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The Gum Artist

Ben Wilson creates beautiful art on old pieces of gum!
A man wearing clothes splattered with paint lies on his stomach and paints a design on something that is on the ground.
Hero – Yui Mok—PA Images/Getty Images
Ben Wilson at work

When Ben Wilson sees a piece of chewing gum stuck on the sidewalk, he gets out his paint set. Wilson is an artist who likes to make art using objects that most people would think of as garbage. He’s most famous for painting designs on chewed-up pieces of gum.

Wilson lives and works in London, England. It’s pretty easy to spot him when he’s painting a piece of sidewalk gum. He’s usually lying on his belly, wearing a pair of bright orange overalls that are splattered with paint. Wilson paints animals, food, buildings, and more. He often gets his ideas from people he meets on the street. Sometimes they ask him to make paintings for their friends or family. They don’t get to keep the paintings. The brightly painted gum usually stays on the sidewalk, where Wilson found it. It may bring a smile to someone’s face as they walk past it.

“By painting a picture [that] is so small, those that see it then discover a hidden world beneath their feet,” Wilson told Reuters.

A green painting of a car on a lumpy background pressed into an outdoor grate.

Loz Pycock (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wilson has a certain technique—a way of creating his art. He uses heat to soften the gum so he can paint on it. Then he takes a tiny brush out of his paint box and starts creating. When he’s finished, he sprays the gum with lacquer, a shiny coating that helps protect his painting. He wants each one to last for years. Wilson even keeps records of all his paintings. Every so often, he returns to them to clean them or fix any damage he finds.

When Wilson finds an old wad of gum, it’s garbage. After he has painted it, it’s a beautiful work of art.

A painting of a seated dog with a colorful border

Matt Brown (CC BY 2.0)

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Fun Fact

Used pieces of gum of different colors stuck on a wall.
© annhfhung-Moment/Getty Images
In Seattle, Washington, there’s a wall that’s covered in old pieces of chewing gum. It’s called the Gum Wall!

You Can Make Found Art!

You can make art with found objects! Found objects are objects that are found by an artist and used in their art. Found objects can include things from nature, like stones, or things you find around your home, like old cereal boxes or bottle caps. Just be sure you’re allowed to use these objects for your project.

Here are some things you can do with your found objects:

  • Glue them together to create sculptures
  • Paint them
  • Make a collage out of them

With some imagination, you can turn found objects into something beautiful. Check out the slideshow!

© Elena/, © Alrandir/, © Zoia Lukianova/, © bongkarn/, © Yiu Tung Lee/

Artists at Work

Four panel showing a graphic designer at a computer, a jewelry maker working with silver and gems, a viking sand sculpture, and a potter’s hands making a vase on a wheel.
© Paul Vinten, yurakrasil, badahos/, © Andrey Popov/; Photo composite Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Did you know there are many kinds of art and many ways to be an artist? Cartoonists are artists. So are sculptors. People who design jewelry are also artists.

You can read more about artists at Britannica!

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:


: able to think of or make new and creative things
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