Worthing, England — Some artists spend their entire lives creating their work. Others become artists by accident. That’s what happened to a man in England, who’s sold dozens of portraits after first pretending to be an artist.
Phil Heckels told CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi that he was never much of an artist, but his portraits — of people’s pets — have turned into a way for him to lift spirits and help his community.
A few weeks ago, Heckels was trying to get his son Sam to make a few thank-you cards, “and just to try to get him interested, I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to draw a picture of Narla,’ our dog.”
He ended up doing a couple versions and then posting them on Facebook, writing: “For sale: Beautiful hand-drawn pictures of your favorite family pets.” He suggested a price of about $400 each.
It was a joke, but serious requests started pouring in, by the thousands. So Heckels set to work, transforming pictures of people’s pets into cartoons of cross-eyed dogs, long-legged cats, and more.
“I can’t get my head around the fact that so many people seem to like what I’m doing,” he told CBS News. “It is just bonkers.”
He signs his sketches with his pseudonym, “Hercule Van Wolfwinkle,” and sometimes leaves “customer” reviews on his Facebook page, such as: “Did you draw this in the dark… with your eyes closed?”
It was all very “tongue-in-cheek,” he admitted, marvelling at his accidental transition into portrait artistry. But when people offered to pay for their pet portraits, Heckels asked them to donate the money instead, to a local homeless charity.
So far, he’s raised over $47,000.
Asked why he thinks people like his drawings so much, Heckels admits he’s yet to solve that mystery.
“I think the honest answer is they make people smile,” he told Saberi, noting that, “there’s not a lot to smile about at the moment.”
One man even turned Heckels’ drawing of his dog into a tattoo.
“There’s no going back from that,” the accidental artist said with a laugh. “And it was a terrible picture as well. But I guess, it was his dog.”
“Hercule” may not be the best artist in the world, but he might be one of the fastest. Saberi watched him sketch a cute puppy named Scott, and a police dog from Henderson, Texas, all during a short visit.
As for the longevity of his charitable artistry, Heckels says he “can’t see it stopping,” for now.
The doodling dad said that as long as he can keep lifting spirits and raising money for a good cause, he won’t put down his pencils anytime soon.