Ben Heine Interviewed
by Ruslan Trad (*)

So, Ben Heine, tell us more about yourself, where are you from, what is your life like?

I’m a painter and photographer living in Brussels, Belgium. I am 26 year old, I was born in Ivory Coast (Africa), and lived there 7 years, I now live and work in Brussels, the European capital. I spend most of my time creating and taking care of the people I love around me.

What is your job related to? How does it inspire you?

I have a day job, which is not related to art. This is just to make a living. It is time consuming but necessary. This activity forces me to go straight to the point in my creative work. I also work as a freelance illustrator for different magazines and newspaper.

What is your personal philosophy and is it somehow embedded into your creativity?

I have always had a very generous conception of art, I don’t like the way art is nowadays used for commercial purposes only and proposed to the elite, I think everybody should have the chance to see and enjoy culture. My artistic work is mainly the result of what influences me and inspires me the most in my close environment.

What difficulties do you meet in your work?

Every new day and every art project is a new challenge implying different difficulties. Finding creative solutions is what makes this job so fun.

Are you currently working on more than one project?

Yes, I always work on several projects in the same time, I don’t know if it is the best way to do, but I feel comfortable doing this and I think it’s useful to not be stuck on the same task. It fits my profile and I think I’d be slower if I was focussing on the same thing.

Where do you see yourself in… say, 10 years?

I definitely see myself probably doing the same things but in another country. Belgium is nice but it’s cold and boring. I’d like to find a long-term job in the art industry. With the current financial crisis, it’s difficult for everybody but artists are some of the people who are the less needed right now. Bankers and insurers are kind of more popular right now.

Would you accept to work in another part of the world, if you received a proposal?

Yes, of course, I’d be really interested. Thanks to the information and communication technologies, it is even easier and faster now to work with faraway collaborators. Why not living in another place too?

You know that nowadays the principles are different from the past. To succeed, you need to be different. Our magazine is called Very Normal People – how would you define the “normal people“ of today?

I agree, difference is always important but normality is also good. I think the best way to succeed what you do is to be sincere and bring something new and interesting. "Hard work" and "results" are values that matter the most for me. by the way, it’s funny to realize that very different people often try to be as normal as they can while many “normal persons” do their best to be different. I think it is related to culture, lifestyle, the purposes and personal opinions you have in life. I guess normal people would not even bother trying to know what normal people are, they would just carry on their life as it is. And this is a great choice.

You’re really a creative person with different views and styles. Do you have a preference for any of your activities – photography, cartoons?

Photography and Illustration are indeed my two main interests. I don’t prefer one or the other. My photos are often non-political while my paintings and drawings have a strong political content with sometimes a provocative meaning. Choosing one or the other graphic option really depends on my mood and the message I wish to convey at a particular moment.

What is your message to our readers?

Try to find your own path and truth. Try to make the people around you happy. Believe in your most crazy ideals and dreams. If you don’t, they will never become true.


(*) Ruslan Trad is a blogger and journalist based in Bulgaria.

This interview was published in March 2010 with pictures in the first issue of the journal Very Normal People (VNP), released by Mark Sterling.