Ben Heine (born 12 June 1983 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire) is a Belgian multidisciplinary artist. Starting as a painter and political cartoonist, he became more widely known in 2011 for his "Pencil vs Camera" and "Digital Circlism" projects. Heine has a degree in journalism (Brussels – Belgium) and made his Masters' final assignment on the "limits of freedom of speech in political cartoons" (2007).
As a political cartoonist, Heine received some criticism for his views on the Middle Eastern political situation and specifically some images about Israel and Zionism. Heine has stopped doing political art since 2009. Heine has briefly studied painting and sculpture in Hastings, England, but considers himself a self-taught artist in drawing and photography (The D-Photo). Heine’s "Pencil vs Camera" artwork is so far his most widely published work.
Pencil vs cameraEdit
The idea of mixing drawing with photography came to him in 2010. Heine says it was the result of a long graphic exploration and a logic consequences of his artistic evolution. "Pencil vs Camera" mixes drawing and photography  imagination and reality, through illusion and surrealism. In this project, Heine's usually focuses on architecture, portraits and animals. Among many others, the main themes approached in "Pencil Vs Camera" are love and friendship. Heine 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 meaning into my pictures, each new creation should tell a story and generate an intense emotion, like a poem, like a melody". This series had a large impact on the graphic design community. Heine says the initial idea of this "Pencil Vs Camera" concept came by coincidence while he was writing a letter. Some of his "Pencil vs Camera" creations have also been related to optical illusions.
This is the name Heine has given to a whole new creative technique he has developed in 2010. It is a mix between Pop Art and Pointillism. In this project, Heine usually makes portraits of celebrities/cultural icons with digital tools using flat circles on a black background. Each circle has a single color and a single tone. 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". 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. "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".
Heine says he is influenced by Belgian Surrealism, German Expressionism, American Pop Art, and Social Realism. 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". Heine has given several interviews explaining the philosophy behind his creations.
What Heine refers to as his academic visual research on the limits of freedom of speech in political cartoons lead to controversy. Due to the pro-Palestinian and anti Zionism nature of some of Heine's political art and his participation in a 2006 competition calling for Holocaust-related cartoons on the Iranian website Irancartoon.com Heine has been accused of anti-Semitism by critics including the Belgian satirical weekly magazine Pere UBU and the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs. Heine wrote in his open letter to the Irancartoon.org site, "We are against all kind of revisionism, anti-Semitism, racism or xenophobia. We do not at all deny that millions of Jews were horribly murdered by the Nazis."
He decided to completely stop creating political cartoons in 2009 and to focus on his own art. He wrote an open letter to the Jewish Community in 2010 to express his regrets and apologizing about his past behavior, explaining also, how in his view these drawings had been manipulated by extremist associations and how he lost control of the situation. Ben Heine was a member of the Don Quichotte World team. He collaborated with the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique. His political images were exhibited on several news sites and online galleries dedicated to art and cartoons such as Brazilcartoon, Greekartoon, Cartoonworld, and Cartoonru, and MWC News. His cartoons have also been featured on some popular cartoon-Websites of the Middle and Far East World like Arabcartoon, Persiancartoon, Irancartoon as well as on the Chinese Okcomic.