interview with nate burgess
By: Sara Chojnacki
TF: Please introduce yourself and what you create.
NB: I’m Nathan Burgess, currently a freelance artist/illustrator living here in Austin, TX.
I love to draw and paint. My subject matter consists usually of dogs, cars, dogs in
cars, skating dogs... dogs? I draw illustrations in a very cute, simple, dots for eyes
kind of style. My favorite medium is pen and ink because it suits my drawings pretty well.
Thin lines, either bright, faded, or minimal color. These drawings are most often what catches
people’s eye, and what I get commissioned to create, but I draw portraits of people too.
TF: How did you start drawing in the first place?
NB: My father is a graphic designer and my uncle is an artist. Everyone else in my family
has some sort of creative talent, so I guess drawing and creating is in my blood. That
being said, I’ve been drawing since I was probably 5 years old or something like that.
Very young! I’ve never had any formal art education. I learn mostly from my favorite
artists and illustrators online. I’ll incorporate a certain style or material they use into my
own work, and if I enjoy what I create, then I continue to build on that skill and make it
even more of my own.
TF: What is your mission as an artist?
NB: I just like to make things, create things, make others laugh. It’s about having passion
and enjoyment in drawing. If I’m not having fun making a particular illustration or art
piece I jump to the next one. Whether I’m making money or not, as long as I love what
I’m doing, then it’s worth continuing to do. BUT, I’d love to make money illustrating
comics or children’s books. That is probably my dream.
TF: What obstacles have your faced on your journey?
NB: Most often my biggest obstacle is myself. Sometimes I’ll see some amazing artist online
whose work completely blows my mind and I’ll think ‘yeah I’m never going to be THAT good’. I’ll
get discouraged and sad and stop making work. After having my head up my ass for a while, I’ll
remember my passion. That’s when I get back into it. Every artist has their own uniqueness to
them, and it’s important to accept that, no matter how much you want to paint or draw like
someone else. Sometimes I think my work is shit, but it’s really up to me to make it better and
get inspired and continue working, and worrying about not being good enough never helped
TF: What has been your greatest public victory as an artist?
NB: I don’t do graffiti often but when I do people like it. Public success to me is when I’m
painting a piece out around Hope gallery or somewhere and everyone stops to watch what I’m
doing. A crowd gathers, a lot of ‘ooohs’ and ahhhs’. If people start taking selfies with my
cartoon graffiti once I’m done, then success.
TF: What is the most important lesson you've learned on your journey so far?
NB: I’ve learned to be honest and accepting of others and of myself. I used to do graffiti in
high school and that got me into a lot of trouble. I found it’s best to just own up to your mistakes
and grow from them.
TF: What advice do you have for other artists?
NB: I feel like every artist says this, but just keep drawing. All the time. Good ideas will come and
when they do make them big, especially if you want people to see them. Also, be comfortable
with yourself and your style. Allow yourself to grow.
TF: You do a mix of realistic drawing and more whimsical, cartoon-style illustrations. In which style do you feel most at home?
NB: I love my cartoons, and I hope to start drawing comics or graphic novels someday. I think
that’d be tons of fun. Even when I was a kid I’d draw comics like ‘bug man’ (typical superhero
stuff) or ‘the gory adventures of stinkpie’ (poor character died at the end of every issue). Telling
jokes and stories through my illustrations is more exciting and colorful.
TF: How do you balance creating art with the rest of your life?
NB: Creating sort of just happens in between everything. I just finished school and now I have
to work quite a bit to continue living in Austin, so drawing and painting and making stuff is what I
try to do during all my free time.
TF: How has living in Austin influenced your work?
NB: I came from El Paso, TX, and back home there really is no art scene. In Austin, I feel
inspired every where I go. Book stores, coffee shops, parks, bars, abandoned buildings.
There’s so much energy everywhere and I’m constantly feeding on it. I love especially all the art
markets and craft fairs and conventions. Seeing and speaking with all the other artists
and artisans who are working to make a living doing their own, original, creative thing gets me
so pumped. I’ll be one of them someday.
TF: What future plans do you have for your artistic career?
NB: I hope that someday I can paint portraits of people, and illustrate children’s books or
graphic novels. I’m currently working as an apprentice at a pretty damn successful artist’s
studio here in Austin, and throughout the coming months he’s going to be teaching me the
technique of painting portraits like old master artists. Hopefully that can take me somewhere,
but for the time being I’m still always working on new ideas for stories to illustrate and possibly
turn into something. The future can be scary, but I guess it’s best not to expect anything. Plans
may not always work out, but it’s definitely important to have some sort of idea where you want
to be. I’ve got direction, now I just take any opportunity that comes my way, and have faith that
things are going to work out.