It all started when Phil – who operates under the spoof alias “acclaimed artist Hercule Van Wolf winkle” – doodled his pet dog while coloring with his son.
He put it on Facebook and offered commissions at a joke price of £299, but genuine requests flooded his inbox.
“I think people just found them funny, at a time when there’s a not load to smile about,” he said.
He did the illustrations for free and shared them on social media with funny fake reviews and got thousands of likes. People were keen to pay him something, but he said: “I couldn’t take their money – the pictures are rubbish. So I set up a Just Giving page and suggested people donate instead.”
In five weeks demand for his doodles boomed and the 38-year-old raised £4,903 for Turning Tides, a charity which supports rough sleepers and aims to help them out of homelessness.
The Worthing dad is now churning out 150 drawings a week and has a backlog of 600 requests.
He said it is “brilliant fun” creating the cartoons, but the volume of requests had started to become “overwhelming” alongside his full-time job in commercial property.
He had to put a disclaimer on his Facebook page. People can continue to donate any amount to support the cause and message him with an image of their pet, but it is not regarded as a payment. It is a lottery whether people get a drawing, as he cannot get to them all.
Despite that, support continues to flood in. One person donated £299 to the cause – the ‘price’ of the original image – and a man even got Hercule’s drawing of his dog tattooed on himself.
Hercule said: “I can’t believe how it’s taken off.
“It’s just a bit of fun for everybody, including me. When it becomes too stressful, I’ll have to stop. But I’ll try to make as much money as I can for Turning Tides.
“My next goal is £10,000.”
He added: “Homelessness is such an important issue; it’s a basic right for people to have a roof over the head and food in their bellies.
“With cuts to services, these charities are often the last line of defense as to whether these people live or die.”
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