Ben Heine

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Ben Heine
Portrait of Ben Heine.jpg
Oil Portrait of Ben Heine
Born Benjamin Heine
(1983-06-12) 12 June 1983 (age 33)
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Nationality Belgian
  • Collège Saint Vincent
  • Hastings College of Arts & Technology
  • Institut des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales
  • Hogeschool Utrecht Journalistiek
Known for Drawing, photography, music production
Notable work
  • Pencil Vs Camera
  • Digital Circlism
  • Flesh and Acrylic
Movement Surrealism, Pop Art and House Music

Ben Heine is a Belgian multidisciplinary visual artist[1] and music producer.[2][3] His name became famous in 2010 with the invention of a new art form titled "Pencil Vs Camera".[4][5] He is an accomplished illustrator and photographer,[6] with numerous works widely regarded in both the art and design world.[7] He is also the creator of other original art series such as "Digital Circlism"[8] and "Flesh and Acrylic".[9]

He was born in 1983 in Ivory Coast and currently lives and works in Belgium. Ben has a degree in Journalism and is a self-taught person in drawing,[10] photography[11] and music.[3] His creations have been featured in newspapers, magazines and major publications worldwide and since 2010 his works have begun to populate art galleries and museums in Europe,[12] Asia[13][14] and Russia.[15] Heine permanently stopped doing political art in 2009.[16] A documentary about his work was released in 2012.

Heine started producing and composing music in 2012 and plays drums and the piano.[16][17] He owns a music studio since 2013. His first music album "Sound Spiral" was released in November 2015.[18] Through his career path, Heine became the ambassador of famous brands such as Samsung[19] and Mazda.[20]

Early life and education[edit]

Ben was born in 1983 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. where he spent the first seven years of his life, with his parents and three sisters. His family relocated in Brussels, Belgium, in 1990. His father was a commercial engineer and his mother a choreographer and a dance teacher. Heine started drawing at 11 year old. At that time, his curiosity for visual art was his keenest interest.[21]

Between 1988 and 2006, Heine undertook studies in different countries, including Ivory Coast, Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands. He attended primary school at Notre Dame de La Trinité in Brussels. As a student, Heine easily became frustrated and bored, often becoming difficult to manage in school. It wasn't until he attended secondary education at "Collège Saint Vincent" in Belgium[22] that he evolved into a more disciplined student.[23] As a teenager, he explored drawing, painting and writing poetry to music and athletics.[24]

In 2007, Ben earned a degree in Journalism, started at Université Libre de Bruxelles and completed at IHECS[25] and Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. Ben also conducted studies in Art History, Sculpture, and Painting at Hastings College of Arts and Technology and at the Académie Royale des Beaux Arts de Bruxelles. Throughout his academic training, he learned music instruments including drums, djembe and piano. His studies and love for communication lead him to learn six different languages, French, English, Dutch, Polish, Spanish and Russian.[26]

Between 2007 until the end of 2009, Heine worked in different fields to make a living, as a copywriter in a communication agency in Belgium and later as a language teacher and coach in different schools around Brussels. He also worked as a cashier in a supermarket. Despite these jobs, Ben's priority always remained in his creative projects and he was drawing and painting every night.[27][28]

2010 was an important year for Heine, when he started working on the artworks of his major series, Pencil Vs Camera and Digital Circlism.[29][30] From 2010 until today, Heine exhibited his artworks in major art fairs, museums and art galleries around the world.[31] Since 2011, he also continued to develop his musical style.[32]


Pencil vs camera[edit]

Ben Heine at Brussels Accessible Art Fair

The artworks in this series usually show a hand-drawn 2D sketch held and photographed by the artist in a specific location.[33] They combine photography and drawing to infuse ordinary scenes with new surreal, visionary, or romanticized narratives.[34] The inclusion of hand-held penciled sketches over a portion of the original photos allows Heine to enhance reality and open doors to an imaginary world.[35][36] Heine brought some innovations to the concept in 2012 adding colors and black paper.[37] Between 2010 and 2016, Heine’s creations have been seen by the people through the exhibitions and news articles in major media outlets.[38] Heine's first Pencil Vs Camera's images quickly gained popularity online[39] and received positive criticisms from specialized and influential art sites along with news reports and international opportunities for the artist.[40]

Some of primary and secondary public schools that are teaching Heine's Pencil Vs Camera concept are "International School of Beijing",[41] "ColegioMenor in Quito", "Dover College", "Ecole Lamartine",[42] "Ecole de Scorbé-Clairvaux",[43] "Ecole Renaudeau", "Collège La Bruyère Sainte Isabelle" and others.[44] Since 2012, many other creators and artists have borrowed from Heine’s innovations to create various forms of similar 3D artworks.[45]

