Ben with surprising 90 y/o grandfather.
(Do not smoke if you care about your health!)

Artist on Fire: The Creative
Juggernaut that is Ben Heine

By Ron Martino (aka Techgnotic)

Undoubtedly one of the most prolific, innovative, and exciting artists exhibiting their creations on deviantART has to be the amazing Ben Heine. We have interviewed him (here below), let us first introduce his work.

In terms of sheer creativity and the true spirit of art as human expression that knows no bounds, he is currently with few peers. His unique visual creations have been featured in newspapers, magazines and other publications worldwide and over the last few years his works have begun to populate art galleries and museums from Brussels and London to Turkey, Romania and South Korea.

As a photographer, fine artist and conceptualist Ben Heine has been conjured up not one but three new categories of art of his own devising, blending together those separate disciplines.

Pencil Vs Camera: In his Pencil Vs Camera works he first takes a photograph and then overlays a section of that photo with a photo of his own hand holding his own penciled sketch over a portion of the original photo. The effect is an astonishing jolt that echoes pop art but is also entirely fresh and new. An already beautiful photo is transformed with a sketched "comment" that adds a splash of satire or whimsy. I love the thought of our everyday monotonous surroundings taking on fantastical, joyous, and humorous qualities.

Digital Circlism: In his Digital Circlism works he updates the pointillism school of art by making the "points" actual recognizable circles with which he creates portraits of pop icons and others. The effect is as striking as posters struck from the iconic Alberto Korda photo of Che, but suddenly re-conceived to be projected upon the infinite cyberwall of digital space.

Flesh and Acrylic: In his Flesh and Acrylic works he photographs models or portions of their anatomy which he has already painted in acrylic paints. In the finished work it is at first difficult to tell where the human figure ends and the background "canvas" begins, both blending together into one surreal abstract vision.

His work is powered by a fearless positivity. Rarely do such brilliant purveyors of new forms and techniques arise so startlingly in our midst, and rarer still do they display such an abundance of joie de vivre! He is a new talent we should all be watching. If you haven't seen his work yet, do yourself a favor and check it out right now. Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Ben Heine's art is an element transcending even his magnificent accomplishments in photography, pencil sketches and acrylic paint. His work is probably the most joyous and embracing expression of an infinitely and indefatigably excitement over and celebration of both traditional and new digitally technological art creation.

An Interview with Ben Heine

Art Event - Namur Expo (Jan 2012)

Ron Martino: All your innovations in art form (Pencil Vs Camera, Digital Circlism, Flesh and Acrylic) celebrate both humanity's creative artistic imagination and humanity's creative technological innovation in a way that's almost absolutely seamless. Are you not fearful of the dangers of "bad" technologies, or is your art a statement about remaining positive and always finding the "good" in human progress?

Ben Heine: I always see the good aspects in human progress. I personally don't think there are any bad sides in technologies as long as they are used in a creative and constructive way to help artists increase their abilities. Significant innovations in graphic art are very important and do not happen so frequently. I mean having nice ideas is awesome but expressing them with totally new forms of art is even more interesting in my opinion. I don't have any specific statement concerning my art, I just take my own direction all the time, and I believe new mediums also give us the opportunity to explore unknown fantasy universes and develop a distinctive style. In the Pencil Vs Camera series for instance, I wanted to demonstrate that it's possible to combine drawing and photography in an imaginative, harmonious and eye-catching way. I just invented this technique to allow me to express more powerful messages with the tools I use the most.

RM: Your Pencil Vs Camera creations have the effect of simultaneously "flattening" a scene into a still life sketch while at the same time seeming to almost project it in a pop 3D fashion. What sort of statement are you making about the artist's "eye" in relation to his media (camera or pencil) and his imagination? Are you asking us to escape or embrace reality with you? Or to explore the possibilities in both?

BH: Pencil Vs Camera is all about illusion, dream, poetry, magic and simplicity. The challenge is to create a 3D-like drawing on a piece of paper; the sketch should be connected with the photographic background but it should also say a little story by itself. I always try to give symbolic meaning to my drawings so that the message goes deeper than the photo alone. The combination of drawing and photography is really a powerful way to express ideas. There are no limits because everything is possible; every single illusion can be created on the paper.

