In 1972 Heipp went to an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art where he encountered large-scale photorealist paintings for the first time. He recalls being “dumbstruck and emotionally moved” by the works and recounts that “I immediately knew that this was the kind of work I wanted to make.” According to Heipp his “earliest painting was heavily influenced by the radical pictorial power, conceptual framework, and the remarkable technical skill of painters like Chuck Close and Don Eddy.” Heipp began making large scale, oil painted portraits. His intention was to “mimic the look and feel of airbrush paintings” though he neither knew what an airbrush was nor how to use one. Heipp recalls “I was fortunate enough to meet Don Eddy. He responded positively to my work and encouraged me to begin using the airbrush.” 

In his portraits, Heipp wanted to “present a theatrical, staged representation of portraiture.” Soon after he began painting reflective sculptural objects and his work began to have a more individual voice. He began creating paintings from his own photographic sources he had taken in museum spaces. Interest in reflective imagery encapsulated within the object led Heipp to explore how the picture plane could be addressed through illusion combined with shaped paintings. Furthermore, this initiated his interest in the layering of image and space as well as his examination of the institutional display that still permeates throughout his work today.