London Street Art: The Chewing Gum Man

London is awash with some of the best street art in the world. Here’s the story of one of our most famous street artists, the chewing gum man.

From Discarded Chewing Gum to Art

If you walk around London, you can’t help to notice that we have a litter problem, and chewing gum is one of the most significant parts of this issue.

With careless people just spitting gum wherever they please, discarded gum has become a permanent part of the pavements around our city. And the time and effort required to remove gum are beyond most councils’ means.

In 2004 an inspired artist called Ben Wilson decided to take these tiny spots of selfish waste and turn them into something beautiful. Ben painstakingly makes patches of old chewing gum on the ground on his canvasses for tiny pieces of art – a uniquely modern take on the old British tradition of painting in miniature.

Each piece by Ben is usually inspired by someone he’s met, though sometimes it can even be a passerby.

How does the Chewing Gum Man do it?

Ben first softens the old chewing gum with a blow torch to create his unique street art. He then sprays it with enamel and lets it dry before beginning to create his art. 

Using tiny brushes that would be otherwise used to paint model trains and cars, Ben carefully creates paintings and stories to commemorate the people of London and, indeed, the world. 

It can take hours to finish each one, which is then covered in a protective lacquer. Many of his pieces of street art have lasted for years.

Lying on the Street Making Art

Sometimes, people who see Ben making his artworks think he’s drunk or on drugs. To paint, he has to lie on the street, often for hours at a time, without making much movement.

In fact, the police have been called, and on one occasion, he was forcefully dragged by his feet into a police van and arrested. He later won his appeal case and now carries a letter around with him that alerts any other policemen of his artistic endeavour.

Where Can You See Ben’s Work?

Ben lives in the Crouch End area of London, and you can see a lot of his work around here. Also, keep your eyes peeled around Shoreditch, especially on the Millennium bridge where Ben has made a special trail.

There’s a good chance you might bump into him while he’s touching up one of the pieces or creating a new piece.

Like many cities worldwide, London has so many stories to tell that are easy just to walk past. 

If you’d like to see some of Ben’s art and hear some of London’s hidden stories, why not book a place on one of our Foodie Walking Tours of London?

Please contact us if you have any questions about our tours and services.

Ben Wilson Chewing Gum Artist