Jon Burgerman Interview

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We decided it was time to touch base with one of the best creative artists resident in Nottingham so we shoved the world famous Jon Burgerman down the Lee Rosy stairs and kept him there until all our questions were answered.

He’s drawn on everything from cars, tents, shoes Freeq magazines and clothing, and even two giant My Little Ponies for a charity auction.   “It was funny, I had to walk through town carrying these giant white My Little Ponies and people gave me the weirdest looks.”

Of all the things we could have asked, the most important was settled first; did he know his Wikipedia page said he was born in Nottingham?  He set the record straight immediately, “don’t believe everything you read!” As it happens, Jon was born in Birmingham and I personally don’t think you should believe anything you read if it’s from Wikipedia.  “For a long time my name was spelt wrong on it… I don’t know how to do Wikipedia but I know some artists do their own.  Whoever filled it in originally didn’t care too much for details like where I was born and how to spell my name!”

Jon’s chowing down on a lunchtime sandwich, and won’t let us buy him a drink (what a gent), he’s very easy going, and comes across as a happy go lucky kind of guy,  but if he’d had his way as a kid, he might not have ever picked up a pen. “I wanted to be a Ghostbuster.  I also wanted to be a footballer, or be in a rock band, but none of those things were particularly realistic… except maybe the Ghostbuster.”

So who did he look up to in his childhood? “I didn’t really do that when I was younger, [now] I do it even less.  I don’t worship or obsess about anyone, maybe that’s a bad thing… When I was in LA in June, I was fortunate enough to meet the guy that invented The Simpsons, Matt Groening.  I chatted to him for a long time and came away thinking I’d just met my hero. What he did with his comics, then obviously The Simpsons and Futurama, I was pretty impressed. Any artist or person that has something they’re passionate about and do regardless of money, I always find that inspirational.”

Jon does confess to getting himself into trouble at school because of his non-stop doodling.  “I’d regularly lose lunch breaks and I’d tell my mum I was at football practice but I’d actually be an hour behind at school.  I used to get in trouble for drawing on windows in condensation as well.”  If there was such a thing as doodle tourettes then I guess Jon would be the first to be diagnosed.  We asked if he considers himself something of a geek.  “I’m obviously a bit of a nerd, there’s no getting away from that but I wish I was more of a geek.  Geeks are very smart and they know a lot about things; I know very little about anything.  I am a bit of a geek but not enough – I want to geek it up more!

As a self-confessed nerd, Jon has a rather large stock of pens but is there a special pen that’s close to his heart? “ I have pens I like using but no, I don’t have any kind of ‘this is the pen I drew this picture with, I’m gonna keep it.’ I thought I’d keep all my dead pens, like little dead friends, make little shrines to them or something, but I can’t be bothered.”

So what advice for aspiring doodlers out there? “I think you need some pens, something to draw on… I think these are the staples of any doodling exercise.    Just, er, enjoy doing it is the main thing.  Be a geek, definitely.  It’s fun but you should take it seriously.  Be inspired by people, but come up with your own way of doing it."

Jon’s sense of fun and love for his art really comes across in the work he produces, and his success means there are now shops all over the world selling his merchandise. He has also recently set up a website which sells his own stuff such as stickers, books, toys, laptop cases and wallpaper, plus products he’s licensed work to.  “I don’t know all the shops where you can buy stuff.  I had a poster in Ikea but it’s been discontinued now.  I had emails every month from people saying ‘I was in Ikea and I saw this and took a picture on my phone, are they ripping you off?’” And if he went there with the sole purpose of seeing his poster, would he still come out having spent £100? “…on flat pack furniture and hotdogs.  No, I’ve nothing against Ikea but I wouldn’t go there just to look at my own posters, that’d be stupid… I do need some new plates though…”

With all that available online we wondered if Jon had plans for his very own shop. “I’d love there to be a Burger shop, but in this present climate, opening a shop that just sells junk of mine, isn’t going to be a massive winner.  Maybe one day, I’m not ruling it out; that and a theme park…

On the subject of merchandise, we asked Jon about his new book Pens are my Friends. “It’s a monograph, it’s just a book of my work from the last seven years or so.  It’s 300 pages, some of them fold out, it’s got special inks, the sleeve folds out to a big poster, and it comes with a mini book of sketches and doodles and a DVD with photographs, animations and time lapse drawings.  My friend, Nathan Beddows, does a lot of BMX photography, he took a lot of photographs for the book and we couldn’t include everything so there’s a showreel of photographs with us doing a commentary over the top, which is embarrassing but funny as well.  It’s full of goodness; it’s better than the Bible, hotels should have them… no, don’t write that (laughs).

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