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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Jon Burgerman

1 April 06 interview: David Blenkey

"All children are given crayons to doodle with and I was no different, so I can't really say exactly when I started."

Nottingham based illustrator Jon Burgerman’s use of chewed up biros and felt tips has made him an in-demand doodler of international acclaim. His unique style of squiggly lined character illustration can be found in many a nook and cranny from pieces of cardboard and planks of wood to Sony’s PSP advertising campaign and MTV animation spots. LeftLion caught up with the pen-handler to see where he draws the line…

When did you first start drawing?
All children are given crayons to doodle with and I was no different, so I can't really say exactly when I started. I remember when I was about ten wanting to do drawings when I 'grew up'. I'm still patiently waiting for that to happen.

How would you describe your work to someone who hasn't seen it?
Strange characters, knitted together with interlinking lines and squiggles, often colourful and sometimes silly.

Who bought your first piece of work?
I can't remember as I used to sell pieces and figures made out of Fimo when I was about 14 at school. When I finished art foundation some of my peers and I put on an exhibition at the Custard Factory in Birmingham called 'Do You Want Fries With That' (as we all thought trying to be artists would lead to a fast-food career). The manager of the Custard Factory bought one of my two big paintings whilst we were still setting up. The other one sold after the opening night. Ker-ching, dollar signs flashed in my eyes and my wallet was momentarily bloated with crisp folded paper instead of loose change.

How long do your drawings take to do?
Sometimes they are very quick but they might be the culmination of days of drafting pieces and scribbling characters. It can depend on their complexity, though sometimes the simplest of drawings takes a very long time to get right.

Do you prefer drawing large or small scale?
Big or small both present different advantages and disadvantages. I supposed I'd err on the side of smaller things as there's less colouring in required. I'm very lazy and easily distracted.

Colour or B&W?
I guess colour because you can maybe do more with it, though B&W is ok by me too.

Favourite Colour?
Breen and gellow mixed with a hint a rurple.

What impact have computers had on your work?
They can make things a lot quicker, they can make things a lot slower. I think I wouldn't be able to make a living out of doodling without computers though. Not especially for the art programs but for being able to chat / email with people all over the world and to send them work samples. Without a website I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gained half the jobs I've done.

Do you prefer making animations or still images?
Stills because animations might look great and fun but are very time consuming and labour intensive to produce. It takes me maybe a week to make a 45 second piece, and by the end of it I'm cracking up and ever so slightly foaming at the mouth.

You been featured on sites such as Wooster collective involved in collaborations with various European streets artists; what's your level of involvement in the street art scene? Somewhere between none at all and very little. I used to do a fair amount of stickering years ago but not so much in the last few years due to being busy and turning my attention to other things. If I find myself with the opportunity to paint and doodle outside with others I'll gladly take it and I do still whack the occasional sticker up when out and about. I like getting involved in street art projects and collaborating with other artists, who are very much street artists, but I wouldn't place myself along side of them. In the same way, I wouldn't really call myself an animator either, even though I do make the odd animated piece.

Would you say the field of illustration is experiencing a revival at present?
It's taken a little upturn recently, I think, but things perhaps still aren't as rosey as they once were.

What projects have you been working on recently?
I've been working a lot on my toy projects with Hong Kong company Flying Cat. I've also just created a lot of artwork for a Japanese clothing brand called Love Rabby (who is a rabbit) and have some trinkets and goodies being produced by Australian trinket and goodie manufacture Nook Art. I just painted a plank of wood in the trendy clothing store Plank on Heathcote Street, Hockley on Saturday 18th March for their birthday.

When is your next exhibition/future plans?
I'm showing work in Dublin for a talk on the 23rd of March. I've got work in a group show called Papercuts in London at Dreambagsjaguarshoes which should open on the 27th of April and then a solo show in Paris in May, which should be open on the 4th until the 20th. I'm also in the middle of organising a small group show (two others and myself) in the centre of London for just after the world cup.

Best gallery/ space for art in Nottingham?
I'm hoping it'll be the CCAN space.

Last good exhibition you saw?
The last exhibition I saw was Ghosting at the Angel Row Gallery, and it was good, so that counts right ?

Top tip for up and coming artists?
Doodle, scribble and draw all day long if you want to become proficient at it. Going to all different sorts of exhibitions and shows can also help broaden your inspirations.

Favourite places in Nottingham?
(I'm hoping this will nab me some freebies) I love Wagamama's, I'm very grateful there's one in Nottingham. I also frequent the Broadway Cinema, The Keans Head and the great Shaba Nan Kabab in Radford. I also like that little art shop on Mansfield road and the health food store further down on the same side. Oh and Caringtons chips, near the train station, are best I've had in Nottingham.

Dream project?
An animated cartoon series would be cool but I'd settle for a food-for-doodles deal in the aforementioned restaurants and shops.

Anything else you want to say to LeftLion readers?
Oppose the expansion of the Eastcroft Incinerator, which is just inside the city centre, and is officially the worst offending incinerator in the UK. Have some pride in the city and don't let Nottingham become the dumping ground for all of the East Midland's waste. Recycle stuff, don't burn it and then breathe in the toxic fumes. See NAIL for all the facts.

Jon Burgerman’s work is currently on display in Plank clothing shop, the Angel Row window display.

Jon Burgerman website

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