Doodle dandy: pop artist Ed Heck has parlayed his love of doodling and silk screening into a career surrounded by brilliant colors, unique characters and child-like shapes

Doodle dandy: pop artist Ed Heck has parlayed his love of doodling and silk screening into a career surrounded by brilliant colors, unique characters and child-like shapes – artist profile: Ed Heck

Kathleen Sullivan

The capricious images found within Ed Heck’s paintings disarm and engage viewers with vibrant colors and scenes that recall innocence and unrestrained creativity. Escaping to the soothing world of child-like shapes and simple design, the focal points of his work, varying from crayons to fish to characters affectionately referred to as “blue guys,” immediately force the viewer to reconcile chaos and simplicity.

Described by Heck as Pop art, his collection was born out of late-night doodling and his desire to learn silk screening. Doodling became Heck’s way of unwinding after work but would ultimately yield piles of sketchpads filled with thousands of sketches. “I don’t know where half of them come from. They come out subconsciously,” Heck explained. Enhanced by silk screening skills Heck learned in a class at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Heck’s doodles quickly evolved into the creation of character paintings. “I had a religious experience silk screening. I loved it,” he said.

Using what he considers simple drawings, Heck quickly learned the silk-screening method and began doing them day and night. Heck continued, “I enjoyed doing them and had more and more fun with them. From there, it all just snowballed.” It is clear though, in speaking with Heck, that had he been told as a child of his future success, he would have never believed it.

Humble Beginnings

Since kindergarten, Heck’s art has commanded attention, and to Heck’s surprise, his third-grade teacher declared him an “artist.” “She was walking around the classroom, looking at our work when she suddenly stopped and said, `Oh my! We have an artist in the class.’

“I looked up and searched the room, not realizing she was referring to me. I never got the concept that I could be an artist,” Heck said.

Born in 1963 in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, an area now considered a burgeoning art community, Heck has lived in the same house all his life. He was the quietest of his parents’ six children and could often be found sitting alone drawing for hours. A common ritual entailed taking his mother’s Bible out on the stoop at night and finding the most detailed and difficult etching to copy.

Watching his father draw late at night was another ritual of Heck’s. Though both his parents encouraged him, drawing was a connection Heck shared with his father. He would wake anxiously in the morning to see what his father had done the night before and would then try to create his own version. “My dad always drew. I didn’t have to explain things to him, he just got it,” Heck explained. As he got older, Heck would sit by his father’s side and they would draw together, often discussing their art. “He was my biggest fan,” Heck said.

Taking only mandatory art classes in elementary school, Heck went on to the High School of Arts, then earned a B.F.A. in illustration from the School of Visual Arts. Two weeks before graduation, Heck got his first freelance assignment illustrating children’s books. Shortly thereafter, he got his next assignment, this time as a scientific illustrator. Since then, he has illustrated numerous children’s and dinosaur books and scientific journals. He’s also been on staff at the Museum of Natural History for the past 13 years in the paleontology department as an illustrator and photographer.

Return to the Doodle

“I was always interested in more realistic style, but as I got older my work has gone to the opposite end of the spectrum. I went from dinosaurs to doodles,” Heck said.

Doodling for years, it is only in the past five years that Heck has delved into painting his provocative yet simple scenes. Having taught art at his elementary school as a volunteer a couple of days a week while in college, Heck was re-introduced to children’s drawings and technique, something that has always fascinated him. “If you ask a child if they can draw something, they say `sure’ without hesitation or fear. Unfortunately, we all hit an age when we become self-conscious and try to draw everything `correctly,'” Heck said. Returning to the informal style, Heck trained himself to draw `incorrectly’ and not what he already knew.

What Heck couldn’t have known was how incredibly popular his doodles would become. Their reception at a recent Art-expo New York was quite strong, a surprise Heck wasn’t prepared for. “I thought my stuff was too narrative. But it was just the opposite–people loved them,” Heck explained. Despite his success, Heck was hesitant to sign with a publisher. “I used to produce and sell everything myself. I didn’t even realize I needed a publisher. I heard horror stories about artists getting lost in the publication shuffle. But too many people wanted too many things; I couldn’t keep up. So this year I finally signed with a publisher,” Heck said.

That publishers is Starlight Publishing, a company formed primary to work with Heck exclusively. Rohullah Lodin, president of the company, has displayed Heck’s work in his New York galleries for a few years. Lodin said, “People’s response to Ed’s work over the years has been unbelievable. From fine art to merchandising, the opportunities for Ed are endless.”

Bright Future

One opportunity is the anticipated opening of The World of Ed Heck Gallery. Described by Lodin as a small shopping mall for “everything Ed Heck,” Starlight plans to open the gallery within the next 12 months in New York’s SoHo district. Lodin’s confidence in the investment is unflappable: “Ed’s work has broad appeal. People gravitate to his art; it’s whimsical and happy. He is not a typical artist.”

As the company’s only artist, Heck is ready to continue digging into the piles of sketchpads to fill gallery walls. His paintings are typically one in a series of a particular subject. The same painting will never be done twice, but versions using different sizes, colors and themes are common. True to his artistic heart, Heck draws from instinct and not from business expectations. “I don’t draw to sell. I draw what comes to me. I enjoy it so much, I kind of feel guilty,” Heck confided.

In addition to his traditional paintings, Heck said he will extend the subjects to different forms. Self-described as artistically schizophrenic, he hopes to continue doodling and illustrating while exploring sculpture and animation. “I am having so much fun; I’m going to see how far I can take it,” Heck said.

For more information, visit www.edheck.com or call (631) 249-4634

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