The artist also explains why creativity is so important to children and how Michael Gove is short-sighted not to recognise this.
This weekend sees the Imagine Children's Festival return at London's Southbank Centre, bringing together plays, readings, hands-on art and design sessions and other events aimed at chlidren – plus talks around the subject of children's creativity for adults. To promote the festival, the organisers commissioned Nottingham-born, New York-based illustrator and artist Jon Burgerman to produce a series of characters for use on posters around London (including on the Underground), flyers and online. Rather than leaving it up to Jon to design the characters from scratch, the festival team gave him a large collection of characters drawn by children to base his creations on.
We caught up with Jon to find out more about the project in advance of a return trip to his home country next week. We also asked him about the importance of creativity and creative education for chlidren, a subject that has been discussed much recently following the exclusion of subjects such as art, design, music and drama from the EBacc collection of subjects that form the basis for the EBC (English Baccalaureate Certificate) that education secretary Michael Gove wants to replace core GCSE qualifications with.
DA: How did you get the gig?
JB: "I did a workshop at the Southbank in September. It was a sort of lecture, a 'learn how to draw crudely' kind of event. They might of been impressed by that (unlikely) or just someone in the organisation thought I'd be a good person to draw some characters for them. I can't really say to be honest, I didn't question their invitation."
DA: How many drawings did they send over?
JB: "They sent me about 50 or so files, each of which contained one to three drawings each."
DA: Did you base your characters on elements of what the kids had drawn?
JB: "That's exactly what I did. I first redrew all of their characters so I could learn a little about what it would be like to draw in that way. Then I redrew my drawings and selected parts here and there to keep and add to the characters.
"I wanted to retain as much of the excellence and innovation in the children's drawings as possible.
"I have to admit I did think whilst working on the project that the Southbank really didn't need me at all in the process. Many of the drawings were brilliant to start with."
DA: How important is it for children to engage in creative activities?
JB: "It's not just important for children, it's important for everyone. We're in an age of constant change, where how we live and how we work is rapidly evolving in ways we cannot predict.
"To adapt, innovate, survive and be happy we need creative skills. We need to know how to be imaginative and how to play.
"I think Michael Gove is being incredibly short sighted. Arts, design, music and performance are all going to suffer under his plans and – as a result – so will a generation of children: our future workforce, teachers, doctors, scientists and leaders.
DA: What are you working on next?
JB: "A variety of things including some animation projects that will probably take several years to ever see the light of day. I've got some art exhibitions and performances planned for the year, a tour of Asia and some other stuff I can't quite remember now. I'll also be speaking at the Pictoplasma 2013 conference in Berlin in April."