Flesh and Acrylic[edit]

Flesh and Acrylic live performance at Brussels Natural Science Museum

This series started in 2011, Heine creates abstract acrylic paintings on large wooden panels.[46] 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.[47] He takes pictures of the final composition so that they can be printed and exhibited later on. Heine made his first "Flesh and Acrylic" project with model Caroline Madison in 2011 for a documentary filmed by Italian director Davide Gentile.[48] Between 2012 and 2015, Heine made several Flesh and Acrylic live performances.[49]

Digital circlism[edit]

Ben Heine during an exhibition of Digital circlism

This is the name Heine has given to a whole new creative technique he has developed in 2010.[50] It is a mix between Pop Art and Pointillism.[51] In this project, Heine usually makes portraits of celebrities/cultural icons[52] with digital tools using flat circles on a black background. Each circle has a single color and a single tone.[53] Trends Hunter said about Digital Circlism: "Through the use of graphic software 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".[54] The artist stated he has been making portraits for over 15 years but it wasn't very long ago that he started developing this original technique.[55] "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 mix of them".[56]


Heine says he is influenced by Belgian Surrealism,[57] German Expressionism,[58] American Pop Art,[59] and Social Realism.[60] Abduzeezo says about Heine: "His galleries are filled with great stuff and he can walk beautifully between several art directions, creating amazing pieces in any way he goes".[61] Heine has given several interviews explaining the philosophy behind his creations.[62]

Political works[edit]

Traditionally trained in journalism and communications at IHECS Journalism School, Heine tried his hand at political cartoons because he wanted to connect his interest in art with his studies in Journalism. This brief encounter was far less charitable to him than he had hoped. His political activism, at the cusp of his youth, unleashed a string of criticism and threats. In the end, Heine felt it was perhaps wiser to walk away from political cartoons in 2009.[11]

At IHECS, international politics professor Paul Delmotte gave Heine pro-Palestinian information throughout his studies.[63] In 2006, at the end of his scholarship and just after the Muhammad cartoon contest controversy, Heine made a master's final assignment, which included a detailed investigation about the "Limits of Freedom of Expression in Political Cartooning".[64] At that time, Heine was also member of many cartoonists and activists associations. These organizations and particularly "Iran Cartoon" requested that he participates in a competition calling for provocative Holocaust-related images sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri[65] as an answer to the Muhammad cartoon contest.

Heine's participation in this contest lead to controversy. Due to the pro-Palestinian nature of several of his older political art, he received some criticisms for his views on the Middle Eastern political situation and specifically for some images about Israel and Zionism. Because of this, Heine decided to completely stop creating political cartoons in 2009 and to focus on his own art. He also asked all websites that published his political images to permanently remove them because he said these drawings lacked nuance and intelligence and they kept generating confusion about his evolution as a non-political artist. He also said he made such mistake because he was too young and didn't have objective information.[65]

Heine wrote an open letter in 2010 to beg pardon to the Jewish Community, to express his regrets and apologize for the mess and pain this event had generated.[65] He made clear he was against revisionism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.[66] He also explained the academic context in which he was, how cartoon organizations had manipulated his drawings, how he lost control of the situation and how much this issue had caused him troubles.[65] Since 2009, Heine has firmly distanced himself from all activists’ organizations.[11][66]


Heine started creating electronic music, writing songs, singing and composing in 2011.[67] He bought a professional creative studio in Belgium since 2012.[68] In 2013, Heine's music track "Fly With You" was added in the collective album "Mesh 1.0" released by DMS in the UK.[69] From 2013 to 2014, he worked on improving his knowledge in music theory and piano practice. In 2014, Heine started to collaborate with other musicians and singers including pianist Thibault Crols and Saxophonist Stéphane Pigeon.[70]

In 2015, Heine music was played publicly for the first time at Moscow Planetarium,[71] at the National Museum of Arkhangelsk[72] and in 2016 at Tyumen Fine Art Museum[73] in the frame of his itinerant solo exhibition in Russia.[74] Ben Heine's first album "Sound Spiral" was released in 2015.[75] In March 2016, his music tracks "Warsaw", "I'm a Clown", "Amour" and "It's Just a Play" were selected by "Wix Music" and played at the renowned SXSW music festival.

