Djara Van Hove

The Chewing Gum Man

a.k.a. Ben Wilson.

Depicted as an outsider, British artist forms art with materials found under your feet. Since 1998, he paints colourful miniatures on chewing gum. Which is stuck to the pavement. He tries to embrace societal rejection of material. He finds valuable material in what others consider waste.


Ben Wilson@work - Source:

The gum-paintings ranges from advertising images to creative thoughts he got by interacting with his environment. These paintings reflect his grasp on reality. Wilson is inspired by the diversity in perception. He feels that perception determines our characteristics. It influences the way we think and act as individuals in the society. Wilson's paintings are quite accessible because they depict a familiar yet alternative reality. 

When Wilson produces his art, he often gets approached by passers-by inquiring about his motive. Which he explains calmly while crouched on the ground. His paintings are made with such care. That one image can take a couple of hours to even days to be completed. 



Ben Wilson - Painting on a Chewing Gum - Source:


To create his art Wilson developed a technique using a blowtorch and several layers of acrylic paint, a way to make the colors more vivid. He finishes the art pieces off with a clear lacquer protective coat. The miniatures are colorful, delicate and cheeky. No bigger than a cigarette butt or coin, they each are one of kind. Because the urban landscape is cluttered with discarded gum, the unique canvases of Wilson are hard to find. So keep your eyes open and maybe you’ll see an extraordinary surprise.



Ben Wilson - A Collection Of Gum Paintings - Source:


The act of touching chewing gum isn't a crime Wilson can be accused of. Discharged chewing gum becomes part of no man’s land on common grounds. So the accusation of vandalism is out the picture. Only the person who threw away the gum is guilty of the wrongful deed. It gives Wilson the freedom to interact with the urban environment since chewing gum can be found everywhere. By transforming these overlooked and unwanted parts into small masterpieces, Wilson tries to turn the thoughtless action into a thoughtful one.

Do you want to see more of his paintings? Visit his Instagram.                                                      Or discover the fantastic(k) world of chewing gum.