Ben Heine

BEN HEINE (born June 12, 1983 in Abidjan, Ivory coast) is a Belgian multidisciplinary visual artist. He is best known for his original series "Pencil vs Camera", "Digital Circlism" and "Flesh and Acrylic".


Ben Heine says he has been deeply influenced by Belgian Surrealism, German Expressionism, American Pop Art, and Social Realism. Abduzeedo, a leading online platform in Art & Design said about him: "His galleries are filled with great stuff and he can walk beautifully between several art directions, creating amazing pieces in any way he goes".

Here are some of Ben's sources of inspiration:

Nature: Nature is a god for Ben. He often spends days or weeks walking in empty areas, forests, deserts or mountains, searching for amazing landscapes earth can offer. Like many people, he finds comfort and balance in natural places.

Human intelligence: Ben is fascinated by all the accomplishments of Mankind: Knowledge, Culture, Sciences, Arts, Music, Architecture, Engineering, Computers, Technology…

Human societies: Interactions between people and the way human beings find amazing solutions to complex problems have always intrigued and inspired Ben.

Personal stuff: Ben is also inspired by many small events in his life, his family, friends and the people he loves.

(Ben has given numerous interviews explaining the philosophy behind his creations. For more detailed info on the artwork and inspirations of Ben Heine, please see "Interviews".)

Ben grew up in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He lived there 7 years, along with his parents and his 3 sisters. His father was a commercial engineer and his mother a Modern Jazz dance teacher. Everything changed when the family came back to Brussels in 1990. Ben became a troubled and demanding child. He didn't like school at all. He finally became wiser and more disciplined later on, after a stay in a boarding school (at the "Collège Saint Vincent" (Belgium), from 12 y/o to 18 y/o). In 1994, he discovered for the first time that his energy, his fears and his ideals could be canalized in visual projects, it was the very beginning of a never ending adventure in drawing and painting. As a teenager, Ben had many other hobbies and activities: beside writing poetry on a daily basis, he played drums, piano and guitar, he also used to play basketball and to run everyday. His interest for graphic arts was eventually the strongest one.


Ben has a degree in Journalism (started at "Université Libre de Bruxelles" (Belgium) and completed at "IHECS" (Belgium) & "Utrecht University of Applied Sciences" in The Netherlands). He also briefly studied History of Art, Painting and Sculpture at "Hastings College of Arts & Technology" (England) but he is a self-taught person in Drawing and Photography. Through his studies, he learned several languages: French (1), English (2), Dutch (3), Polish (4), Spanish (5) and Russian (6). Ben loves languages because he loves communicating and interacting with people. He loves people.


Following his studies, Ben has tried all kinds of different jobs but visual creation has always been his main concern. Since 2006 until now, his pictorial works have been published in famous Belgian and international newspapers and magazines (see "Press" for more info) and they have been seen by millions of people online. Ben Heine’s artworks have been exhibited in Belgium, Great Britain, France, Canada, USA, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Brazil, South Korea and Spain. Ben is currently represented by several well-established art galleries in Belgium and abroad, such as the Gallery Garden (Brussels), the Appart Gallery (Brussels), Start/Stuff&Art (Cape Verde), the Art Movement (London), the Next Gallery (Jacksonville), the Radeski Gallery (Liège) and others (see "Partners" for more info). He has also participated in numerous art events such as the London Art Fair, the Affordable Art Fair, the Berliner List, the Accessible Art Fair, Art Event, Music for Life... (see "Exhibitions" for more detailed info about the most important past and future shows).


"Pencil Vs Camera" mixes drawing and photography, imagination and reality. It’s a new visual concept invented and initiated by Ben Heine in 2010. It's full of magic, illusion, poetry and surrealism. Ben published his first "Pencil Vs Camera" image in April 2010 but the series is the result of a long graphic exploration and a logic consequence of his personal artistic development. Ben usually integrates an inventive hand made drawing in front of a realistic background. There are several methods to achieve the same effect (see "Interviews" for more info). Ben’s hand is always clearly visible; it represents the close connection between the viewer, the artist and the artwork. The drawing is always in black and white while the photo is often very colorful, this amplifies the contrast between the two mediums. In this series, Ben likes to focus on people’s life, portraits, nature, animals, architecture... Among others, the main themes approached in "Pencil Vs Camera" are: Love, Freedom, After Life, Friendship and Nature. Ben says: "I just make art for people. I want them to dream and forget their daily troubles. I used to write poems many years ago, I want to convey a poetic and philosophical meaning into my pictures, each new creation should tell a story and generate an intense emotion, like a poem, like a melody". Because of their originality and the visual innovations Ben brought in his artworks, this series has had a huge impact on the graphic design community and has generated several buzz on the Internet. Ben says the initial idea of this "Pencil Vs Camera" concept came by coincidence while he was writing a letter in his family house in Braives, Belgium.


