A collection of “rubbish” pet portraits has raised more than £10,000 for a West Sussex homelessness charity.
The pictures were started as a joke by local man Phil, who works under the moniker “acclaimed artist Hercule Van Wolfwinkle“. He posted to Facebook offering to draw followers’ pets, in his own inimitable style, for a tongue-in-cheek price of £299.
When the requests started pouring in, and fans wanted to pay him for his work, he decided to ask people to donate whatever they wanted to his local charity Turning Tides.
“As a charity, we’re obviously absolutely delighted, and his donations far exceed anything that we ever could have imagined,” said Gemma Orpwood, Turning Tides communications manager.
“With current circumstances around Covid and the threat of redundancies and everything, homelessness has effectively doubled where we work.”
Orpwood said that the money has meant a lot to them as they cope with the added pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Ever since Covid started we’ve had to really reshape our services,” she said. “There’s been the Everyone In initiative from the government which has now ended. We’ve had to work tirelessly to house everybody in temporary accommodation with the knowledge that the numbers of homeless people is going to increase.”
The funds raised by the drawings will be used across their services, which cover the whole of West Sussex, and include accommodation, outreach and community hubs.
“We have a massive fundraising budget that we have to meet, and that will get spread across all of our projects, so wherever there is a need, we’ll pool that as a resource,” said Orpwood.
“We’re going to give Phil a tour of our services, so then he can see where his efforts are going. He’s given up every evening for the past month drawing these pictures and he just wants us to get as much profile as possible which is wonderful.”
The charity is also now planning to have the portraits printed on tote bags and tea towels, so art fans who’ve missed out on a Hercule Van Wolfwinkle original can get in on the action.
For his part, Hercule says he’ll keep producing the artworks for as long as he can. He’s still accepting commissions, but warns that he can not possibly keep up with the rate of requests.
He doesn’t want to take the limelight, however. Writing on his Facebook page yesterday, he said that the real heroes of the story are the people who work at Turning Tides.
“The amazing folks at Turning Tides have just dropped round a little care package for me and the most wonderful thank you letter, which I don’t mind admitting brought a tear to my eye,” he said.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of the people involved at Turning Tides for the work that they do. I know that I’m getting the attention here for this brief moment in time, but these guys are the real heroes who have been working tirelessly for years and will continue to do so long after this fundraiser has disappeared into the sunset.”
All images courtesy of Hercule Van Wolfwinkle.