Ben Wilson wanders the streets of North London in search of chewing gum. He softens the blobs of crusty, hardened gum with a small blow torch, and then he makes magic. Crouching down on the hard pavement, he pulls out his paints and creates miniature masterpieces.
In the video below, he says, “I believe people have a right to be creative in their immediate environment and to be spontaneous. And the more people can have a sense of belonging to it, they’re going to be more responsible for it. And there’s going to be less rubbish in the street and less chewing gum actually thrown on the pavement.”
In London, Wilson has become a local hero. People stop to watch him work and have a chat. He keeps a book of their requests and paints gum pictures that celebrate their births, deaths, marriages, and whatever else they want to commemorate.
Wilson’s been painting chewing gum since 1998 (full time since 2004), and I’ve no doubt a whole lot of people are happier because of him. I’m not advocating we all go out and spit chewing gums on the sidewalk, but imagine how much more attention people would pay to their immediate environment if they were watching for tiny works of art in unexpected places.
Ben Wilson’s art and his whimsical spirit give me hope.
- Ben Wilson on Wikipedia
- A Trail of Pictures (short documentary)
- Rahid1‘s Flickr photostream has 99 photographs of Wilson’s tiny paintings, plus two shots of one of the artist’s sculptures.