COLIN JOSEPH BURKE

CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?

CJB: Commemorative iconography through clean, minimalist, design. I’ve categorized and organized objects since I was a kid. My work definitely reflects my obsessiveness to keep things neat and clean. I use a lot of solid colors, retro in flavor, with pretty standard strokes. Symmetry, balance and negative space are also prominent throughout my work.

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

CJB: In addition to so many great graphic artists, I’ve found a lot of inspiration through other peoples’ adventures. I started my Van Life series from my desk working as a prepress specialist. Bursting with wanderlust and as much as I’d love to travel, I know I would have to give up the stability of my 9-5 to truly have the time to see everything I want to see–so I appreciate anyone who’s found a way to make life on the road a reality.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

CJB: Most of the time the process starts with image research. I’m almost always drawing from a reference so I spend a fair amount of time assessing imagery.

CJB: As far as the creative thought goes, I do have an ongoing list of random ideas that I add to ever so often, but it’s not much of a process; more like one-liner thoughts to save for a day allocated for experimentation.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

CJB: Not particularly. Even as a photographer I think I was always more focused on the creative action and process than the meaning or message behind the work as a whole. I feel more like a collector. I was obsessed with Micro Machines as a kid and in a way, I feel like the Van Life series is a continuation of that collection. I get a certain satisfaction out of finishing a solid series of work and if I can present it to a community who also enjoys it, even better.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

CJB: Building a sustainable career as an artist can be a struggle. I find myself constantly entertaining various alternatives like architecture, interior design, photography, etc. But still, I really can’t imagine a lifestyle where I’m not creating something. It feels like a constant balance between keeping things fun and interesting while also figuring out a way to create a sustainable income. There’s give and take on both sides.

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

CJB: I think it depends on the task. Be it a hired project or general experimentation there’s a place for both approaches. I typically follow a more refined/professional process when doing a logo/brand design, but as good practice, I like to sit down ever so often with no plan whatsoever and see what manifests. For me, I have to have that balance between stability and spontaneity.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

CJB: Stay motivated and have patience when you’re not.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of the highest importance?

CJB: I think style and taste are fairly reflexive. Refining your own style as an artist is important if you really want to stand out. I’m still working on it myself. Any great artist, be it a graphic artist, a musician, a carpenter, needs to continue to push themselves and evolve their work. Otherwise, things can easily become stagnant or uninteresting.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

CJB: For me, it’s creativity. I’ve always been highly detail-oriented, composition heavy and aesthetically driven, but creatively ingenious artwork has never come naturally. I do my best work evolving an existing idea; making something good great, but I’ve always struggled to try to create clever, thought-provoking, original work.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

CJB: When I was younger art was the best form of communication I could manage. It’s how I made friends that I have to this day. I was a very shy kid, so drawing in class was like my open invitation for people to approach me, ask me questions and get to know me. Art gave me something valuable to share with people.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

CJB: I draw a lot of inspiration from other graphic artists like Chris Do (Blind) and Scott Martin (Burnt Toast Creative) to name a few. Chris has been a wealth of knowledge on the subject of graphic design, the business end in particular. I find him to be a saving grace for designers who are struggling to financially support themselves as artists. Scott Martin has been hugely inspirational in terms of style and humor. To have a brand as sharp-witted, full of rhetoric, and well designed as burnt toast is a dream.

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

CJB: In my experience, apps like Instagram have been undoubtedly useful in terms of getting work circulating, generating buzz and even income, but they aren’t without their downfalls. I also think of how many artists are using tablets these days. There’s definitely a much higher level and quantity of work being produced due in part to evolving tech. Of course, it also creates a highly competitive market and means a lot of artists have to invest more time and money to keep up with design trends.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

CJB: We all view the world differently based on our own experience. I think the advantage some artists might have is that they can be more open to viewing the world through someone else’s path, offering perspective and interpretation for experiences others may not be able to creatively express themselves.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

CJB: Traveling is a huge motivator for me to create work. My wife and I are both working towards a future that involves us living on the road for a while. I don’t think I’ve seen enough to have a favorite city yet but Kansas City will always be home.

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

CJB: “House of Leaves” always seems to quench my thirst for adventure and mystery. There’s an incredible use of text and layout in that book that I can appreciate as a designer. In chapters that are more suspenseful, you end up twisting the book upside-down, reading things backward, faster, slower. It immerses you in the uneasiness of the story.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

CJB: So many. I have a list of parody brands I’d like to design. I want to start a series of popular objects in films (like the leg lamp from A Christmas Story or Benny’s busted baseball from the Sandlot). I’m also working on getting a clean brand/logo services website put together.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

CJB: Freedom of expression. Meditation. Therapy. Focus

CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?

CJB: Died in Your Arms – Cutting Crew

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