Nate Burgess, Illustrator

Nate's sketchbook

Nate's sketchbook

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

anyone anyways.

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.