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Norwin graduate uses faith, paint to make a difference

Joe Napsha
| Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, 11:10 p.m.
Artist Cody Sabol closes his paints after completing a 'speed painting' of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, during the homecoming carnival at Norwin High School.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Artist Cody Sabol closes his paints after completing a 'speed painting' of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, during the homecoming carnival at Norwin High School.
Artist Cody Sabol demonstrates his speed art at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gala at the Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh on March 18, 2017.
Lindsay Dill | For the Tribune-Review
Artist Cody Sabol demonstrates his speed art at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gala at the Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh on March 18, 2017.

Cody Sabol of North Huntingdon mixes his vocation as a preacher with his passion as an artist to create portraits, dipping his hands into paint jars to make his masterpieces.

“I've got an affinity for art. I've always been drawing,” the 22-year-old said shortly after painting, in just a few minutes, a portrait of Pittsburgh Steelers legend Joe Greene.

Sabol is a speed artist, who, in his words, “would rather do it (painting) in front of the people” than in the confines of his studio.

And so it was that Sabol, a 2013 Norwin High School graduate, recently painted the NFL Hall of Famer in front of a crowd at Norwin High School's homecoming.

Starting with a blank, 3-by-4-foot black canvas, he covered his fingers — no brushes here — with acrylic paint and applied it to the canvas, with no penciled outline as a guide.

Sabol started painting the portrait — he didn't let the audience in on who his subject was — without a picture at his side for reference. He was born 13 years after Greene ended his career in 1981, so he never saw him play.

“I study the picture. I visualize it. It stays in your mind,” Sabol said.

He quickly formed the image of a football player: helmet, shoulder pads, then Greene's iconic face and beard. As a finishing touch, he created blue haze swirling around Greene's face, indicating the steam coming off his body on a cold winter day at his stomping grounds, Three Rivers Stadium.

In less than five minutes, Sabol is finished, wiping his paint-smeared hands on the inexpensive pants he wore rather than a rag.

His website is filled with his paintings, mostly sports celebrities in Pittsburgh — Ben Roethlisberger, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Roberto Clemente — as well as Jesus.

Sabol credits Norwin High art teacher Christine Satterfield for helping to inspire his art.

He took various drawing and painting classes over his four years in high school and in Advanced Placement studio art in his senior year, Satterfield said.

“Cody was a very creative, talented and dedicated artist. I was very impressed when I saw him paint at our recent assembly,” Satterfield said. “Listening to his story, realizing his accomplishments and seeing what a wonderful person he has grown into, made me very proud.”

He started speed painting while a student at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Ky., where he graduated in 2017 after studying preaching ministry and biblical studies. It was there, he said, where he felt God's presence while covering a canvas with paint, or more accurately, tossing paint onto the canvas.

Sabol has used his skills as a painter to raise about $15,000 for charities, benefitting people in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. He has painted at numerous fundraisers, including the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational in September.

Chris Swope of Murrysville, a classmate of Sabol's at Norwin and Kentucky Christian, said Sabol is determined to make a difference in the world through his art.

“More and more opportunities are being presented and, God willing, he will continue to make the biggest difference he can to the best of his ability. He's truly an extraordinary guy,” Swope said.

While he paints in his spare time, Sabol is the director of student ministry and sports at The Bible Chapel, a nondenominational church in Robinson Township. He is the founder of Revelations 5:5 ministries.

As he explains on his website, Sabol wants to show through his speed painting that Jesus Christ is still here and still working. He believes God has opened the doors for him to continue to grow as an artist and pastor.

“I want to show the Love of Jesus and start a revival right here in Pittsburgh,” Sabol states on his website.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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