A UK man has raised almost 5,000 pounds (US$6,693) by selling joke pet portraits, which he aptly describes as “rubbish.”
Phil, from Worthing, who goes by the moniker “Hercule Van Wolfwinkle,” says he couldn’t live with charging money for his shoddy work. Yet somehow, his portraits became in high demand.
One day, he had doodled a picture of his dog while coloring with his son; he posted it on Facebook, and in jest, offered to take commissions for 299 pounds (US$400) apiece.
But people started taking him seriously. And soon, Phil’s inbox was flooded with genuine commission requests.
“I think people just found them funny, at a time when there’s not loads to smile about,” he told the BBC.
However, Phil didn’t take his own drawings seriously, so he didn’t feel right about accepting such large sums of money for joke illustrations.
So, he did some of the illustrations for free. Once they were complete, he continued the joke by posting the pictures to Facebook, along with fake, funny reviews.
In turn, he received thousands of likes and still more requests, while people kept insisting on giving him money.
“I couldn’t take their money,” Phil said. “The pictures are rubbish. So I set up a Just Giving page and suggested people donate instead.”
On the donation page, he stressed that he was blown away by the response, as he didn’t even consider himself an artist.
“I’m not an artist and have never really drawn in my life,” he wrote.
Yet five weeks later, the 38-year-old father had been overwhelmed with illustration requests. His donation page had generated an astonishing 4,903 pounds (US$6,563)—to be given to the charity Turning Tides, an organization that aims to “turn the tide” of homelessness and provide real pathways out of homelessness.
“Homelessness is such an important issue,” Phil told the BBC. “It’s a basic right for people to have a roof over the head and food in their bellies.”
Astonishingly, Phil is producing 150 drawings a week. He reports a backlog of over 600 illustration commissions.
Despite calling the cartoons “brilliant fun,” Phil is unable to keep up with requests. So, he added a disclaimer to his Facebook page, inviting followers to donate any amount—whenever they choose. Anyone who donates can message him a picture of their pet to be entered into a kind of lottery, which he draws from and turns into a portrait (since he cannot possibly take every single submission).
Phil’s followers took his request to heart. One follower donated a whopping 299 pounds and even got a tattoo of Phil’s own dog’s portrait.
The accidental artist was floored.
“I can’t believe how it’s taken off,” he said. “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 that this year has been particularly difficult for homeless charities.
“With cuts to services, these charities are often the last line of defence [sic] as to whether these people live or die,” he said.
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