Lockdown brought out the best and worst in people. For Phil Heckels from Worthing, his best intentions were equalled only by his awful artistic skills. The Big Issue first brought you the story of his rubbish pet portraits back in October, but since then he has raised tens of thousands more for his local homeless charity.
During lockdown, attempting to encourage his six-year-old son Sam to pick up some pencils instead of playing computer games, Heckels decided to draw their dog Nala. The result was rubbish – so bad in fact Heckels shared it on Facebook, jokily offering his services: “Just send me a photo and I can produce a unique and wonderful piece of art that will grace any home and make the memories of your furry friends last a lifetime.” Amazingly, he got six commissions straight away.
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Heckels – who gave himself a pretentious sounding nom de plume, Hercule Van Wolfwinkle – explains: “Two days later my portrait requests were into double figures and I was beginning to receive friend requests from people I didn’t know, asking for pictures. By day three, I had a waiting list of over 20 people, so to see how far the joke might go, I set up the Facebook page ‘Pet Portraits By Hercule’.”
Though Hercule may be cheeky, he certainly didn’t have the nerve to charge for artworks. Instead in October he set up a Just Giving fundraiser for homeless charity Turning Tides and began raising hundreds, then thousands of pounds.
“There’s the old saying, ‘Charity begins at home’, and homelessness is an issue that it is quite literally on our doorsteps,” Heckels/Hercule says. “But not only does charity begin at home, EVERYTHING begins at home… with a home.”