CLEVELAND — If we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, what do we do when the book has no cover at all?
"What's the first thing I'm going to draw," asked Eugene Sopher while he stared to sketch out a drawing on a blank sheet of paper. "Well, the first thing I'm going to think of, I'll just go as I go."
Eugene draws a few examples of pictures he creates seemingly without much effort.
Sopher's 44 years haven't been easy.
His depression, bipolar disorder, and homelessness gives him plenty to want to escape from.
News 5 Photojournalist gets a high angle shot while Eugene draws at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
What he does have is an incredible ability to draw.
"I do this drawing, and it's medicine, baby," said Sopher. "I'm in the zone. Not trying to mix it with drugs, but it's the best high I've ever had."
But, he says the neighborhoods he lives in need help.
Eugene's drawing of him and his cat, Jax, who stays with a friend when Eugene struggles to find a place to sleep.
"I didn't know what I could bring to the table," said Sopher. "I'm a little rough around the edges. I'm grown. When I was young, I didn't want to listen to old people neither."
That's when Eugene started scratching out coloring book pages, relying on the kindness of strangers to copy them, giving him enough to hand out to whoever seems like they could use some help.
"I can do something because if they're reading that, they can say, 'You know what? That happened to me. Oh, you what know, I went through that," said Sopher.
All three pictures Eugene drew while shooting this story.
Some of the pictures pack a punch, warning both parents and their kids about meeting strangers online, staying away from abandoned buildings, and warning against the dangers of gang life.
"Maybe if you see a little humor and a little bit of your pain, you'll walk away from that fight, you'll put away that gun that you were going to use," said Sopher.
Eugene drew this picture showing how he was talking to a reporter from News 5 while thinking about the struggles he's faced over the years, requiring medication.
Sopher would like to get the pages to a publisher, but he doesn't have nearly enough money for that. So for now, he keeps creating piles of lessons in the form of an unbounded coloring book, finding an escape for himself while teaching lessons to everyone else.
"A lot of the reason I keep my cartoons in black and white is it gives you a chance to put color to them," said Sopher.
You can reach Eugene at firstname.lastname@example.org.