Questiontime with Jon Burgerman

originally posted on June 5, 2012

© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman

If you have an interest in doodles, character art and anything in, around and beyond this general area you might already be familiar with British artist and illustrator Jon Burgerman. Like a constantly evolving and expanding wallpaper, Jon Burgerman’s art seems suited to cover just about anything, from canvas and walls to sneakers, books, video game worlds and people. Did I mention he also plays in Anxieteam with Jim Avignon? Well, he does.
Let’s see what he is up to today, shall we?

CW: Hello, Jon Burgerman. Where in the world are you right now, and are there any interesting sandwiches around?

JB: I’m sat in Brooklyn, NYC. There are no sandwiches around but my friend Jim ate a huge mexican sandwich today at the waterside park.

Would you be able to show us your latest drawing or is it a secret?

Erm… I’m not sure what my latest drawing is, oh wait, here’s one:

© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman

It’s of the singer from Radiohead.

What do you spend the most of your time on these days, your commercial work or your own projects and exhibitions?

Exhibitions and my own projects. I’m doing the least amount of commercial work I’ve done in many years now. Sadly I still find that most of my time is still spent in front of a computer.

You have designed a multitude of products and packaging for various companies – do you ever have to turn down a job due to lack of time or interest?

Sure – I only have so much time and people forget that some of that time needs to be spent not working! There’s no point working on a job you don’t like – the work will suffer and then you’ll like the work even less.

© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman

Your reputation is that of an extremely prolific artist. You have drawn on just about any kind of surface, worked in plenty of different media and collaborated with many different artists. What’s on your to do list – objects to design? A medium you haven’t yet tried? An artist you would like to work with?

I’d like to do more live work – more experiences that are strange, unique and special. After you’ve made a lot of ‘things’ the experience gets a little hollow, seeing as most of it is driven by commercial forces. I want to make less but nicer things, paint more, travel more, eat more and perform more.

© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman

While the central aspects of some of your larger drawings seem to be shape and colour, they generally feature characters or character elements in more or less abstract form. Are these characters usually there for purely aesthetic reasons?

Not really – they are the anchor points to the compositions and a way ‘in’ to the pieces. They represent, loosely, both myself and the viewer. We are lost amongst ourselves, entangled in a mess of our own making. The crooked hands, at broken angles and uncomfortable degrees are my hands as I draw the pieces. The pieces are self documenting their creation.

© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman

In an interview I read you mentioned that your drawings sometimes are visual diary entries. Do they contain some form of narrative or are they made up of fragments of what you experienced in no specific order?

They are not storyboards or comic stripes but do follow a narrative. As mentioned above, sometimes the narrative is the struggle of making the work itself. Sometimes it’s about finding the perfect sandwich. Stories drive all my works. Without a story to tell I’d have nothing to draw (write, sing, blog, scribble) about.

When you draw individual characters that are not part of a larger image, do you imagine a narrative for them, or are they ever based on real life people?

Yes, they are sometimes based on people I’ve met or know. I sometimes draw in a more figurative sense and then cook them down into my simplified character form. They don’t all instantly have backstories. Sometimes a character will be forgotten about and sometimes they will stick around, and reappear in my work. This is part of the process of developing them. Over time they get personalities, names, dreams and fears. It’s at this point when they become characters, as opposed to just a drawing of a character.

© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman

Top 5 artists at the moment?

hmmm I dunno, I’m not good with these sorts of things. Here’s the first 5 artists I can think of:

Top 5 songs/records to listen to while working?

according to my last FM account it is currently

  • Slugabed
  • Teenage Fanclub
  • Toots and the Maytals
  • Grimes
  • Jam City

Another Top 5 of your own choice?

Top 5 things I’m going to do tonight

  • Eat veggie steamed dumpling at M Noodle
  • Watch Lena Dunham’s TV show GIRLS
  • Drink a beer
  • Take my socks off
  • Go to bed and read some pages of IQ84
© Jon Burgerman

© Jon Burgerman