Posted Nov 13th 2004 by

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An interview with
JON BURGERMANwords by , November 2004

Jon Burgerman is the doodle-master-king of the UK. Pic up any design mag or visit any collaborative exhibition and there’s a good chance you’ll see some of his stuff. We were able to get him to down his felt-tips for a few minutes to have a quick chat.

I’ve got to bring up this very big subject first, as it’s something close to my heart too! So, you’re a Watercolour Challenge fan?

I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m a fan but if it’s on whilst I’m flicking through the channels I’d certainly watch it. I haven’t seen it for a while – is it still on? It’s one of those mid-afternoon programs which goes very well with a mug of tea and a handful of biscuits. Amidst a hazy gentle snooze of mid-day tiredness and soggy digestive gut I’ve fantasied about appearing on it; trying to capture the form of an old windmill with a chewed up biro and felt pens much to the horror of Hannah Gordon.

Do you draw (excuse the pun) a lot of inspiration from day-time television?

Not really. Let’s face it, daytime telly is pretty terrible – like most telly actually. It’s more depressing than inspiring. Apart from the Sopranos which is great. And old episodes of the Simpsons, (not the rubbish terrible new ones of the last 5 years).

Sneaker Pimps

Customised trainers for Sneaker Pimps

Back on topic, for all the un-initiated, how would you describe your style of work?

Bad drawings, colourful doodles, creatures, characters, teeth, wobbliness.

You’ve become a respected authority on illustrative techniques (I for one have read your tutorials in Computer Arts), who inspired you and taught you all the tricks when you were just getting into the business?

Inspiration comes from lots of things, places and people. It’d be too much (ie too time consuming) to note down everything here. Needless to say there are lots of inspiring artists out there I wish I was like. As for computer tricks, I picked stuff up from wherever I could find them; friends, work colleagues, toilet graffiti etc… No-one sat me down and taught me, a lot of it came about from trial and error and from keeping my eyes open when around those more knowledgeable than I.

Regardless of its subject, all your work has a lot of humour and comedy about it. Is this intentional or is it just how you draw?

Some of it must be how I draw and some of it is intentional. Even when a piece isn’t meant to be wholly amusing I’ll try and find some humor in it. I guess that’s more to do with my sense of humor and the need to keep myself amused as I work.

Burgerman characters

Characters for a limited edition print

You’ve talked in the past about your love of stickers, which were your favourite stickers? (I had a pretty comprehensive Italia 90 sticker collection, and I was a big fan of those sheets of stickers they used to give away with Sugar Puffs)

I had lots of Pannini sticker books, Beano, Dandy, Football ones, Back to the Future.. I was also a big fan of stuff given away with cereals and would often irritate the hell out of my parents by ripping open all our cereal boxes and fishing out the plastic giraffes.

You’ve also done badge designs for Wear It With Pride. How do approach designing something as small as that?

You have to think small – peas, ants, five pence pieces, mobile phone buttons, donut sprinkles, Spurs’ chances of qualifying for Europe… and then you’re there: In the mode, fully prepared to work tiny.

We here at Thunder Chunky view the humble badge as the ultimate piece of merchandise, what’s the best piece of merchandise you’ve picked up at a gig or event?

Qee

Customised Qee

My dad used to work for a (crappy) film company so I used to be given all manner of (equally crappy but in actual fact brilliant ) merchandise from him, loosely masquerading as Birthday presents and what not.

The cool things I can remember were a rubber pizza keyring (Mystic Pizza) an inflatable baseball bat (Major League) a baseball shaped alarm clock you could throw at the wall (Major League) and a mug with a heat sensitive glow in the dark winkle on it (Skin Deep)

You’ve already got a show set up at 55DSL and you had an animation shown at V Festival, what’s up next?

Doodlin’ at Doodlebug in Manchester is up next, followed by wall doodling for the Wear It With Pride event happening in London.

To help all our wannabe illustrators, could you give us a quick run down of some of the steps you go through when producing work for print. For example, how much of your time is spent on hand-drawing and how much time is spent on the computer?

Hand drawing = 20%
Computer time (working) = 20%
Computer time (emailing) = 50%
Staring out of the window wondering where your youth went = 10%

Sketchel

Sketchel

What music would you recommend for doing work to?

It really depends on the piece of work your doing. Happy colourful pieces needs nice melodic accompaniment more violent, angry, angst-ridden pieces need similarly loud sounds. I find if I really want to concentrate and bash something out it has to be loud and noisy.

You’ve done quite a bit of cd sleeve work, if you could design an album sleeve for any artist, alive or dead, who would it be? And what would you do?

Hmmm I’m not sure. I (like to) think my work would lend itself to people like Beck, Jimi Tenor, Herbie Hancock, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Fog, Aidan Smith, Jim o’rouke ermm .. I dunno actually, It’d be great to go back in time and have a crack at Dark Side of The Moon. I’d keep it the same but just add some sleepy eyes and a mouth to the prism.

Any plans to visit Liverpool at any point in the future?

The marvelous Peter Campbell lives in Liverpool – he made most of the sound effects on my site. So no. I don’t have any immediate plans to visit but when I do I’ll let you know. When I last visited I went to Fact and saw an exhibition with dry ice in it.

Finally, what’s the one thing you’d recommend everybody should do today?

Help an old lady across the road ?
Only boil the exact amount of water they need for a cup of tea instead of the whole kettle ?
Save the whales ?
Buy one of my limited edition prints ?
All extremely worthwhile activities people should do everyday.

There are a few places you can visit to check out more of Jon’s doodle creations. These are www.jonburgerman.com, www.biro-web.com and www.helloduudle.com.

POSTED BY Jon

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  • Watercolour Challenge !! awesome .. is it still on telly ?

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