When artist Austin Maloney posted an image of his "Downtown Dan" portrait on Facebook, positive comments flowed in.
"I've known Dan for years. I've wanted to paint him for a long time," Maloney said of Dan Doty, one of Medford's most well-known panhandlers. "I put a picture of my painting up on Facebook and it got a ton of activity. People asked for prints."
Maloney decided to use the painting's popularity as a fundraising opportunity for his friend. He launched a Kickstarter campaign and quickly sold his original oil painting for $500 and an original drawing of Doty for $100. Maloney is continuing to sell $10 prints on Kickstarter, an online site that allows people to raise money for causes and projects.
Using half of the profits from the first $500 in sales, Maloney plans to buy gift certificates to Goodwill, Dairy Queen and other places Doty frequents and give them to Doty.
As of Wednesday, the Kickstarter campaign already had raised $820 — surpassing its original $500 goal. Maloney said he will donate half of the money beyond $500 to the Medford Gospel Mission.
"I'm so impressed. People who know and love Dan want to help," Maloney said. "There's so much compassion in this community for people in his situation."
Doty was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child — a condition worsened by a head injury he suffered after being hit by a truck when he was riding his bike as a 6-year-old. He was locked in the Oregon State Hospital for Adolescents in Salem for almost four years, where he received inpatient mental health care.
He was later released after the mental health system moved toward a model — not always successfully carried out — to house mentally ill people in community settings and provide outpatient care. Doty has roamed the Rogue Valley for decades, becoming well known to everyone from downtown parking enforcement workers to homeless people to library staff members.
The Mail Tribune tracked down Doty this week after visiting his usual haunts, including the Medford library, which he visits almost daily. He often sits and reads true crime novels, especially those by his favorite author, Ann Rule.
Currently homeless and staying with friends, Doty said he gets by on a monthly disability check of about $700.
He frequently walks more than a dozen miles a day and wears out a pair of running shoes every three weeks. Doty said he likes to buy used shoes at thrift stores.
"I need some now," he noted, indicating his worn New Balance shoes.
Shown an image of the portrait Maloney painted of him, Doty teared up.
"I like it actually. It's good artwork, too," Doty said.
While Doty was able to appreciate the painting aesthetically, he had trouble describing his emotions about the painting and Maloney's fundraising efforts on his behalf.
"I didn't even know about this," Doty said. "I'm not sure how I feel about it. I need some time to think."
Until he was reminded, Doty couldn't remember that Maloney had taken photographs of him in order to paint the portrait.
Maloney said at first Doty wanted to smile for the camera, but he asked him to keep his regular, natural expression.
"What I always strive for is to capture people's expressions," Maloney said. "He always has a certain intent look in his eyes."
An electrician as well as an artist, Maloney said he first met Doty more than 20 years ago while taking art classes in Medford.
"I met him while I was eating breakfast. He asked for change. He always walks around all the time. I'm 39 and I was 16 at the time. His beard is white now," Maloney said.
Maloney had not been able to reach Doty, who lacks a cellphone, after launching his Kickstarter campaign.
Reunited Wednesday using a reporter's cellphone, Maloney told Doty about the fundraising efforts and people's positive memories of Doty and desire to help.
Doty offered Maloney his judgment on the portrait.
"I thought it was good," Doty said. "You did good on it."
For more information on Maloney's Kickstarter campaign to benefit Doty and the Medford Gospel Mission, see www.kickstarter.com/projects/1151606616/dan-doty-fine-art-prints.
— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.