His childlike pet drawings have raised thousands for rough sleepers

You never quite know the formula for becoming an internet, social media sensation perhaps because there is no formula. But, Phil Heckels’s questionable skills as an artist have caught the imagination of the public. With a pinch of salt, he amusingly calls himself an “acclaimed artist” but he is taking the Mickey out of himself because he knows that his drawings are rubbish and indeed he admits it. Despite this he sold his first drawing of a dog, Naria, quite easily. He offered the “cartoon” for £299. His inbox was flooded with offers of hundreds of pounds. It’s called a cartoon which is a nice way of getting around the lack of realism. I think it’s actually quite good as a cartoon. Perhaps this is why he is successful. The cartoon genre allows an elastic approach to realism.

Phil Heckels’ drawing of a cat. Image: Phil.

Rather than charging for his artwork, he decided to encourage his customers to donate to a Justgiving page for Turning Tides, a charity for rough sleepers.

He uploads the original photographs of animals together with his childlike drawings. The pictures are accompanied by spoof reviews which take the Mickey out of his efforts. It appears that he might have started a new meme (an idea, behaviour, or style that becomes a fad and spreads by means of imitation from person to person). It takes him between two and ten minutes to draw each artwork and he has so far completed 215. He has a backlog of 600 requests.

He is having fun, he said. He also said that he tries hard to make the drawings as good as he can but he ends up with wonky eyes. It doesn’t matter because he has won admirers online for his efforts. He says that it is therapeutic to do the drawings and he has improved!

Phil Heckels’ drawing of a dog Narla, his first and perhaps his best. Image: Phil.

Most of the pictures are quite funny and they tend to make people smile. There is not a lot else to get excited about at the moment. – Phil Heckels.

That’s a good point. The coronavirus pandemic has dampened the mood of the nation, indeed nations across the planet, and anything which lifts that mood is welcome. Maybe this is another reason why he’s been successful. He admits to having no artistic experience and he didn’t do art at GCSE or anything like that. He did the occasional doodle on the back of an envelope in the past but has done more drawings in the last five weeks than during his entire life (he’s 38).

His success started six weeks ago and is continuing. He is currently featured on page three of The Times newspaper – the source of this article (thanks). That’s a good measure of his success and I’m sure that the Times story will result in a flood of requests. Perhaps his artwork has become a good investment. You never know.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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