Jon Burgerman in Search of a Wall and a Sandwich

Jon Burgerman

The doodling Jon Burgerman begins his mural in earnest in front of the Front Room (photo Jaime Rojo)

 

After lollygagging around the Fuggedaboutit borough for the whole summer, the GLOBAL DOODLER decides to do something worthwhile on the streets of Brooklyn.

One hot and sunny and punishingly ozone-alerty day last week, Jon Burgerman has the misfortune of standing on the sidewalk in front of The Front Room, a gallery in Williamsburg, with posca markers and a couple of pints of paint.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)Because he’s our special Facebook friend, we saw him post this a couple of weeks ago :“Jon Burgerman Will draw on a NYC wall in return for a lunch. (I’ll prob do most things for a free lunch) July 14 at 1:40am”

 

Curiously, as you can see, his post was written late into the evening, so we presumed a certain dire need in the darkness of night overcame him such so that he felt compelled to run to his computer in his pajamas to furiously type out this clarion callGripped by the drama, and since we are always looking for an opportunity to connect said “Wall” with said “Artist” and because we knew Jon to be an agreeable sort, we felt compelled to contact him at once!

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

He accepted happily and plans were laid, after getting permission from all the right people.  As our appointment was at 11 a.m., Mr. Burgerman arrived promptly at 12:30 with sweat on his brow, a bag of blue paint, and a British economist in tow.  “Nottingham time” appears to be very flexible indeed.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

After going over the scope of the wall at hand and meeting our host, Daniel Aycock of the Front Room, Jon set about dabbling kidney-shaped blue blobs on the wall, while the economist entertained us with stories about graphical data, Trouffant, and Napoleon’s correlation between geography and troop death rates.  Since we were so close to lunch time already, it wasn’t long before it was imperative to procure lunch for the assembled guests.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

After a lively repast on the gallery’s table on the sidewalk, it was back to work for Mr. Burgerman. As the day wore on, a quickly growing troupe of friends and photographers Jon had alerted regarding his whereabouts gathered and snapped and asked him questions. Having satisfied our part of the deal, namely providing lunch and a wall, we thought it was time for the GREAT BROOKLYN STREET ART INTERVIEW;
Brooklyn Street Art:
So what did you have for lunch?
Jon Burgerman:
I had a mozzarella and avocado sandwich. It was good. I don’t know where it was from. It just appeared. I’m very grateful.

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you finish it all?
Jon Burgerman:
No, my younger brother (the economist) consumed half of it. He dropped some of it on the sidewalk, um, didn’t eat it off the sidewalk, which is a good thing. He had some crisps off the ground though.

Brooklyn Street Art: You didn’t have any crisps, though.
Jon Burgerman:
I had a few crisps. I do like crisps but you can’t eat them all the time.

Brooklyn Street Art: So is this wall pretty smooth?
Jon Burgerman:
It’s good, it’s a bit bubbly, it’s okay. It’s good for me…. The smoother the better. I like to draw on it.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Usually markers right?
Jon Burgerman:
Yeah, I mean it’s drawn out with a Posca pen. But yeah, it’s a thankless task trying to block it out with markers. Very expensive. So then there’s painting.

Brooklyn Street Art: Look at you, you’re painting!
Jon Burgerman:
..Which is what they taught you at art college.

Brooklyn Street Art: Well, at least THAT went to good use. Do you usually make sure to include one specific character in a piece?
Jon Burgerman:
No. I mean the forms of the characters repeat sometimes. I mean that’s naturally going to happen. Um They’re not really specific characters.

Brooklyn Street Art: They don’t have names?
Jon Burgerman:
Not these guys. I think sometimes more when I turn them into stickers and things.. then I might single out a shape a character and color and then it will start to develop a little name and a back story and that’s when it actually starts becoming a character more than just a symbol with a face. So I often think there is quite a big difference, because just because something has features doesn’t necessarily mean it has any specific character. A character for me has to have a reason to exist, a sort of functional goal or desire or something it does or a back story or a name. Then it starts to become a personality. Then you can imagine it could have it’s own little life beyond the drawing or painting that it exists within.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So these are a bit more like “everyman” in the street characters, then, like they could get lost in the crowd.
Jon Burgerman:
Yeah, or they are more like a logo or gestured shape. They’re like triangles, rectangles, circles. They are within an arsenal of imagery that I would use.

Brooklyn Street Art: You said “arsenal”. Do you ever think of this in terms of competitiveness?
Jon Burgerman:
I didn’t mean to.

Brooklyn Street Art: But you said it.
Jon Burgerman:
But I didn’t want to because that’s the name of my least-liked football club.

Brooklyn Street Art: Well I was just wondering if you would ever be in one of those competitive venues where you paint with someone else.


Jon Burgerman:
I’ve done that. I’ve done the sort of “battle” thing where you’re painting at the same time with someone else. It’s kind of fun but I really don’t like the idea of it being a fight. It seems completely at odds with everything that painting and art stuff is meant to be about.

