Last updated October 23rd 2014
Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary is at least one thing that world-famous Israeli artist Hanoch Piven does well. His collage characters, created from food and random objects, have graced the covers of TIME, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The London Times and many more since Piven started out 20 years ago. But the road to success hasn’t been easy for Piven; indeed his motto has been ‘If first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’
Immigrating to Israel from Uruguay at the age of 11, Piven faced road blocks to his unique outlook on creativity wherever he went. When he first set out sketching caricatures, neither his teachers nor his military commanders were impressed. Then, at the age of 23, the budding artist was rejected from the prominent Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Despite the challenges, Piven was determined to get an artistic education, traveling to New York to study at the New York School of Visual Arts.
For Piven, this was the initial proof that the road to success is paved with failures: “I have this inner courage-slash-irresponsible nature. At 24, to go to New York and study in a private school without money to pay for it was irresponsible, but I guess I felt like yiheh b’seder [it will be fine], and it was,” Piven told website Israel21C. Piven’s desire to face challenges head on led him early on to the conclusion that he should ditch drawing and make collages.
Tasting artistic success
Immediately following graduation, Piven sent his collage works to the popular magazine Newsweek, then receiving the artistic gratification he had been craving for so long. He was asked by the publication to design a cover portrait of presidential candidate Ross Perot. Although that piece was never published, Piven’s work began to pop up all over the cultural scene, with his illustration of Vice President Dan Quayle appearing in Entertainment Weekly, and his iconic trash-can mouth, donut-eyed portrait of Homer Simpson gracing the cover of Rolling Stone.
If you ask Piven, it was the big move to New York that got his creative juices flowing. Since, he has expanded past magazine covers to publish children’s books, plan interactive exhibitions, create applications, advertising campaigns and television programs. Educating young students on the importance of creativity has become sort of an artistic mission for Piven outside of his commercial artistic success. He works with Israel’s Ministry of Education touring preschools throughout the country to teach students the art of collage, and coaches educators in Spain, China, Canada, Italy and the United States.
Speaking about creativity seems to give Piven equal fulfillment to creating his collages, “I’m half illustrator, half standup comedian,” Piven likes to joke, a comedic sense gained while learning the artistic ropes and shaping the face of world leaders and iconic figures with toys and trinkets.