A FATHER whose “joke” pet portraits went viral has raised almost £20,000 for a homelessness charity.

Phil Heckels, from Worthing, described the past week as a “whirlwind” after he received an influx of requests for his comical pet drawings, which he does under the name of Hercule Van Wolfwinkle.

The 38-year-old said it all sprung from a “silly” doodle he did of his own dog Narla.

The Argus:

He said: “About six weeks ago I was trying to convince our six-year-old Sam to make a thank you card. I drew a picture of our dog to get him interested and it came out quite cartoony.

“I put it on Facebook and said people could place their orders for portraits for £299 as a joke – but by the end of the day I’d done seven pictures for friends.

“Jump forward a couple of days and I had 20 requests for portraits.”

The Argus:

Phil created a Facebook page, Pet Portraits by Hercule, and as more people shared their pictures of his drawings, more requests poured in.

Phil set up a JustGiving account for donations to Worthing homelessness charity Turning Tides after one person suggested giving him money to pay for postage.

He had to put a disclaimer on the page to warn people they will not necessarily receive a portrait even if they have made a donation, as he has such a large backlog of requests.

The Argus:

Phil said: “I nearly packed it all in as people were donating and I felt pressured, but I just had to acknowledge the fact that it was a lottery whether they would get a portrait or not.

“It just went bonkers this week – I feel like I’m trying to spin plates in a thunderstorm.”

Phil, who did not even take art at GCSE, said he has done 120 portraits so far and is having “so much fun” with his new hobby.

The Argus:

He said: “Either I have a talent that’s been there untapped for 38 years, or people just really like that they’re rubbish. If I could spend the rest of my days drawing pet portraits I would die a happy man.”

Phil’s fundraising campaign for Turning Tides has now raised more than £17,000, more than 56 times his original target of £299.

He said: “If you’re homeless you’re pretty much at rock bottom. Turning Tides are putting a roof over people’s heads and their mission is to eradicate homelessness locally.

The Argus:

“I feel very passionately about it – homelessness should just should not be happening in this day and age.”

Head of fundraising and communications at Turning Tides Ruth Poyner said: "We are absolutely thrilled by the amazing talent, energy and enthusiasm Phil (aka Hercule Van Wolfwinkle) has poured into his Pet Portraits.

"Phil has supported our charity for a number of years and shares our passionate belief that no one should be without a home.

The Argus:

"We are facing an unprecedented need for our services in West Sussex and are greatly concerned as we enter the winter months, how the ongoing pandemic will have an impact on the hundreds of men and women we already support but also those who will inevitably become homeless and need our support as the economic consequences of Covid take effect.

"Phil is exceptionally self-effacing but he has really brought a smile to so many at such a difficult time."

To donate to Phil’s crowdfunding campaign, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/portraitsbyhercule.

View his pet portraits at facebook.com/portraitsbyhercule.