Jon Burgerman Instigates Improvisation and Play Through Drawing

Jon Burgerman photo of artist

Jon Burgerman is a contemporary British artist who lives and works in New York. Renowned for his joyful compositions inspired by his admiration of animation.

Burgerman practice explores the sense of play as a source of communication, honed through his years of commercial engagements, where he mastered the technique of story-telling. His work is known for its playfulness and sense of humour, and his creations have graced numerous gallery walls, buildings and multiple mediums, including children’s books, sculptures and NFTs.

Jon Burgerman photo of artist
Jon Burgerman

It all stems from a childhood love of animation, notably Tex Avery and Chuck Jones stuff. Worlds in which everything is elastic, colourful, ridiculous, hyper-emotional, seemingly spontaneous and always played for laughs

Jon Burgerman

Burgerman’s work is a visual symphony led by his fusion of watercolours, spray paint, and crayons, bringing his charming characters to life with a distinct dimension where everything looks delicious.

Their imperfect shapes, vibrant colours, and googly eyes possess a mesmeric influence that invokes a sense of wonder as he translates his narratives into iconic imagery that speaks to the child in all of us.

We managed to catch up with Jon ahead of his group exhibition NFTism at Unit London.

NFTism is on from September 10th until 25th at Unit London.

Q: Hi Jon! How are you doing? for those who don’t know you, can you please introduce yourself?

A: My name is Jon Burgerman; I’m a British artist who’s been based in NYC for over ten years. I predominately draw and paint and then take those images and apply them to a wide variety of physical and digital media. My work is playful, colourful and funny (or so people tell me). I take not being wholly serious quite seriously.

Jon Burgerman - Golden Child’ spray paint on canvas, 30x40
Golden Child’ spray paint on canvas, 30×40
Q: How did you get started on your artistic journey, and were there any memorable moments along the way?

A: I studied Fine Art in Nottingham and graduated in 2001. Up until then, your hand is held on your artist journey. After graduating, it’s like a bus slowing down enough for someone to push you off. Then you’ve got to make your way.

I always wanted to be a painter, but I couldn’t afford to start doing that. I took on commercial commissions (record sleeves, t-shirts, posters, illustrations etc.). Some of those turned out to be quite fun and taught me a lot about making captivating images and how to tell stories and show emotions within a work.

Now that I’m less susceptible to spunking my hard-earned cash on shiny trinkets and vomit coloured cardigans. I don’t need to do as many commercial projects as before and can cherry-pick the tastiest ones whilst focusing on my studio practice.

Q: What was the first piece of art you created that cemented your path as an artist?

A: I don’t know if there was just one piece. I don’t think any career is cemented on just one piece. Well, unless you’re a cementer, of course, in which case quite literally your first path probably cements your career 🙂

Jon burgerman in the studio
Jon burgerman in the studio
Q: Can you tell us about your creative process?

A: I’ve come to realise my process begins long before I even get to my studio. I muddle around thinking about things for a long time, and if an idea sticks in my head long enough to survive all the other obstructions littering my mind, it may well make it onto a canvas.

I sometimes make little sketches or notes to remind of an idea, but I seldom draft it or test it out. I prefer just to give it a go and paint it straight off. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just make another one… and then another. The strange thing is sometimes I return to the works I was certain didn’t work the first time around and think of them as masterpieces!

I know I can’t completely trust myself, so I have to put all my faith in the actual work, hoping that at least it knows what it’s doing.

Jon burgerman's work at  One East Mall  Shanghai 上海
Jon’s work at  One East Mall
Shanghai 上海, China
Q: Your work is known for its vibrant environments, consisting of a fusion of energy, characters, shapes and colours. Can you tell us the inspiration behind this?

A: It isn’t easy to unpick why exactly I like the things I do, but maybe it all stems from a childhood love of animation, notably Tex Avery and Chuck Jones stuff. Worlds in which everything is elastic, colourful, ridiculous, hyper-emotional, seemingly spontaneous and always played for laughs.

Jon Burgerman - Strange Relationships
Strange Relationships
Q: From concept to finish, how long does it take you to complete an illustration?

A: I’ve no idea, although I know that things take a lot longer when I don’t really want to do them.

Q: What are you trying to accomplish with your illustrations?

A: In illustrations (not art), it’s to get paid. Illustration work is quite a different beast to painting in my own practice. When I’m doing an illustration gig (something I don’t go out of my way to do), I really hope that it’ll be fun to do and I’ll be paid… otherwise, why I am doing something for someone else?

Q: Currently, you’re taking part in a group exhibition with GR Gallery titled SUMMER CAMP. What can we expect to experience?

A: Two handsome canvases celebrating a holy union of shape, colour, contours and character.

Jon Burgerman - Zoom Call
Zoom Call
Q: Do have any tip for emerging artists or illustrators?

A: If you find some element of your practice more fun than some other parts, lean into the fun stuff and drop the annoying stuff. I wish I learned this earlier. If you’re finding some work fun, that means you’re good at it, and you should do it some more!

Q: What next for you as an artist?

A: More exhibitions, a print with Moosey Art, more animated pieces, a sculptural piece or two, toys, a streetwear collab in China and hopefully a nap.

Jon Burgerman - They even shoot kids
They even shoot kids
Q: Lastly, what does art mean to you? 

A: It’s an opportunity to connect with other human beings on a meaningful level without ever having to talk to them.

©2021 Jon Burgerman