Felt Trips: “Flight Of The Pterodon” By Phil Heeks

Free tickets for The Black Hole! Tom Baker with the jutting jawline of Joe Bugner! Portrait of Judge Dredd in “buggered felt tip”! Such were the artistic milestones of the young Phillip Heeks, growing up in 1970s Stoke-on-Trent and beginning a journey that would – heartwarmingly – lead to a long career in graphic design. In recent years, Phil has created striking album sleeves for the wonderfully esoteric Castles In Space label, but – back in 1978 – he was but a callow youth, taking his Star Wars figures to bed on a caravan holiday in Mablethorpe and barely daring to dream of the artistic adventures to follow…

Over to you, Phil:

“As a kid growing up in the 1970s, drawing was always ‘my thing’. People thought I was good at it – as a four-year-old I received two Polo mints from my headteacher as a reward for my painting of a taxi cab! So I drew all the time.

In either very late 1979 or early 1980, aged 13, I entered a Daily Mirror competition to design a spaceship. I was one of 100 runners-up who received four tickets to see The Black Hole thanks to my pencil drawing… and in spite of my laughable inability to spell ‘sentinel’.

I don’t recall the main prize. Maybe it was the opportunity NOT to see The Black Hole! I went with my older brother and two of my friends and vividly remember telling them afterwards ‘I want my money back… and we didn’t even pay!’ Although I’ve since became a massive fan of this mildly insane movie.

I can’t date my Doctor Who drawings but I suspect they were done in the early 1980s…

William Hartnell was referenced from David Whitaker’s Doctor Who and the Daleks novelization, but I don’t recall where the picture of Patrick Troughton came from. Jon Pertwee and Tom ‘Chinny’ Baker were referenced from the St. Michael Doctor Who and the Daleks Omnibus book I had owned since 1976. The absence of Baker’s chin on the cover of the book may explain my struggle with his jawline!

My Dan Dare drawings – inspired by both the original Frank Hampson strip and the 1982 reboot – were probably done around the same time, when I was about 14 years-old…

…and my Blade Runner montage dates from only slightly later, in late 1982 or early 1983.

I am unable to date my ‘Rick Deckard’ and ‘Judge Dredd drawings but they were probably around the same time or a little later. The ‘Dredd’ drawing, you will notice, is ‘mixed media’… black felt tip and buggered black felt tip!

My Invasion of the Bodysnatchers comic adaptation only made it as far as the masthead and logo! Probably done in the early 1980s, it was referenced from my copy of the Fotonovel, and the poster that featured in the Marvel comics of the time.

This is a significant piece, however, as it’s an early inkling of the divergence in my art journey that led me to a career as a graphic artist. As a teenager I began designing covers for imaginary books, comics, magazines and cassette tapes…

Flight Of The Pterodon was probably a synth sci-fi instrumental piece. I think i recorded bits and bobs that might still exist somewhere, but it was very primitive!

Some of these sleeves were drawn and others were fairly crude photographic montages…

These also represented my beginnings as a graphic artist, as my early professional work involved visualising logos and imagery in pen and ink alongside ‘paste-up’ work – including trusty old Letraset. Before computers came along to save us!

I continued to draw for a short while, but gradually the graphics took over – as did my long-term obsession with making music. I rarely drew after that, beyond some absent-minded doodling. The majority of drawing I have done in recent years has been with my young daughter! It does seem to be like riding a bike, however, as I hope this recent caricature of Kenneth Williams as ‘Mr. Spong’ demonstrates.

I still remember my astonishment when I discovered, through a careers teacher, that you could do this stuff for a living and it was called ‘graphic design’! I have now been in the business for 35 solid years and, alongside my ‘bread and butter’ work, I have realised my dream of designing high-profile book covers – including a couple of Jaws-related books – and album sleeves. Of the latter, I’ve done about 15 for the Castles in Space label, including The Black Meadow Archive, The Vale and Scarred For Life 2. This time, for real!”

Thanks Phil! Felt Trips is a collaborative effort. If anyone wants to contribute their own childhood drawings from the era, I would be utterly delighted – please drop me a line using the “Contact” link at the top of the page. A good quality scan would be perfect, but – if not – then a clear photo of your artwork, lying flat, is fine. And maybe a few words of explanation, too: when the drawings were done, how old you were, what inspired you to tackle those particular subjects? Thanks so much.

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