Interview for Volkswagen Magazine - EN (*)

Artist Ben Heine in Studio with creative backdrop
© 2013 Ben Heine
(Version française à ce lienNederlandstalige versie hier)

INTRO: Editorial writer of the fall issue of Volkswagen Magazine, Ben Heine is a Belgian multidisciplinary artist who knows how to mix creative techniques. He is the inventor of Pencil Vs Camera, a creative concept blending drawing and photography. He also works on the human body in his Flesh and Acrylic series. Ben Heine plays with digital or traditional mediums, his artworks are always breathtaking.

Peyo Lissarrague: You have a degree in journalism, but you're a self-taught person in drawing. Is it more difficult to gain recognition from your peers in the art world?

Ben Heine: There are good and bad sides of being a self-made artist. I've certainly missed many professional opportunities and some other artists might look at me condescendingly. But it is also an amazing chance to be free from all the academic rules and dogmas. I can choose my own path. I have been drawing passionately since my early childhood. I have worked a lot. I don't believe in innate talent. You have to work with perseverance to become an expert in any discipline.

Having studied journalism, you could have become a political cartoonist, why did you choose something else?

I have a lot ot admiration for press cartoonists. It must very hard to illustrate complex political situations in a few lines. As far as I'm concerned, I prefer to express universal values instead of trivial everyday life details. I don't want to be a controversial artist and I'm not a politician. I prefer to gather rather than provoke. It is a message of love and friendship that I try to express. I  hope everybody understands the simple hidden messages I share in my images. 

You are inspired by the Surrealists, including Magritte. Do you believe Art is a game?

Yes, definitely, I think Art is a game and also a big illusion. In my work (especially in Pencil Vs Camera), I try to convey a childlike and humorous view of the world. This does not prevent me from defending deeper humanist values ​​as well.

In Pencil vs Camera, your hand or full body are part of the image composition. It is a choice?

My hand is indeed always clearly visible because I hold the piece of paper that fits into the picture. Intuitively, I felt from the beginning that it was a necessary choice to balance everything. Yet it is not a pretty woman's hand, it breaks a bit the harmony. But it was important to emphasize the contrast between imagination and reality and to show that the final artworks are not simple photomontages. I really hold a piece of paper and the drawing is always handmade. It involves a lot of work.

Your idea has since been widely adopted...

Advertising agencies have used my concept many times (in some cases, they just stole the idea...). It proves at least that it is a good concept. Pencil Vs Camera  is a series evolving permanently but it will be over soon or later, when it reaches one hundred images. I already started working on other projects such as Digital Circlism (​​portraits of celebrities with large circles) and Flesh and Acrylic (large abstract paintings with living models) and I started a musical project one year ago... a new adventure for me.

(*) Volkswagen Magazine is the official magazine of the Volkswagen car brand in Belgium. It delivers advices for Volkswagen car owners, information about the latest Volkswagen vehicles, competitions, articles about the latest technology trends, sport, art, culture and festivals. Read the above interview on Volkswagen Magazine website at this link (in French).

Editorial, interview and cover in Volkswagen Magazine (2013)
Editorial, interview, cover - Volkswagen Magazine (2013)
Illustration for an article in Volkswagen Magazine (2013)