The unknown story of doodle artist Jon Burgerman

You've probably come across Jon Burgerman’s doodles by now. If not, you need to follow his Instagram or Facebook account for some brilliant light relief on your daily commute.

He’s constantly experimenting with what he can do with social media platforms – the British New York-based illustrator and all-round 'funny guy' is the king of doodle art, and one of the kindest people in the world.

To coincide with the release of Jon's new book It's Great to Create, Jon asked Brooklyn-based Dutch filmmaker Bas Berkhout (behind viral series Like Knows Like) to take some photos for the new book. However Bas thought he could create a film using all the photos. And so he did – so watch The Story of Jon Burgerman below.

Following his first children’s book Splat, Jon’s released It’s Great to Create with Chronicle Books (available through Amazon) at the start of this month. It’s full of 101 art-based projects that encourage drawing, doodling and having fun – an indirect reflection of Jon’s own career success, chaotic art form and likeability. Draw with your eyes closed or putting faces on your condiments, find colours that rhyme and doodle on your clothes.

Drawn to the personality and physiological journey of artists rather than their creative process, Bas uses the video interview with Jon to give us a better understanding of who he is, where he came from, and why being the “funny guy” is so important to him. Rather than a typical artist profile, the video delves into the home videos of Jon as a kid, growing up in a Jewish family impacted by World War Two and how this impacts Jon now.

“I think [an artist’s] creative process is interesting but it’s often a similar story. Psychological journeys seems to go a lot deeper and I’m able to learn a lot more about the person, and even the world we live in,” says Bas.

Jon Burgerman / Bas Berkhout

When asked to describe his work to a blind man, Jon says, “lots of googly eyes. A lot of fun. Think of something fun, and think of that fun thing travelling at a high velocity and then colliding with another fun thing, and that big bang of fun that explodes from those two forms, crashing into each other, it’s somewhere in the middle of that, is my work, I’d like to think.”

He does admit it’s difficult to explain his work because he’s not too sure himself. Although we think the following is a pretty good attempt.

“I know I make things, but what they are made out of and what those things do, can vary.
I guess the constants are that the things (artwork, products, digital posts, interventions) all hope to entertain and engage their audience.

“The works also should allow the viewer to see how the work has been made and encourage (or inspire) the viewer to make their own creations.”

Jon Burgerman / Bas Berkhout

Bas’ exploration of Jon (as a personality as well as an artist) is chaotic, rough-edited, fun and insightful; walking the fine line between silly and serious. It feels like a reflection of Jon’s own mind, jumping from one idea to another.

“During an interview, which is more of a conversation to me, I try to find out what connects and relates to me. Once in that space, I'm able to see how we’re all so similar, how we’re all facing the the same emotions and challenges.”

Bas interviewed Jon for an hour before Jon emailed his mum (in the UK) asking her to send old photos and film digitally.

“He even drew instructions how to scan and use wetransfer,” says Bas.

Bas didn’t have a defined plan for this film.

Jon Burgerman / Bas Berkhout

“Jon and I were working on his new book It’s Great To Create. He asked me to work on the majority of the photography for it. While we were shooting many days together we talked about our upbringing.

“He’s from the UK, I’m from the Netherlands, we both have two siblings, we grew up in the 1980s and we both moved to New York City a few years back. There were some similarities. We also talked about our relationship with parents and grandparents. That’s when he mentioned his grandfather and his history. I was amazed.”

Bas refers to Jon uncovering the story of his grandfather, who was sent to a concentration in World War Two as a child.

“My dad’s parents were children in the Second World War who lost their entire families, their homes and were put into concentration camps,” he says.

A lot of the information Jon only found out toward the end of his grandfather’s life, when his grandfather was becoming one of the last survivors of children that came over to the UK.

“To read that in the newspaper, was really crazy, the true realities of this stuff had been shielded from me and my brothers. My parents did everything to make it a fun childhood.”

“If we’re not laughing then we’re crying.”

Buy Jon Burgerman’s It’s Great to Create here. Look out for his second picture book released in the UK, Rhyme Crime, published by Oxford University Press. Jon will be in the UK for a series of events and workshops throughout September. To see dates, click here.

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