At the Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain, Feb 2012

K. M. Rehan Salahuddin: Everybody around the world knows who is Benjamin Heine, but would you please introduce yourself to your fans and readers of our website?

Ben Heine: Thank you. I’ll try to be short for the introduction. I’m a Belgian visual artist, I’ve started drawing when I was a child, I went on with traditional and digital painting when I was a teenager and I started photography a couple of years after. I never stopped producing graphic art. I have a degree in Journalism and I briefly studied History of Art, Painting and Sculpture as well but I’m mainly a self-taught person in Drawing and Photography.

I’ve launched a creative series in 2010 called “Pencil Vs Camera”, it’s somehow a new and powerful form of expression that mixes drawing and photography, imagination and reality. I’m also known for 2 other creative series started in 2010 and 2011: “Digital Circlism” and “Flesh and Acrylic”.

My photos have been published in newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world and I started exhibiting limited edition prints (Diasec finishing) of my creations in well-known galleries and art fairs in different European countries since 2010.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, I’m still searching and working hard everyday to do more innovative and powerful art, I’m in a constant evolution and development in my new artistic projects, I’m never satisfied and I try to take fresh directions most of the time. Although my series may look different, there is always a connection between all the images I share.

Why have you chosen this profession? In this world nowadays people are all running behind glory and money, but you have made yourself very unique, would you please tell us the story of your early days?

I would say “the profession chose me”. But you’re so right, we live in a very competitive world. There are so many corrupted people in our current system. But is it really their fault? From a very early age, we’re told to be merciless and ready for action and good results. This is not easy for many artists to be different and unique and to find their place in such an aggressive global structure.

But I think everybody can do it with hard work and determination. We need to be aware of the system’s failures and we need to do our best to improve every angle of the world, as much as we can. We need more solidarity and more love. Finally, there is also a bit of chance and unexpected events happening in someone’s life. It is fortunately or unfortunately impossible to plan everything in advance.

You have a degree in Journalism, how do you connect journalism with drawing and cartoons?

I really liked Journalism, I know how important it is for artists to have their works published and promoted in newspapers. Creators need journalists to talk about their work and journalists also need creative minds to have something funny and original to talk about in their paper. Although I barely worked as a journalist after my degree, my journalistic academic background helped me a lot to get in touch more easily with the media, because my brain works like a journalist’s brain, I’m one of them somehow. In some cases, I’m the journalist and the artist at the same time, which is strange. I’m trying now to focus on my visual projects exclusively. I feel more confident and I prefer it this way.

Would you please tell us about "The Limits of Freedom of Speech in Political Cartoons", the final thesis paper that you have written at the end of your studies?

I see you are well informed. This is a sensitive subject. For your information, I’m no longer doing political work since 2009, I’m no longer doing "cartoons" neither.

I think every artist needs some freedom and space to express their ideas and thoughts. Provocation can be useful to shake people’s mind, but we are not allowed to offend anybody’s feelings or personal convictions. A clever image shouldn’t harm, accuse or take anybody’s side, it should rather make everybody think in an objective and neutral way. This doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion, it just means that we need to be careful and think twice before doing or saying something. My freedom ends where your freedom begins.

How do you react when you see a lot of terrorism and corruption around the world? Do you have any plan to do any set/series of creative artworks on this topic?

No, I really don’t want to get involved in this. Terrorism belongs to the political sphere, not to the artistic one. All I can say is that I condemn any kind of terrorism. I just really hope all the innocent victims of terrorism won’t have died in vain and that they will be remembered forever.

"Pencil Vs Camera" how did you come up with this idea? Do you want to restrict other artists from doing similar things by owning the creative copyrights of this concept?

Good question... This concept is the fusion of two disciplines I’ve practiced since many years. It came very naturally and legitimately. I’m honored and happy to notice it’s becoming a new form of expression for many artists. I just don’t want people to “steal” this powerful and eye-catching “invention” I initiated and popularized without being credited. To be honest, I’m a bit mad when big companies use “Pencil Vs Camera” images for commercial purposes without even telling me. This is not fair. I understand Pencil Vs Camera has become universal and popular. It’s hard to keep control over it. But I wish I could be part of every new turn this concept is taking. People need to remember every image of this series is copyrighted and the name “Pencil Vs Camera” is trademarked.

Ben Heine is a cartoonist, an artist, a photographer and a lot more. In your heart, who are you? Who do you want to be?

I don’t see myself as a cartoonist anymore, I’m more of an “illustrator”; I try to illustrate every step of my life in a surreal and timeless way, with simple tools (camera, pencils, brushes…). To be honest I might do something a bit different soon. I’ll be a "creative and productive" person all my life, but I’ll never hesitate to take atypical and unexpected directions when I’ll need it. Surprise is always nice.

(*) Interview by K M Rehan Salahuddin. It was first published on in February 2012. Sort of Life™ is a website about art, design and lifestyle.