Jon Burgerman is sleepy. Lounging in a deckchair at the Flash on the Beach festival in Brighton, one of the leading lights of character-based art is jetlagged from flying over from his relatively new base of New York.
By his headline talk at 8pm he's more energised -- perhaps lifted by an enthusiastic applause and laughter from the packed main hall at the Brighton Dome. But at lunchtime, his voice is even more laconic than usual.
DA: Why are you at Flash on the Beach?
JB: "John [Davey, organisers of FOTB] pestered and bullied me into coming. [laughs]. Also, now I'm based in New York, it's great to have a reason to fly back."
DA: What prompted the move to the US?
JB: "Just a change of scenery really. I'd been living in Nottingham for over 10 years. Although I had a really nice time and had no reason to leave, I needed a change -- I'd got comfortable. When you're part of the creative community, you need to see, hear and eat new things.
"New York is not a beautiful city but it's an interesting city. It's a vibrant city. There are people there from all around the world. It has an air of anticipation. People go there because of its history, fashion, music and art -- but also because something might happen. Everyone's very social and noisy about their work.
DA: Have you had to be more social to make things happen there?
JB: "Yeah, and I'm not very good at that. I already classify myself as a failure over there [laughs] You have to up your game there anyway as there's a lot of good people doing great stuff. It's a bit scary -- but that's probably a good thing.
DA: Has it made you push your art in new directions?
JB: "I'm getting a bit bolder with what I'm making and how I think about my work. I've only been there 10 months, and some of that time I've been travelling. Let's see how it is after a couple of years. Hopefully I'll be a bit more robust -- and arrogant [laughs]."
DA: Have you set yourself a plan of what you'll be working on in three or six months?
JB: "No, I'm an ambler. When I first started out, I met other designers and illustrators. A lot of those people set up studios, started getting employees, renting offices, then getting bigger offices. There was a structure and a plan.
"I don't do that. I don't think I'd like it. It makes life very inflexible. I want as little responsibility as possible that can limit what I do. Not that I'm super-crazy and want to do wacky stuff all the time, but I value my freedom."
DA: How has your work changed over the years?
JB: "My work has splintered off into different avenues. They're all connected but they're all a little different. It's not just illustration or design or painting -- it's those things plus performance and music.
"I don't have a normal job. Everything's a side project. They're all asides from having the deal with reality."
DA: For your music, you're in a band with the artist Jim Avignon called Anxieteam. Mc bess told us recently that his band is the most important of all his projects (Creative Freedom, Digital Arts September 2011), the one he'd give up the rest for. Is the same true for you?
JB: "The band is fun, but I take it very seriously. I can't say any one thing [is the most important]. I love being in a band. I really like writing. I love music. It's fun to dabble even in the very small way that I do.
"Even the recording process of how music is put together has been a really good learning experience for me. I wouldn't want to not do that, but I can't say I'd throw it all away to. I wouldn't want to not paint or draw again."
DA: What ties together all of the different forms that you work in?
JB: "As long as the sensibility of a work is retained, artists can turn their hand to anything. I have a certain way of being, thinking, talking, writing and drawing. And because of the way I think, whatever media I'm working in, it'll come out in a 'Jon' way. I'm not pixel perfect, I'm not super-clean. I'm not super-proficient. I'm lackadaisical. And all those things come through in my work, but I hope that it's very human, relatable forms of work that I produce.
"Sometimes you find yourself in awe of perfection, of how a human made this thing that's flawless. I can't -- I just don't have the skill or patience. I leave that to other people and plough my own path.
"I never studied design or illustration. I did Fine Art [at Nottingham Trent], which is basically 'do as you wish'. Some people talk about me in terms of being an illustrator, and there are certain idea of what that job is. As a designer or illustrator you do these things, and you work in this way. I quickly realised I'm not one of those people -- I could be something else. I could be a performance artist. I could do sculpture, or write music, or write stories.
"When you diversify, inevitably you get people saying 'stick to the drawing, mate' -- but there are enough really great people who are dedicated to just one discipline. You only get one life, you only get one chance to dick around. You've got to explore different areas.
"[When you work across different disciplines], one begins to inform in another. My bandmate Jim told me early on, when I was reluctant to [spend time on music], that 'you'll spend a month writing music, then you'll get back to painting full of new ideas because you've had a bit of a break. And when you're painting, ideas for your music will come through. And you'll go back and forth like that. One will reinvigorate the other'.
"Inspiration hits you when you're distracted. If you try to think of a good idea, it's difficult."