VERONICA PETRELLI: First, tell me a little bit about your trajectory in life. You were born in Ivory Coast. How long have you been living there? Why did you decide to go to Brussels? Are your relatives from Belgium?

BEN HEINE: Yes, my family is originally from Belgium. My parents traveled to Ivory Coast in 1980 for professional reasons (my father worked as a commercial engineer in Abidjan). I was born there in 1983 and we all came back to Brussels in 1990. I lived one year in UK and 6 months in The Netherlands during my studies. I lived the rest of my life in Brussels. I’m willing to move abroad permanently as soon as possible.

What are the differences between life in Ivory Coast and life in Belgium?

I was just a little child but I still have lots of good memories from the life we had in this beautiful country. Everything was more colorful, there was more light, lots of smiles and happiness on people’s face. Belgium is much colder and less colorful but it’s a nice little country, full of surrealism.

You have a degree in Journalism. Where did you graduate? Beside this, are you graduated in any other course, such as Photography, Digital Arts or Design? Or you are a self-taught man?

I graduated in Brussels, Belgium. I also studied Sculpture and Painting during one year in Hastings, England. One year is not enough, so I’m mainly a self-taught person in arts, especially in drawing, photography and digital arts. And I think it’s better this way, as I prefer to not have any academic influence on my work.

When did you realize that drawing was your passion? Were you a young boy?

Oh, yes, I was quite young when I realize that! Every child loves to draw. This interest never disappeared in my case.

Talking about your job: how did the Internet contribute to the propagation of your work?

The Internet has always been very useful for me. I think it is a gorgeous tool for anybody willing to get noticed worldwide and to build a network.

How did the idea of “Pencil Vs Camera” appear? Are you enjoying doing it?

The idea came at a very random moment. It’s always a huge pleasure to start a new Pencil Vs Camera image. I’ve been focusing on this series since almost one year. I can’t believe time went that fast!

Why do you think “Pencil vs. Camera” had a really good reception in the public?

I’m not sure about the answer. What I’m sure of is that the majority of the people appreciates this series, no matter their language, their culture or their nationality, which is really unbelievable. I think it speaks to the child that’s still in every one of us. It’s very simple and accessible to everybody. There is something universal about that and imagination has no boundary!

And “Digital Circlism”? How did it all start?

I’ve been doing portraits since several years now. I always love to use small elements that make a whole new structure when viewed together. I like to add texture and little details to the images I’m working on. So I tried with different shapes (triangles, squares…), when I tried with circles, I thought it looked really cool and special. I think this series is a bit less creative than my other projects. I see it more as a delight for the eyes and a technical challenge because it is always time consuming and sometimes tricky to do.

How does your experience in Journalism modify the way you make art?

Journalism has had a huge influence on my perception of the world. During my studies, I started making pictures having strong political connotations (I stopped making political illustrations a few years after my studies). So I guess this period of my life really had a direct effect on my sources of inspiration. As I often said, I was an artist before being an activist/journalist. I’m no longer an activist but I remain an artist, forever. More positively, Journalism also helped me be curious about everything, be willing to read the worldwide news, have a critical eye about what’s happening in general and verify twice everything I say or do…

Inspiration, creativity… For you, where do they come from?

There is something magic and divine about it. I guess they come from events happening around us. I think artists are used to find these little creative universes hidden around us. As far as I’m concerned, they are the results of past events in my life and expectations for the future. They are also the fruits of a long and slow evolution. Inspiration and creativity are everywhere! Each thing I see around me could be the subject of a creative project.

Do you have a personal style at your pieces of art? I noticed that some of your drawings are surrealistic… Do you like surrealism?

Certainly true I love surrealism! But I don’t think I have a particular style. Uniformity and sameness are not my priority at all. In my opinion, they diminish the potential of a creator. The mediums and instruments I use define the style and I use many. Creativity, quality, hard work and innovation are my leitmotivs.

There is a huge conflict between the traditional ways of making art (with paints and brushes) and the technological ways (with computer programs). What do you think about this? Which one do you prefer? Is this confrontation worth?

Yes, there is a big difference between digital and traditional, especially in the making of an image. But the results are often very similar in the end. I don’t see it as a conflict or a problem, I think both traditional and digital tools can be mixed with harmony. I use them in my daily work. Pencil Vs Camera is a good example… I think artists should live with their time. There will be other tools available in 20 years. Softwares and hardwares are now being employed by creators to express their feelings in an even more powerful way.

Tell me a little bit about your blog “Ben Heine in Colleague’s Eyes”. How is the sensation of being portrayed by other artists?

It’s a nice feeling! We do that quite frequently between artists. =)

I noticed that, in some of your “Pencil vs. Camera” pictures, you use some Walt Disney’s characters, such as Mickey and Tinker Bell. Why do you have this preference? Are you a big fan of Walt Disney?

Walt Disney and his contribution to our western culture is amazing. So I used these 2 famous characters (Mickey and Tinker Bell) as a tribute to his enormous legacy and vision.

To end up: what is art for you?

For me, Art is a door to imagination, freedom, hopes, meditation and happiness.

(*) Grappa is an advertising company based in São Paulo, Brazil.