Interview: Jon Burgerman talks about what has inspired his success

Jon and (part of a) friend

Fresh from the recent Pick Me Up show in London, artist and food enthusiast Jon Burgerman details what has inspired his success

1 Fear

“My fear of working in a dead-end job made me want to be an artist. My fear of not being able to be weird, flex my imagination, dream, play, experiment, fail on a daily basis.

“My fear of fearing Monday morning, the dread of Sunday night, the sadness of being squashed up inside of a foul-smelling bus early in the morning to be transported to a place where the only goal is to make time pass as fast as possible and get out of there.

“My fear of sitting in a sterile office of dead air and dry light, where the only highlight of the day is buying a Mars Bar from the vending machine to go with the awful tea from the kitchenette. My fear of monotony and boredom made me do it.”

2 My mother

“I was influenced by my mother to draw and create as a pastime and pleasurable endeavour. But also as a means of learning and thinking. She painted and drew and sowed and stuck. 

“When I was a child, she reprimanded me for not preparing a salad I was making in a more careful and aesthetically pleasing manner. I didn’t think stuff like that was important, but diligence and design, imagination and presentation are vital to everything we make – even a salad.”

3 Moving to New York

A ‘doodle’ of Jon’s of the skyline of his current base, New York

[Jon is originally from Nottingham, but currently lives in Williamsburg, New York]

“I moved to NYC for fun. I wanted to live somewhere else and be challenged and see more things: different people, different places and different cultures. Different types of light falling on different types of buildings; different sirens screaming down the street; different sauces on my chips; different birds on the trees; different mud against my knees

“Comfort is what we strive for. With that there’s a sense of taking one’s foot off the gas (to borrow an American saying). Comfort is a plateau. In a perverse way I moved to be uncomfortable, as a drive to challenge myself and to work harder, better, differently.

“Also, have you eaten the pizza here? It’s amazing. I’ve fallen in love with NY pizza. A slice is nice.”

4 Doodling

“When I first started to get interviewed about my work, I’d use the word doodling as a means of self-depreciation. [I referred to] what I did – what I was dedicating all my time and energy and efforts to – as merely just a bunch of crappy doodles. 

“Like in most instances, the joke was squarely aimed at myself. And to teach me a lesson it stuck. Now I’m referred to as a ‘Doodle Artist’ and Doodling has sort of become a visual style of its own.

“I have students and young artists emailing me, telling me that they are Doodlers too. It’s struck a chord and I’m happy about that, as it’s still pretty funny to me. Yes, I am Jon and I doodle for a living.”

5 Food

Jon’s lunch on the day he wrote this piece, a ‘happy salad’

[Jon has answered this in poetic form, which could form lyrics for Jon’s band Anxieteam]

“Food in the morning is never boring
I eat porridge and strawberries whilst yawning.
Food for lunch, guzzled like a mallard. 
A mixture of rice, seaweed and salad.
Food in the evening, filling and hot, give it to me!
What you got?
Food anytime, anywhere, any way,
fried, boiled, mashed, roasted or fricassée.
Food charges my muscles, powers my brain sugars and vitamins, from proteins and grains.
Food in my belly and food in my poo.
Food is my friend.
Food I love you.”

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