Anne Marie Oborn--Artist with a heartApr 05, 2021 11:42AM ● By Gail Newbold
She may be most known for her portraits of fallen soldiers, but Anne Marie Oborn has a body of work far beyond her compassionate contributions to grieving families. The Bountiful artist is also a prolific illustrator for dozens of books, magazines and instructional materials. Her still life, landscape, figurative and religious paintings have gained national attention during her long career.
Oborn’s interest in art was sparked during church. But not because of any religious fervor on her part.
“I was misbehaving and my mom took me out,” Oborn recollected with a smile. “A woman in a wheelchair motioned me over. She had a piece of paper and pencil and drew me a three-dimensional box. It opened a whole new world to me. My mom started bringing paper to church after that.”
Her first “art installment” was created in first grade—a very large Christmas mural where camels figured prominently. “I thought it was wonderful,” she said.
During her teen years in Pocatello, Idaho, art took a backseat to boys. She met her future husband Garth in high school. The couple married and both graduated from Idaho State University. Their first child was born, and Oborn was home alone all day with the baby. Depression set in.
“I told Garth, ‘I am just so unhappy. I have to paint,’” she said. “Garth said, ‘By all means, paint.’ And I did. Every night when he got home, I’d be painting.”
Garth began asking Anne Marie if she could paint for him using photos he brought her. “I’d say, ‘That looks kind of hard,’” recalls Anne Marie. “He’d say, ‘No it doesn’t.’ I’d say, ‘Paint it yourself then.’”
That’s when Garth began painting. Both are equally successful but with a different focus. Garth prefers landscapes and Anne Marie paints a variety of subjects and settings, as well as landscapes. Garth’s focus is truer to life and Anne Marie’s is considered Russian Impressionist. Both claim there is no jealousy between them.
“We are very supportive of each other,” Garth said.
Critiquing each other’s work can get a little dicey, however. “Garth takes criticism better than I do,” said Anne Marie. “I tell him not to critique my work unless I ask.”
After decades of painting professionally, Anne Marie was approached by a nonprofit organization called Project Compassion to assist in its mission of painting portraits of fallen soldiers. For about eight years, from 2004 to 2012, she painted 227 oil portraits of men and women in the military, most of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eventually, an anonymous donor contributed nearly $500,000 to the nonprofit to pay for art supplies, but Anne Marie’s time was donated free of charge.
She studied the photographs sent by family members with the goal of capturing each veteran’s personality.
“You think you’re doing something nice for someone else but I was the one who was rewarded,” she said. “The paintings brought me a lot of pleasure and a sense of purpose.”
At ages 71 (Anne Marie) and 72 (Garth), neither is slowing down. Both work mostly on commissions, which they much prefer to selling in galleries, and Garth still works full time as a special agent for Wells Fargo Bank. Many of their commissions are historical events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Some of the books illustrated by Anne Marie include “The Daffodil Principle” by Geraldine Edwards, “Celebrating Motherhood with the Prophets” and “Celebrating Fatherhood with the Prophets” by Shelly Locke, “His Gift” by Richard Paul Evans and many more.
Anne Marie and Garth’s work can be seen at anneoborn.com.