Doodling in a digital world

 3 February 2011

Jon Burgerman is a professional doodler for big-name brands like Coke, Pepsi and Nike. He describes slowly getting noticed and the importance of embracing the digital world even if you work in traditional media.

"For a living, I guess I draw stuff. Sometimes those drawings are on the walls, sometimes they're on t-shirts, sometimes they're on paper or canvases. It can be anything, but it all begins with a drawing."

Starting out as an artist

"I studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Before that, I did foundation, I did A-levels, I did GCSEs, I did art, I knew it was the only thing I really wanted to do.

"I just slowly picked up the odd job, the odd exhibition. I was in a lot of group shows, friends of mine, people I graduated with put on exhibitions so I'd contribute a few pieces.

"It was a really slow build. I did a few drawings for 'zines and short run publications, a lot of blogs, websites, just doing whatever came around that I could lend a drawing to, really.

"Over the years, it slowly kind of snowballed. I started to do a few more commercial things that were more in the public eye: album covers, working for some household name brands. Not massive things, but enough that when I next introduced myself to someone or the next time someone went on my website, they could see 'ooh, he's worked for this thing and we've heard of them'.

"Each time I got a big job with a company, I thought 'This is it!' I had a part-time job for a while, but eventually, naturally I got so busy with my own work that I could give up that job and take the big leap into freelance."

Drawing on new technology

"If you're an illustrator, you might work in traditional media but you need to have a presence online, to be able to upload, editand crop images, run a virtual office. Those are just skills that you have to have."

"After I graduated, I did actually sit down with a book and try to learn how to use Flash. I would never really call myself an animator.

"Proper animation is difficult, time-consuming, it requires dedication. I don't have any of those things. But stuff like this is more like recording a drawing as you're doing it.

"So I've got this Wacom tablet, which is brilliant, and you can draw and just video what's happening in Photoshop. So I think there's lots of little tricks you can do with animation without having to be an animator, you can just get that sense of movement or energy about your work."

Creating the 'Inkstrumental' iPhone app

"The iPhone app that I've made with a company called ustwo in London, the app's called Inkstrumental. We came up with a rough idea for it together and then I supplied a lot of characters and backgrounds, and told them about the characters' personalities and stuff, which then informed the kind of sounds and the kind of feel for the entire game.

"So I'd go there for meetings periodically to test it and play with it, but it was a collaboration. I allowed them to do the things they're excellent at. And they allowed me to do the things that I'm OK at: drawing and the characters and the colours and the design. It's a window into the crazy little world in which my characters, and to a lesser extent myself, exist within."

Keeping up digitally as an illustrator

"For a living, I draw stuff. Sometimes those drawings are on the walls, sometimes on t-shirts, sometimes on paper or canvases. It can be anything, but it all begins with a drawing."

"If you're an illustrator, you might work in traditional media and that's great and there'll always be interest in that and it will always have a quality that can't be fully reproduced digitally.

"But you still need to have a presence online, you still need to be able to e-mail people, you still need to have a website and be able to upload stuff and download stuff, edit things and crop images, how you can run your virtual office. Those are just skills that you have to have.

"It's a bit like someone going into an office and saying 'I'm just going to work on this typewriter and I'm not going to get involved in e-mail'. It's ridiculous. Unfortunately or fortunately, that's just the way things are."


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