To be aggressively against some other guy is a little wrong. More often than not you’re paired up with someone who’s work is a bit like you and that you know. I can understand like a playful wrestle, I’m into that. But it’s never particularly a “battle”- yeah it’s not really serious is it? But it would be good if you had two artists who did hate each other. Then that might be interesting.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: They would dig deep.
Jon Burgerman:
Yeah,you can’t really fake the emotion you might have in a proper fight. So they’re more like little Painting Dance-Offs I might say.Like a “Painting Slam” would be a horrible way to refer to it. Yeah,I’ve done those things. I don’t really like them too much to be honest. I always get a bit stressed out.But you know if you just throw a bunch of artists in a room and say “everyone have a paint” or just draw stuff that would be fine. But as soon as there is a competitive edge to it, I don’t really like it. Well, you know, the British aren’t really good at competitive events,in our events,our sporting ventures,tournaments and things, we don’t often fair very well.Are they popular over here, those sort of battles and things?

Brooklyn Street Art: Um they’ve become more popular – “Art Battles”, for example.
Jon Burgerman:
Do you find them interesting?

Brooklyn Street Art: I like the idea of adding structure, and limitations that an artist has to push against.
Jon Burgerman:
Yeah, I’m all for that.

Brooklyn Street Art: You know, a limited period of time, for example, or you are only aloud two colors to work with, or a theme that everyone has to address in some way.
Jon Burgerman:
I like that, you kind of encourage thinking on your feet, all that kind of stuff. I can appreciate of that.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: But by the very nature of you calling this work “doodles” it pretty much infers that you are in a dream state when you are creating.
Jon Burgerman:
Yeah, it’s something that you are kind of thinking about but you are not pre-planning, you’re not overly-thinking about it and you’re letting the pen or the brush kind of find it’s own sort of way. Improvising….much like an instrument; you might know some chords, might know some licks, and you are kind of spilling them together, making it up. “Oh that might work with that bit”, and “Oh yeah was interesting, maybe if I put this shape or draw this character now and move that over there, that would be nice.” So you have this little repetoire from which you can pull out – much like a jazz musician and then you can quickly adapt. Something else happens, someone says something, you get distracted, you think of something new. You can quickly add it in, change it. Things should be a little flexible. Like, following plans and stuff sometimes. You know a plan is very rigid. And something can happen find the paint spills in certain way, or the colors don’t come out as you had imagined. You know you are drawing on a paper the size of a postcard but the wall is the size of a house and then it doesn’t necessarily always transfer easily. Like scale and surface and light all make these differences to how you are working on things so I found for might work, and the way I think, and the way that I draw, that kind of rigidness doesn’t lend itself to successfully transferring my kind of style

Brooklyn Street Art:  It seems like a very plastic, flexible, expandable approach. It can expand or contract according to various inputs.
Jon Burgerman:
That’s kind of how it is, yeah, it’s just that you never know what’s going to happen.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How often to you work outside like this? Like this scale working outside.
Jon Burgerman:
Outside?I work on this scale quite often.You know people ask me to draw panels, boxes, and things, and gallery walls, and stuff.Actually on a wall on a street, very rarely. Where I live in Nottingham I’m not really out and about doing that kind of thing.There is a graffiti scene, but it’s not this kind of stuff, you know, it’s more traditional.But occasionally I do this, but it’s always in a kind of legit exhibition.I don’t really go out and about at night and do this kind of stuff. It’s a really pleasure to do, and it’s nice to be invited to do it but I don’t seek it out all the time. I rarely have the luxury in a day where I can say, “you know I’m going to spend just the day outside painting on a wall,you know, for the love of doing it. Which is a real shame.Obviously like if I do do it, it’s usually for an exhibition or event that’s been planned months in advance.

Brooklyn Street Art: Well, you are on vacation after all.
Jon Burgerman:
Yeah, so it’s good to do a days work.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

After running for cover ‘neath the shade of the trees to drink refreshments and chat with fans, Jon continued to run out into the blazing sun, sometimes beaten to the ground by it.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Finally, when the pressure was off, it was time for a photoshoot!  Jon dug into his bag of tricks and produced three little creatures, handmade by the Felt Mistress, based on characters he has drawn.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

The high-quality materials and expert workswomanship were stunning, and these little fellows looked perfectly placed next to the mural. You Go, Felt Mistress!!

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

After a hard afternoon of doodling, Jon relaxed with the only people who really understand him. As the sun began to set, we parted ways as he set off with his economist brother in search of a beer garden and cucumber sandwiches.

Jon Burgerman

Jon Burgerman (photo Jaime Rojo)

If you’d like to meet Jon in person and see new work in a gallery setting, this weekend is your daily double!  Jon will be part of a group show called “Brooklyn Bailout Burlesque” at Factory Fresh on Friday the 14th, and is having a solo Show called “My American Summer” at Giant Robot imagein the Lower East Side.

We feel very lucky to have been a small part of Jon’s American Summer, and invite him back to the BK when he’s looking for a free lunch again.

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