Jon Burgerman is an artist who has made a career at the intersection of digital art, technology, and animation, making his latest project, Jon’s Pizza Shop, an exact culmination of his work to date. The shop is a kind of accumulative pool of animated pizza slice NFTs whose customizable attributes (pepperoni, cheese, etc.) have generated a total purchasable amount of 6,666 unique NFTs, all of which Burgerman drew on an iPad Pro. Users will also be able to combine their slices to create whole pies, and a lucky few will receive one of 23 hand-painted physical works which are available as special prizes.
Over the past year NFTs popularity has ballooned to proportions previously thought unimaginane. The technology, which allows people to authenticate an asset by confirming it on the blockchain, has been used to sell both multi-million dollar works of art at Sotheby’s, as well as to give anyone the opportunity to create, share, and authenticate a work online. It’s in-part the community-oriented aspect of NFTs that made Burgerman interested in them. To him, the idea of pizza, a food we all know and love to share, provides the perfect use for the medium artistically and technically.
PATRICK MCGRAW: Why pizza?
JON BURGERMAN: I think pizza is something that has been represented in a lot of my work over the years. And when we think about these PFP projects, the communal aspects in it, pizza is the perfect dish for sharing and getting people together. Everyone likes pizza. So it’s an object that lends itself nicely to one of the unique aspects of the project, which is the combining. I love the idea that you can get a certain amount of slices to make a whole pie.
MCGRAW: When did you first get into NFTs?
BURGERMAN: I got introduced to NFTs at the very beginning of 2020. I went for a meeting at Gemini that was setting up the Nifty Gateway platform. I'd never heard of NFTs. I knew a little bit about blockchain and Bitcoin and things like that, but I hadn't heard of digital assets being traceable and tradable and everything. Then at the beginning of the pandemic, I created some artworks using an iPad and sent them along.
I didn't know anyone else that was talking about NFTs or were involved in that world at all, so I was a little bit unsure how real or trustworthy it all was and what was really happening with my work. But it's gone really well. I've had six, seven collections on Nifty Gateway. It’s been interesting seeing NFTs coming to the public consciousness in the way that it has in the last 12 months or so.
MCGRAW: Did you create Jon’s Pizza Shop on an iPad?
BURGERMAN: The pizza slices are all completely drawn in Procreate on an iPad. They’re animated as well, which is another unique aspect of this project for me, that all the PFPs will have an element of animation to them. It’s so much easier and quicker creating art on the iPad using basic tools in Procreate. In animation you have to draw several frames, and it's super useful to be able to see the previous frame underneath the one that you're drawing, and then be able to cycle through them. I would say it starts with drawing, it starts with mark making. It can be on the iPad or it can be on paper, and it can get scanned, photographed, and then brought onto the iPad and then added to by hand.
MCGRAW: Do you think the expedited process of drawing on an iPad will change the way art is made over time?
BURGERMAN: Definitely. If you look at a lot of young artists making NFT projects, they're native to using an iPad, and maybe I'm seen as a little bit old school because I can paint and draw on canvas and paper and bring that into the digital world. There’s definitely a generation of young artists that will know the tools on an iPad before they use the analog versions that the iPad is mimicking. The iPad definitely allows for far quicker realization of ideas. You don't need a big studio, you don't need a lot of materials, you don't need to make a mess to use paint, as it were. It’s amazing for trying stuff out. You have an infinite amount of space within the machine to create. You can make mistakes, and if you botched up, then it doesn't really matter.
MCGRAW: Why did you decide to make these works NFTs as opposed to just artworks?
BURGERMAN: They’re still just artworks. It's just using to NFTs to distribute them. I did an earlier version of this pizza project on Nifty Gateway, but I hand drew all the slices. My ambition was to make a PFP project. This was last year, so these things hadn't exploded in the way that they have now. But as a tongue in cheek thing, I was like, I'm not good at programming so I'm just going to hand draw them. And I drew a few hundred individual pieces on paper and scanned them in and colored them on the computer, and it was very laborious on my hands at the end of it.
MCGRAW: What are some other benefits to NFTs?
BURGERMAN: The community aspect is an important one. You want to build a community but it's hard to build the community if there's only a few hundred pieces in the collection. So you need to have a sizeable amount of assets for enough people to adopt them and share them. Also, NFTs help generate more slices. Not only there can be more, but there can be combinations I wouldn't necessarily have thought of making myself because the community generates them. It makes me think of a sort of the Fluxus movement or instructional art, where you set these parameters and then you allow the system to go through all the permutations.
I think it's important to use the NFT technology in a unique way that you couldn't do by hand. I could make a print of pizzas, but it just wouldn't be the same. It would be impossible to make them all unique. And whilst there are physical paintings of pizzas, again, it just wouldn't be practical to make over 6,000 of them. So, it's about trying to lean in.
MCGRAW: Will you make more NFT projects in the future?
BURGERMAN: Definitely. I often describe my practice as a pizza, where each slice represents a different element of what I do. One slice might be paintings and exhibitions, another slice might be licensing and having my artwork and products and things like that. One slice might be giving lectures and talks about my work at conferences. But I think a new slice of that is definitely NFTs and digital works. I was making digital animations before I was introduced to NFTs. I just didn't have an outlet for it. I had a show in Seoul, in 2019, where I projected giant versions of digital work. People wanted to buy it, but we couldn't really work out the right way to sell it to people.So I think NFTs have really opened the door for a lot of artists working digitally to be able to have their practice out there and to be part of a market where that kind of work is able to be sold and traded and exhibited and tracked on the blockchain. You’ll see more and more people adopting it. You'll be seeing people adopt it for entertainment as much as they will for art and any other reasons as well.
MCGRAW: Will the simplicity of using an iPad, combined with the technology of something like NFTs, make everybody an artist in the future?
BURGERMAN: Both the iPad and NFTs offer accessibility. The gatekeepers aren’t there anymore and you don't need a gallery to allow you a platform or an opening. Anyone can go on there and mint and share their work. The Apple Pencil is very intuitive and then you've got NFTs which anyone can make and share it from any part of the world. I think it's super exciting. I mean, how many people have great ideas and are not backed up by a gallery or a publisher or something? And now they don't have to wait around for that. They have it in their hands.