Past exhibitions[edit]

  • 2016 "Art and Music of Ben Heine", ArtMuza Modern Art Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia[76][77][78]
  • 2016 "Art and Music of Ben Heine", State History Museum, Omsk, Russia[79][80]
  • 2016 "Digital Circlism", China Furniture Fair, Shanghai & Guangzhou en Chine[81]
  • 2016 "Ben Heine Art and Music ", Fine Art Museum, Tyumen, Russia[73][82][83]
  • 2016 "Surréalisme à la Belge", Centre Culturel des Roches, Rochefort, Belgium[84][85]
  • 2015 "Ben Heine", National Museum, Arkhangelsk, Russia[86][86]
  • 2015 "The Art & Music of Ben Heine", Moscow Planetarium, Russia[87][88]
  • 2015 "From Cocoa to Choco", Harbour City, William Chan Design, Hong Kong[89]
  • 2015 "Heine Mazda Car Design", Affordable Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium[90]
  • 2015 "Colorful Car Show", Mazda, Namur Les Bains, Namur, Belgium
  • 2015 "Festival Dont Vous Etes le Héros", Université de Namur, Belgium[91]
  • 2014 "Parallel Universe", DCA Gallery, Brussels, Belgium[92]
  • 2014 "On The Draw, an Illustrated Journey", Promotur, Temporary Art Café, Turin, Italy[93]
  • 2014 "Pencil Vs Camera", Accessible Art Fair, Cercle de Lorraine, Brussels, Belgium[94]
  • 2014 "Museum Night Fever", Natural Science Museum, Brussels, Belgium[95]
  • 2014 "An Illustrated Journey in Tenerife", Promotur, Canvas Studios, London, United Kingdom[96]
  • 2014 "On The Draw, an Illustrated Journey", Promotur, Mercado San Anton, Madrid, Spain[97]
  • 2013 "The Universe of Ben Heine", Hyehwa Art Center, Seoul, South Korea[98]
  • 2013 "Pencil Vs Camera", Exhi-B, Event Lounge, Brussels, Belgium[99]
  • 2013 "Taste Buds & Pure Street", Culinaria, Tour et Taxis, Brussels, Belgium[100]
  • 2013 "Images Photo Club", Foto Museum, Den Haag, The Netherlands
  • 2013 "Street Art Exhibition", Pavillon M, Tour de France Photo, Marseille, France[101]
  • 2013 "Saint Valentine Magic", Begramoff Gallery, Brussels, France[102]
  • 2013 "Wallonie Bienvenue", Ben Heine Studio, Rochefort, Belgium[103]
  • 2012 "The Best of Both Worlds", VIP Offices, Brussels, Belgium[104]
  • 2012 "Creative Sketching in Lisbon", Samsung Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal[105]
  • 2012 "Illusion and Poetry", The Art Movement, The Avenue, Brussels, Belgium[106]
  • 2012 "Digital Circlism", Print Art Fest, McCann Erickson, Bucharest, Romania
  • 2012 "Creative Pro Show", Aurelia Holiday in, Rome, Italy
  • 2012 "Animal's Portraits", The Art Movement, AAF Battersea, London, United Kingdom
  • 2012 "Pencil Vs Camera, Digital Circlism", Exhi-B Autoworld, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2012 "Imagination Vs Reality", Accessible Art Fair, Conrad Hotel, Brussels, Belgium[107]
  • 2012 "Pencil Vs Camera", Photokina, Cologne, Germany
  • 2012 "Ben Heine for Louise Nights", MontBlanc, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2012 "Art Shop Disco", Exhi-B, L'Arsenal, Brussels, Belgium[108]
  • 2012 "Ben Heine for MontBlanc", MontBlanc, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2012 "Celebrities Portraits", The Appart Gallery, Affordable Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2012 "Pencil Vs Camera", Gallery Garden, Affordable Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium[109]
  • 2012 "Drawings and Photos", The Art Movement, London Art Fair, London, United Kingdom[110]
  • 2012 "Pencil Vs Camera, Flesh and Acrylic", Art Event, Namur Expo, Namur, Belgium[111]
  • 2011 "Drawings for Cape Verde", Start Stuff&Art Gallery, Mindelo, Cape Verde
  • 2011 "Another World", Radeski Art Gallery, Liège, Belgium[112]
  • 2011 "Space and Time", Gallery Garden, The Artistery, Brussels, Belgium[113]
  • 2011 "Creative Explorations", The Artistery, Bank Delen, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2011 "Flesh and Acrylic", Accessible Art Fair, Conrad Hotel, Brussels, Belgium[114]
  • 2011 "Early Drawings", Gallery Garden, The Artistery, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2011 "Pencil Vs Camera", The Art Movement, Affordable Art Fair, London, United Kingdom[115]
  • 2011 "Digital Circlism and Pencil Vs Camera", Berliner Liste, Berlin, Germany
  • 2011 "Pencil Vs Camera", Art London, The Art Movement, London, United Kingdom[116]
  • 2011 "Simple Stories - Ben Heine Art", BAAF, Conrad Hotel, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2011 "Pencil Vs Camera", The Artistery, Affordable Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2010 "Music For Life", Red Cross, The Artistery, Ronse, Belgium
  • 2010 "Ben Heine World", Ten Weyngaert X-Po 54, The Artistery, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2010 "Creative Art series by Ben Heine", Appart Gallery, The Artistery, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2010 "Paintings and Pencil Vs Camera", Law Courts of Hosdent, The Artistery, Braives, Belgium
  • 2010 "Digital Circlism and Pencil Vs Camera", Art Event, The Artistery, Antwerp, Belgium
  • 2010 "Pencil Vs Camera and Digital Circlism", Appart Gallery - The Loft, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2010 "Ben Heine Photography", Samsung D'Light, Seoul, South Korea
  • 2010 "Pencil Vs Camera", The Next Gallery, Jacksonville, Florida, USA
  • 2010 "Eye Catching Sketches", Accessible Art Fair, The Artistery, Conrad Hotel, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2010 "Pencil Vs Camera", Le Coach, The Artistery, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2006 "Early Paintings - Ben Heine", Les Coulisses Saint Jacques, Brussels, Belgium

