Local artist William Obenour is helping make Marion businesses beautiful. Now on his fourth public mural in downtown, Obenour is a life-long resident of Marion and comes from a family of artists, ranging from photographers to painters.
Making a living as an artist is notoriously challenging, admitted Obenour–at least until one is “discovered.” The downtown merchants are helping with that, commissioning his work for their walls and storefronts. His most recent projects include the vibrant “Jewel” outside the entrance to Jenny Collins’ South Main Street boutique, The Paisley Peacock, and a bigger than life version of the logo of Erica Jury’s Brave Woman Boutique on Center Street. His talent also graces the walls of Baires, Marcela Barrios’ popular downtown restaurant. Currently, he and assistant Lauren Baker are creating an underwater mural for Harding Harbor Seafood, a new restaurant by chef Chris Rennick set to open this fall in the Harding Hotel. As soon as that is finished, he’ll move across the street to begin a mural commemorating Marion soldiers’ service during the Korean Conflict, which has been commissioned for the County Building.
“Art is something that can lift you up,” said Obenour. “That’s the goal of my work, one location, or canvas at a time.”
Working professionally in art for more than two decades, Obenour’s large body of work includes, in addition to the recent murals, paintings and drawings in graphite, colored pencil, and acrylic, oil and watercolor paints. He has created abstracts, photorealism, portraits, and several series paintings, with subjects such as Koi fish, florals, angels, and leaves in water. Obenour works on location, in his home studio, and at The Guild, an art studio and collective on West Center Street which he has been affiliated with for 10 years.
“These days, doing my artwork is more fun than I’ve had since I was a kid with a coloring book,” he said.
As a child, both his art supplies and his inspiration came from his grandmother Margaret Obenour. Both she and her sister, Freda, wife of legendary athlete Jim Thorpe, were prolific painters. He owns and cherishes several paintings by each of them.
“In church one day, I thought to myself, ‘when I grow up, do I want to be a priest, a fireman, or an artist?’” he recalled. “At roughly 9 years old, I decided I wanted to be an artist.”
He learned painting from his grandmother, photography from his father, and enjoyed his art classes with Sally George at Pleasant High School. And, although he attended the Columbus College of Art and Design for two years, he considers himself largely self-taught. According to Obenour, ideas often spring from conversations with his clients and, sometimes, inspired visions.
“Art is a process of self-discovery,” he said. “I’m always working to achieve better levels of skill, and of course, putting in the long, hard hours of just doing art.”
In addition to his own work, he teaches painting and drawing at The Guild and has taught in local schools, including St. Mary. Although The Guild is only open by appointment during the pandemic, Obenour continues to teach privately and donated lessons to the upcoming Marion Area Chamber of Commerce auction.
A regional artist, Obenour serves on the boards of Gallery 22 in Delaware (Ohio) and the Mid-Ohio Fine Art Society, for which he is also the program chair and will assist with their public exhibition “MOFAS 2020 Vision” in the Chamber’s Garden Room, November 9-13. He oversees the Charleston Art Gallery in The Charleston Place, started by Brenda Gillam and Nadine Slone in 2011.
“I just love doing my artwork and can discover new things daily as my art progresses,” he said. “Art makes me a happy, happy guy. And, individuals who inspire me are all around me, and that keeps me going, sunrise to sunset.”