Ben Carter’s story is every 3rd culture kids’ favourite. Moving to Luxembourg from the UK at the age of 9, he left the Duchy for near on 15 years, only to return and make it his adopted home. As one of the few non-Luxembourgers to be asked to design a new UNESCO postage stamp, he can claim acceptance in his new home as well as international renown. Meet our Extraordinary Expat for May: Ben Carter!
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
It wasn’t an altogether easy path. Coming to Luxembourg at the age of 9, having only ever spoken English, Ben’s difficulties at school were exacerbated by dyslexia. His parents were faced with a tough decision but they finally bit the bullet and sent Ben to Millfield School, internationally well known for its teaching of young people with learning difficulties, at the age of 11. As Ben describes it, ‘they were not the sort of parents who had ever thought of sending their child to boarding school’, but Millfied had a dedicated dyslexic unit coupled with phenomenal facilities in art and sport, something Ben, with innate talent in both, quickly came to appreciate.
Back to the Old Country
It took Ben a lot of time to get used to dormitory life; and he found it tough being away from his family, to whom he is extremely close. But the school’s facilities and fantastic teachers were to have a profound effect on Ben, particularly when his interests drifted from sports to the creative arts, specifically to design. Ben initially applied for a degree in architecture, but after a chat with one of his inspiring teachers, he made a last-minute decision to do a foundation course in illustration at Kingston University. It was a decision that was to change his life.
Ben followed up his first 4 year degree with a masters at the prestigious St. Martin’s College in Central London. His parents’ influence always made itself felt: for instance, having watched his father work in environmental concerns, Ben started to explore how painting – as opposed to the usual medium of photography – could contribute to the environmental debate. Ben sought out contacts at the World Wildlife Fund and found himself on the Drava River in Hungary, using his talents to illustrate the effect of a dam on the water’s flow and its impact on the wildlife.
A taster of Ben’s work
Having completed his studies, coming back to London was hard. Ben had the odd job illustrating for Diesel and The Guardian, but was finding the rat-race in that busy city not to his taste. Moreover, he wanted a chance to do what he had not experienced since 11: living in the same city as his parents. He came back to Luxembourg. Visiting a friend at a bank, he met the director, who mentioned that he had an empty room available. At that time, Ben had some 60 paintings ready and he asked if he could change that office space into a gallery. He promoted his first exhibition, ‘low and bebold’, in Luxembourg, where around 150 people turned up and virtually all his paintings were sold. He went from a deficit in the bank to some 20,000€ richer and was on his way to becoming one of the most sought-after artists in Luxembourg. Generally, all his work has found a buyer: ‘I only have 2 original ‘Ben Carters’ myself’, laughs Ben. ‘Dad always complains that I sell his intended present before he gets it!’
So what’s the secret to his success?
A passion for art, being a perfectionist, and paradoxically, being dyslexic. I felt I had something to prove, so I became hugely self- motivated. Another thing that also helped was an interest in business, which I studied at A-level. It’s much harder to succeed as an artist if you don’t have a head for figures and a grasp of finance.
So, talent, drive and a head for business. Ben Carter has demonstrated that he has all of these. His popularity seems to grow, and the recent commission by the government to design a national stamp suggests that his adopted country is also beginning to embrace this “extraordinary expat” as its own. With a lovely partner and new baby, a self-founded artists’ colony in the Gare and a growing reputation, Ben has a good future to look forward to. Here at City Savvy, we wish him the very best of luck.
Ben Carter’s stamp (design above) will be available from May 8th, meaning that all your letters can be adorned by a piece of his art. To have a Ben Carter original, either buy one from his studio or get the chance to win an “off set print” signed and numbered by Ben in our fabulous competition!