I think the fact that my hand is always visible attracts the attention of the viewer, it was not an easy decision at the beginning because the hand may look too big or may obstruct the whole composition of the picture but it also represents somehow a warm human invitation to the watcher to see and grasp the little story happening on the piece of paper, to escape and hopefully dream a bit. The photography always shows reality as it is, the paper represents a door to a parallel world, and the hand is the connection between these two worlds. Everybody knows reality more or less; it's kind of boring. Ideally, the persons viewing my pencil Vs Camera images should travel in another dimension. It can be confusing sometimes for me, because this parallel world on the paper is just a reflection of my imagination at a given moment.

RM: Your Pencil Vs Camera technique, your whimsical, often surreal "improvements" upon an already interesting photographic capture, seem to say as much about the artist's process and imagination as they do about the subject matter. How much time elapses between taking the photo and penciling the addition?

BH: Yes, you're right, the way Pencil Vs Camera is made is also an essential point. Because it's a new form of expression, many people want to know how it's achieved. There are several methods to get the same results. I explained them in several past interviews. The concept is super easy to understand: draw a sketch on a piece of paper, hold it in your hand and take a photo of it in a place of your choice. I usually make a rough drawing first (it takes hours or days, depending on the complexity of the subjects I want to depict), then I go to the place in which I intend to take the photos, I hold the paper in my hand, I adjust it to make sure the main lines on the paper fits with the main lines of the reality behind, then I take the photo. In some cases, I need to make corrections and improvements in post-production to make sure everything works together.

RM: You've evolved pointillism in your works by having the "points" be recognizable rather than "invisible", thus adding a symbolic significance to your subjects, a sort of modern stained glass effect. How do you pick your subjects? Are they heroes or simply pop figures and icons?

BH: Portraits in my Digital Circlism series are made indeed with thousands of flat circles. Each circle is made of one color, one tone, one dimension and each circle is placed one after the other on a black background. I often make a photomontage first using a bunch of references, then a digital painting and I finally apply my "digital circlist" technique. There is no automated process, it takes a lot of time, generally between 100 and 180 hours for a single portrait. I generally choose to portray top celebrities I admire, not only for their work but also for their influential charisma. In my views, Digital Circlism goes in the continuity of Andy Warhol's Pop Art portraits. And as you mentioned in your question, it is also a new take on Pointillism. I've been making all kinds of portraits since more than 15 years. I wanted to develop a very original technique. As I've been working with digital tools recently, this came quite naturally.

RM: Your flesh and acrylic pieces provoke an ongoing debate: How far beyond the generally aesthetic into the overtly political do you intend your works to probe and provoke? Are your messages of human imagination and freedom of a general universal nature or is it ever the artist's duty to support specific causes?

BH: My recent works do not carry any political message. This is not my intention in "Flesh and Acrylic" or in my other recent projects. It's true the photos belonging to the "Flesh and Acrylic" series are provocative in some ways, because models made of flesh and bones become plastic synthetic creatures, they become part of the abstract painting. In this project, my main intention was to give a new dimension to the life model, to make something new and to generate surprise, happiness and joy in the viewer's eyes. I wanted the result for each piece to be extremely colorful and spontaneous. As usual when I do an abstract work, I paint in a very intuitive way. The final piece is often wild with unexpected effects. Finally, I try to create an optical illusion blending different layers together, which can be a bit disturbing sometimes. But this is what I like the most!

RM: As an artist of the current digital vanguard, what new revolutionary changes do you think we may soon be experiencing in the production, distribution and appreciation of new art in the very near future?

BH: Hard to say, artists are full of surprise, you never know what comes next. Globally, I think there will be more and more digital creators. I'm sure there will always be galleries and museums showing artists works. Original talents will be found via the Internet and social networks, like it's happening already.

RM: What do you tell young artists whom upon viewing your achievements also seek to create works of such technical innovation and striking beauty?

BH: Everyday, I receive emails from young artists willing to receive the recognition they deserve. There are so many gifted people in this world. I always tell them to keep working hard, they must do their best to be inventive, to always believe in what they do, never give up and stay positive. Their moment will come soon or later. Talents are always found one day or later.

(*) With many thanks to Ron Martino, Mario Luevanos and Katy Dawson. This Interview was first published the 18th of January 2012 at "deviantART Headquarters" official group. DeviantART is an online community showcasing various forms of user-made artworks. It was launched in 2000 by Scott Jarkoff, Matthew Stephens, Angelo Sotira and others. deviantArt, Inc. is based in California, United States. DeviantArt aims to provide a platform for any artist to exhibit and discuss works. As of August 2010 the site consists of over 14.5 million members, and over 100 million submissions.

© 2012 - Ben Heine / © 2012 deviantArt