Artist's portraits raise money for local homeless people

Darlene A. White
Special to The Detroit News

You never know how someone sees you through their eyes. One local artist says he sees the good in everyone and uses his artistic skills to shed light on homelessness in the Detroit area. 

“I felt like God was pushing me to meet my neighbors in my area that were in need and I wanted to use my gift for something more,” said artist Scott Schaible, founder of Faces of Detroit in Ferndale. The nonprofit operates under the guidance of Faces of Mankind in Santa Ana, California.  

Schaible meets with the homeless in his community, takes their photo, paints their portrait and then sells his artwork to provide them with the resources they need to survive.

Artist Scott Schaible, with Kevin, one of his portraits of homeless individuals, in his studio   in Ferndale, Michigan on June 2, 2021.

The portraits are sold on FacesofMankind.org.  Once a portrait is sold, 50% goes to the person in the portrait, 40% goes to Schaible and   10% goes to the Faces of Mankind organization.

“Once my client agrees to a photo, I then pray about it and ask God to show me how he sees them,” Schaible said. “This isn't a linear process, but I’m often inspired by something about my client, whether that be an emotion or character trait, and I try to tell their story through different uses of color and shape.”

Using a blank canvas and different paint supplies, it takes Schaible a few days to complete the artwork. Once a portrait is complete, he sets up a special portrait reveal day. 

One of artist Scott Schaible's portraits, Jamie.

“This is a special time for us to come together and for them to see themselves as something more and how I believe God sees them,” he said. “It’s hard to describe the emotions of someone who was previously overlooked and now they are seeing their portrait larger than life and full of color.”

When the photo is revealed to the client, Schaible has them put their stamp of approval on the piece by signing it.

Henry Bell, known as Hank, is a retired Army veteran who served 28 years. He was a specialist in Operation Desert Storm and was activated through the National Guard after 9/11. After he was discharged from the Army, Bell said he lost his way and became homeless. He now lives at Piquette Square, a veterans home in Detroit that's focused on housing homeless veterans.

Bell is one of Schaible's clients.

"When I found out my painting was sold that Scott painted, I was shocked. I thought wow….who would want to buy an ugly picture of me,” he laughed. “The money I received from the artwork, I immediately started using the money for all my bills.”

The opportunity was a blessing from God, Bell said. 

“With this blessing I was able to pay credit cards and complete maintenance work on my vehicle,” he said. 

Bell advises anyone who works with Schaible and is experiencing a tough time to “do what you need to do.”

“My hope is that anyone receiving Scott’s service take care of anything that they need with the money received,” he said. “This is not something that happens every day, so enjoy it and thank God.” 

One of artist Scott Schaible's  portraits, Manny.

So far, Schaible has sold $12,500 worth of portraits. He currently has five pieces and each portrait costs $2,500. 

When Schaible first started talking to some of his clients, his eyes were opened to a completely different background than what he had experienced in his own life. 

“It’s been quite humbling and also heartbreaking to hear what some of these individuals have experienced, but their stories are not over,” he said. “I’m continually amazed at the resilience our clients have and often just how thankful they are for each day. I am open to painting anyone who is experiencing homelessness.

“It just happens to be that so far I’ve only run into men on the streets. Our hope is that years from now we will have a diverse portfolio of clients all throughout Detroit and Metro Detroit.”

Schaible dreamed of becoming an artist when he was in elementary school. 

“I started drawing around 7 years old and haven't stopped,” he said. “In high school I started painting and at the same time discovered automotive design. I soon made it my goal to become a car designer. I ended up going to the Cleveland Institute of Art for four years and got my degree in industrial design. I was hired in at GM back in 2019 as an exterior designer and it has been a dream job for me to design cars.”

Schaible says his love for painting re-ignited when he moved to Michigan. 

“Faces of Detroit has been a natural crossroads for me of passion and purpose,” he said. “Painting the faces of our neighbors experiencing homelessness has been a very rewarding and challenging process,” he said. “I feel so blessed to be able to use the gifts God has given me to bless others in our community.” 

Hearing different stories from his clients has taught Schaible lessons that he will never forget. 

“I've learned that there is beauty to be found in everyone. No one is exempt from this beauty. Sometimes we just have to do some digging,” he said. “I’ve learned that more often than not these individuals experiencing homelessness are thrilled that someone is talking to them and hearing their story. Really this is what this ministry has become about for me, it’s not the paintings, or the proceeds, it's the relationships we build through trust and understanding.”

To donate to Faces of Detroit visit, facesofmankind.org/Detroit.