career in IT. It was only in the recent years that I really forced myself to get back in touch with my first love. I realised that there must be a higher purpose, that I was born with these skills and it would be an injustice if I lived my life according to someone else’s design. And so I started drawing again. I’ve always been a traditional artist, meaning I use mostly paper, pencil, and other tangible art materials. But then as I encountered more and more digitally-created art on the internet (like Zen Pencils) I started to realise that I need to upgrade my skills big time and now I can’t wait to start trying out some new techniques!

That was three young readers who are just beginning to take their hobby seriously. JENNIFER from Washington DC, is on her way to turning her hobby into a career.

What do you do for a living?
I design knit and crochet patterns for publication. What this means is I create a design, and then write it out so other people can make it. Jennifer’s website

You were laid off from your job three years ago, was it difficult to overcome the disappointment and start your own business?
Getting laid off at any time is hard. I was a year out of college, and was not selected to have my contract renewed. I struggled with feeling like I was unwanted, even when I knew the job wasn’t quite right for me and hadn’t been the best fit. I’m lucky because I had my fiance (then boyfriend) cheering me on, and pushing me to find something that was a better fit for me. When I lost my job I had enough finances to give me a few months grace, and I made it stretch out even longer. This gave me time to realize that I wasn’t going to be happy in a traditional office job, and to figure out how I was going to take something I loved (knit and crochet) and turn it into something more than just a hobby.

How long did it take for you to turn your hobby into a full-time gig?
I’m still working on that. I currently design for about two-thirds of my time, and it makes up about one-third of my income. I also work as a part-time nanny. I’m not looking to stop being a nanny – because I love what I do (I’ve been with the children over two years).

Do you think if you hadn’t lost your previous job, you would still be working in a profession that you knew wasn’t right for you?
I imagine I would have spent a lot longer struggling with jobs that weren’t quite the right fit. I would have found something I felt passionate about eventually, but getting laid off certainly gave me a kick in the pants.

Many thanks to Oscar, Wyatt, Catie and Jennifer. If you would like to be featured as a reader of the month, send me an email at gavin@zenpencils.com