This is a project Ben started in 2010 as well. It is somehow a synthesis of Pop Art and Pointillism. In this series, Ben usually makes portraits of celebrities with digital tools using only flat circles on a black background. Each circle has a single color and a single tone. "Trends Hunter", the world's largest trend community, said about "Digital Circlism": "Through the use of graphic softwares and a whole lot of creativity, Ben Heine is able to create iconic faces from history and pop culture by drawing circles of various sizes and colors, in order to give them a dynamic and 3-dimensional appearance". The artist stated he has been making portraits for over 15 years now but it wasn't very long ago that he started developing this original technique. "As I've been working with digital tools recently, this came quite naturally, and I’m a big fan of Pop Art and Pointillism. "Digital Circlism" is a modern fusion of them". Ben takes inspiration from several photographs, then creates a brand new photomontage or a rough digital painting and he finally begins the long process of placing circles on a black background using image editing softwares and using his digital sketches as references (it requires between 100 and 180 hours of work for one portrait). In the people he chooses to portray, Ben often opts for celebrities he likes or admires, mainly singers or musicians, such as Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, Eminem, Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Depp...


"Flesh and Acrylic" is Ben’s latest project (started in 2011). Ben creates abstract acrylic paintings on large wooden panels. The main idea is to create a surface blending the model with the background. Indeed, the particularity of the project resides in the fact that a living person is integrated in the artwork and is part of the whole composition. The end result is often wild and very colorful. Once the painting is finished, Ben takes pictures of it. The photos will be printed and exhibited afterwards. In this series, Ben’s intention is to give a new beauty and a new dimension to the life model. It's still an ongoing project and Ben is currently working on new "Flesh and Acrylic" creations. Certainly it's not recommended to cover your skin with acrylic paint repetitively, Ben first tried it on several parts of his own body, no pain, no irritation... Acrylic paint is water-based so the majority of the substance is not toxic. Acrylic paints with cadmium can be harmful because of the heavy metals they contain. Ben uses acrylic WITHOUT cadmium. Ben has worked with several models. A professional video documentary including his first "Flesh and Acrylic" creation (along with other works from other series) will soon be released worldwide.


Ben Heine has been drawing all his life since a very young age, he started being interested in photography later on, during his studies in Journalism. He doesn't make any specific distinction between photography or drawing. Photography has actually become one of his major specialties although he would never have imagined he would become a professional photographer one day. Ben always has a camera with him. He takes pictures every minute. He also spends a lot of time improving his images. Many of his final photos look somehow like paintings. Photography is all about light. The way light is used can generate a real difference and a huge impact in the resulting images. Light defines everything, the subjects, the environment, the atmosphere... Ben knows it and he always tries to remove all the visible imperfections to enhance and add a dramatic touch in all his pictures in a creative way to get the best results possible.


Ben Heine used to make political art while he was studying Journalism from 2003 to 2007, he stopped making such illustrations in 2009.


Ben Heine is represented by several international press agencies such as IberPress, BullPress, Rex Features and Barcroft.


Since June 2010 and as an "imageloger", Ben is sponsored by Samsung Imaging, a leader in photo imaging technology, digital cameras and camcorders. In this context, several of his conceptual photos have been exhibited at "Samsung D’light" in South Korea.


Here are the cameras and lenses Ben currently uses:

Canon: Canon EOS Mark II. Canon lens EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. Canon lens EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

Samsung: Samsung NX11. Samsung lens 50-200mm f 4.0-5.6 ois. Samsung ifunction lens 20-50mm f 3.5-5.6.


1983-1990: Birth and childhood in Ivory Coast, Africa.
1990-1996: Primary school in Brussels, Belgium. First drawings.
1996-2002: Boarding school in Soignies, Belgium. High interest in Graphic arts, along with music, poetry and sport.
2002-2003: Studies in Hastings, England: Painting and Sculpture.
2003-2007: University in Belgium and The Netherlands: Journalism and Slavonic languages. Political illustrations. Growing interest for Photography.
2007-2009: Lots of different jobs: Teacher, Journalist, Editor, Coach. Ben's priority remained in his creative projects. End of his political/activist period.
2009-2010: Full time visual artist. Birth of "Pencil Vs Camera" and "Digital Circlism". Exhibitions in Belgium and abroad (see "Exhibitions" for more detailed info about the most important past and future shows).
2011-Present: Birth of "Flesh and Acrylic". Exhibitions in Belgium and abroad (see "Exhibitions" for more detailed info about the most important past and future shows).

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