Sponsors and Galleries[edit]

Since 2010 until 2013, Ben Heine was working in collaboration with Samsung Camera and he became the first "Imagelogger"[117][118] which was the title of a program launched by Samsung to test new Samsung cameras by international photographers. Ben experienced and shooted with Samsung latest NX cameras and lenses and different Galaxy NX lenses. Samsung also partially sponsored his project with the Samsung Note 10.1 in Lisbon in 2012[119] and his solo exhibition at "Hyehwa Art Center" in Seoul later in 2013.[120]

In 2014, Heine partnered with Chromaluxe.[121] In 2015, Ben Heine also partnered with Mazda to create a car exclusive design and to take part in different events. He became Mazda Brand ambassador in Belgium, in this context, he travelled to Atlanta and Barcelona for Mazda related corporate events.[20][122]

Art galleries currently showing Heine's works are Expomania in Russia, The Art Movement in the UK, William Chan Design in Hong Kong, INMD in South Korea, Mahlstedt Gallery and iCanvas in the USA, Kare Design in Germany, DCA Gallery and Begramoff Gallery in Belgium. In 2016, Heine was among the Belgian influencers who participated in the "OwnTheTwilight" project launched by Samsung and featuring photos shot with the Galaxy S7 Edge.[123]


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  3. ^ a b "Du talent à revendre". 
  4. ^ "Optical intrusion: Incredible 3D pencil drawings that allow the artist to step INSIDE the picture". Dailymail. 6 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Kate Schneider (23 December 2011). "Something sketchy about Ben Heine's 'Pencil vs Camera' images". The Australian. 
  6. ^ "В Музее изобразительных искусств пройдет выставка Бена Хайне "Карандаш против камеры"". 
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  12. ^ Kerry Mcqueeney (26 September 2011). "Pencil vs reality... where do you draw the line? The incredible optical illusions created by artist". Dailymail. 
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  50. ^ Heine, Ben (18 March 2011). "Famosos ganham retratos feitos com círculos". Criativa. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  51. ^ Heine, Ben (23 March 2011). "Circular celebrity portraits leave us seeing spots". Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  52. ^ Heine, Ben (17 March 2011). "CIRCLES CELEBRITY PORTRAITS BY BEN HEINE". Trends Now. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  53. ^ Heine, Ben (3 March 2011). "Celebrities as Circles". Short List. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  54. ^ Heine, Ben (17 March 2011). "Digital Circle Celebrities". Trands Hunter. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  55. ^ Heine, Ben (22 March 2011). "Digital Circlism: portraits of celebrities by Ben Heine". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  56. ^ Heine, Ben (16 March 2011). "Celebrity Portraits Made from Thousands of Circles". My Modern Metropolis. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
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  61. ^ Heine, Ben (18 March 2010). "Beautiful & Inspiring Artworks by Ben Heine". Abduzeezo. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  62. ^ – interviews
  63. ^ "El caso de las caricaturas de Mahoma y sus consecuencias". 
  64. ^ "Le statut du dessinateur de presse Les limites à sa liberté d'expression Retour sur l'affaire des caricatures de Mahomet". 
  65. ^ a b c d "J'ai été l'un des rares Européens à participer au "concours de dessin sur l'Holocauste". Cela a été la plus grande erreur de ma vie. Je le regrette amèrement.". 
