Call it magical realism… call it fantasy… but this digital artist is a whimsical wizard.
Ben Heine’s art is powered by his finely-honed technique. Although self-trained, he’s a superb sketch artist and photographer – and much more, as he’s shaped his disparate skills into something at once surreal and sublime.
What makes this Belgian artist’s work truly wonderful is his playful imagery. Melding his skill as an artist with a childlike sensibility, the constructions he calls Pencil Vs Camera reveal a fertile but quirky imagination.
It’s the juxtaposition of realistic photographic images with his fanciful sketches that set him apart from most other visual artists. Still, I can see references in his work to an earlier Belgian Surrealist, Rene Magritte, as in the piece below.
Ben Heine’s images remind me of Erik Johansson, a digital artist I profiled a few posts ago. Erik also transforms his photography with Photoshop to invent a physically realistic but impossible tableaux, adding his own sense of fantasy to the concrete imagery. Photoshop has enabled many digital artists to place the unexpected within the realm of the familiar. You can check out my post on Swedish Surrealist Erik Johansson’s impossible images here.
Getting back to Ben Heine, besides cheerfully portraying the mischievious moment, his pieces are surprising and fun, with a whimsical sensibility that insures broad appeal. But key to making them work is his ability to draw. From a recent interview:
Drawing was my initial obsession and my first love, because it’s easy to carry a pencil and a piece of paper. I used to draw all the time, everywhere. I needed to draw to express my emotions.
I realized very early in my life that I would spend a huge amount of time and energy working on visual projects. I never sought to become an artist specifically or to conform to what it might mean to be an artist— it’s just the closest descriptor for what I am.
He’s often drawn to animals and nature as an inspiration for his art. From a recent interview about his Pencil v. Camera pieces:
Nature represents a divine energy for me. I spend several hours a week walking in forests, parks, and natural places to fill my creative well and take time to think about my future projects.
Animals are a great inspiration too. I love to portray them in my drawings. I am also fascinated by interactions between people. I love observing them and getting inspiration from their actions and decisions.
Rambling through his web portfolio gives you a strong sense of Ben as an observer, at a slight remove. Everything seems to be fodder for his imagination.
Below is a documentary trailer that gives you a glimpse into what Ben Heine is all about. If you want to watch the whole 30 minutes, you can find the full documentary here. It’s an excellent profile of the work, his artistic process and his efforts to open new portals for exploration.
If Ben Heine is something of a magician, what makes his magic so appealing? We can admire his technique – he’s a master of the well-crafted moment – but there’s more to it than his impressive ability to execute. I think we like being tickled by visual illusions – those manipulated moments make us confront how we view and interpret the world. Ben goes to great lengths to create an alternative image of reality, with a gentle humor that invites us to step on over and take a look.
It’s that childlike playfulness – reminding us of fanciful days when we might have imagined unicorns munching day lilies in the garden or pictured ourselves soaring through the air on mighty winged-steeds breathing fire.
I started doing very simple visuals and my work became more complex and time consuming in the recent years. My leitmotif is to push boundaries and do innovative art. I like to live every creative moment intensely. I always want to renew my goals and find new challenges. It’s also important for me to constantly follow new directions and not be afraid of criticism.
I need to surprise myself if I want to surprise the people who follow me.
I like being reminded to make room in my day for play. It makes life a richer experience. For all that, I say a big “thank you” to Ben Heine.
What do you think? Do you like his work? Leave a comment and let me know.