JD Burdge, Library Artist of the Month

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Life has brought JD Burdge, the Fort Myers Beach Public Library October Artist of the Month, from coast to coast. “I am originally from San Diego, California,” related JD. “In my mid-20s, I relocated to the Dallas, Texas, area, then in 1998 made the move to Fort Myers Beach, as I had some family around these parts, and have been here ever since. The best part of that story is that things were not going so well for me in Dallas, but when I came to Fort Myers Beach, everything all came together, especially with my mural and artwork, and since then, it feels like a dream come true!”

JD calls his introduction to art “a sideways story! I found my original interest way back, when I was very young and my uncle took me to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles that most people know of as being surrounded by the La Brea Tar Pits. I was so taken with the prehistoric skeletons that at five years old, I wanted to become a paleontologist and drew them! About a year earlier, I picked up my first box of crayons and even though I soon outgrew my dinosaur stage, art became my passion. My Mom and Dad had artistic abilities, as did my grandmother on my Dad’s side and several cousins, and my uncle was a professional artist, so it is in my DNA.”

Encouragement for JD came from other outlets as well. “I was not particularly interested in sports, and often did not socialize a great deal with other kids, so even in Kindergarten, they played outside but I would stay inside and draw. Several teachers recognized my talent, even at that young age, and that really inspired me. And these were not just art teachers; in 8th grade, I was secretly drawing during English class and my teacher busted me, saying, ‘Burdge, what are you doing? See me after class!’ I assumed he would chew me out, but instead he said, ‘You are a really good artist; I want you to do an art project for me!’ He had me do a series of cartoons of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ that he put up on the overhead projector as we read it, to give us students a different perspective. My Mom thought they were really good, so she saved them and I still have them to this day!”

When JD contemplated his artistic style, he laughed and admitted that “I don’t really have one! I am a commercial artist, so when someone commissions a mural from me, I try to do it in the style they want. I am blessed with a fertile imagination, so I usually see the concept in my head before I ever draw anything.”

When describing what Fort Myers Beach Library visitors will experience at his exhibit, JD exclaimed, “very big explosive works! I am a muralist so I work big, but there will be several smaller ones to fill in spaces. Most will feature tropical scenes, using combinations of airbrushes and paint brushes. I hope visitors like my stuff, and all artists like the exposure a venue like the Beach Library affords, so if you are looking for some sort of existential experience beyond that, it is just that simple!”

Elevator Art

Elevator mural at Fort Myers Beach Library.

While JD’s artwork is on display in the Library during October, many of his works are permanently on exhibit throughout Fort Myers Beach. “I have murals at the Mermaid Lounge, Parrot Key Caribbean Grill and several other places.” Perhaps the mural of JD’s that most island residents and visitors see, however, is within the Library’s own walls – or to put it a better way – its elevator shaft. “When the Library went through its major expansion, its late Director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding, commissioned me to do the artwork in its tall elevator shaft that you can see through the elevator’s glass walls and bubble windows from the lobby to third floor. It was quite a challenge, as I had just six weeks to finish it and he was a perfectionist, but Dr. Hommerding was really happy with it and so am I! I am thrilled it puts a smile on the faces of so many people, in one of the beach’s most prominent buildings!”

While JD is noted throughout Fort Myers Beach for his art and mural work, many recognize him as “Happy Jeff,” a long-time island musician! “It is funny I became a successful entertainer, as some might describe me as anti-social,” he said with irony. “I am, however, probably the most friendly anti-social person you will ever meet! I have been a professional musician since 1978, performing almost constantly during that time, and – like art – music runs in my family.” “Happy Jeff” entertains on the Liki Tiki Bar deck at 1821 Estero Boulevard Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

Life, Passion & Income!

To view JD’s exhibit, visit the Beach Library’s 3rd Floor Gallery through Thursday, October 31. The Library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard, with hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and closed Sundays and Holidays, including Columbus Day on Monday, October 14. To speak with JD personally, attend his “Meet the Artist Reception” on Tuesday, October 8, from 3 to 4 p.m. For Library information, call 239-765-8162 or see www.FMB.lib.fl.us.

When contemplating what his art means to him, JD reflected: “Life, Passion – and Income! My artwork is definitely for sale, and I am always available for hire for murals,” he said. “I have been very happy on Fort Myers Beach for over 20 years now, and blessed with good luck since calling this community my home, so I would never live anywhere else. When I think about my life here, it makes me want to cry, in a good way!”

To see more of Burdge’s artwork from the last 20 years, visit jdburdgemuralartist.shutterfly.com. He can be reached by phone at 239-463-0465.