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  74. ^ "Бен Хайне не сопротивляется гармоничному противостоянию фото и рисунка". 28 March 2015. 
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  80. ^ "Выставка «Карандаш против камеры» бельгийского художника Бена Хайне". 22 April 2016. 
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  82. ^ "В м узее ИЗО представлен "Карандаш против камеры"". 25 January 2016.  line feed character in |title= at position 4 (help)
  83. ^ "Щедрое творчество Бена Хайне". 
  84. ^ "Centre Culturel de Rochefort ... dévernissage !". 
  85. ^ "PHOTOS Les œuvres d'un Rochefortois qui font le tour du globe". 
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  88. ^ "Выставка 3D-иллюзий открылась в московском планетарии". 
  89. ^ Esther Wong (11 February 2015). "Ben Heine: Merging Imagination with Reality". Asiatatler. 
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  91. ^ "LibreCours". 
  92. ^ "Dare to dream". 
  93. ^ "Canarias inaugura en Turín la exposicón '#Onthedraw, un viaje ilustrado por las Islas'". 
  94. ^ "Multidisciplinary Artist Ben Heine Soon at Accessible Art Fair in Brussels". 
  95. ^ "Danser sous les dinosaures au Musée des Sciences Naturelles". 
  96. ^ "Seven Artists for Seven Islands". Huffington post. 
  97. ^ "El Gobierno canario lleva a Madrid la exposición itinerante '#Onthedraw'". 
  98. ^ "Ben Heine: Penciling in Seoul". 
  99. ^ "Exhi-B at The Event Lounge". 
  100. ^ "Culinaria lance sa tournée : le Pure Street Tour". 
  101. ^ "Le Tour de France Photo : top départ pour l'édition 2013". Retrieved 5 June 2016. 
  102. ^ "Galerie d'Art Contemporain BEGRAMOFF - Lunch - Organisation d'événements". 
  103. ^ "Wallonie Bienvenue : 49 ambassadeurs". 
  104. ^ "Exhibition Ben Heine & VIPOFFICES". 
  105. ^ "Artista belga redesenha Lisboa em dispositivos Samsung". 
  106. ^ "Pencil vs Camera by Ben Heine". Telegraph. 
  107. ^ "Brussels Accessible Art Fair". Retrieved 5 June 2016. 
  108. ^ "Exhibition at L'Arsenal, Exhi-B". 
  109. ^ "Exhibition in MontBlanc Shops". 
  110. ^ "Pencil vs Camera: Incredible images mixing photography and pencil drawings must be seen many, many times to be believed". 
  111. ^ "Artevent Namur Expo". 
  112. ^ "Ben Heine, Flow Painting, Claude Pelissier". 
  113. ^ "Artista belga usa desenhos a lápis para alterar realidade de fotos; veja". BBC. 
  114. ^ "ACCESSIBLE ART". 
  115. ^ "Pencil vs reality... where do you draw the line? The incredible optical illusions created by artis". Dailymail. 
  116. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  117. ^ Alessio Lana (11 September 2013). "Pencil VS Camera, quando la matita incontra la fotografia". Wired. 
  118. ^ "News from Belgium : Latest Update from Ben Heine". Archived from the original on 2 April 2014. 
  119. ^ "GALAXY Note, GALAXY Note II and GALAXY 10.1: Fusing Art and Technology". Samsung. 11 December 2012. 
  120. ^ "Exhibition: The Universe of Ben Heine". 
  121. ^ "ChromaLuxe Gallery Ben Heine". 
  122. ^ "A car is not a piece of art. Or is it?". 
  123. ^ "Ben Heine". Samsung. 

External links[edit]

Inline Citations[edit]

  • "Artist turns camera images into surreal landscape" (Mail Online) 3 February 2011
  • "Wereld valt voor Belgische fototekeningen" (Het Nieuwsblad) 5 May 2010
  • "El lapiz que pinta otra realidad" (El Pais) 15 March 2011
  • "Drawing on Creativity" (Pop Photography) 2 March 2011
  • "Ben Heine, l'artista che completa la foto con un disegno" (La Repubblica) 15 March 2011
  • "Snap! It's a draw" (Daily Mirror) 28 April 2010