By BRENNA GRITEMAN
PANDORA — Oscar Velasquez has spent the past 26 years traveling the globe as a muralist.
This month, he returned to where it all began: a picturesque street corner in Pandora.
It was here, on the weather-worn, 20-foot-high-by-42-foot-long side of Kimmet Realty, that the Gilboa native spent a week and a half painting over the very first mural he ever painted.
Armed with nearly 30 different paint hues and clad in tennis shoes splattered with at least that many shades, Velasquez painted a new take on the former serene scene of Riley Creek as seen from the village park.
The latest version is painted in cool colors — a collection of blues and greens, with a few scattered pops of yellow, pink and purple representing wildflowers growing along the riverbank — and mirrors the view looking south from the park’s footbridge, between the football field and Hilty Home.
It’s a scene that holds a special place in Velasquez’s heart. Having graduated from Pandora-Gilboa High School in 1963, he recalls riding the school bus past the creek daily, watching it rise and fall with the seasons.
He went on to study at the Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, graduating in 1965, noting he’s been “working as an artist ever since.”
Anyone who’s spent time in northwest Ohio is surely familiar with Velasquez’s work.
Findlay alone is home to six of his murals: Pink Floyd’s iconic “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover; a University of Findlay scene; two different Van Goghs — “Starry Night” and “Cafe Terrace at Night”; the Statue of Liberty; and an old-timey streetscape. There’s a similar streetscape in Bluffton, two murals in both Columbus Grove and Leipsic, about 10 in Toledo, and others in Van Wert, Lima, Arlington and Delphos. His murals stand in Cleveland, Nebraska and South Carolina, and his next job will take him to his current hometown of Macedonia, Ohio. Twenty years ago he traveled to Subotica, Yugoslavia, where he painted a mural of the Reka Mira, or “River of Peace.”
Through it all, the prismatic “Dark Side of the Moon,” set on the jet-black background, brought the most attention. As he worked in the downtown Findlay parking lot, teenagers, adults and grandparents stopped on a daily basis to admire the piece and talk about the album’s impact on their own lives.
Velasquez keeps busy in the fall and winter with indoor murals and paintings on canvas, but said, “I’m usually happy to work with the outdoor murals in the summer.”
Returning to Pandora, he said it was neat to see his very first mural and to examine how it had held up over time.
He spent July 17-26 working on the new interpretation, titled “Riley Creek Scene,” painting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. most days and breaking for lunch across the street at Pandora’s Lunch Box. Most dinners were taken at the village pizzeria, and Velasquez stayed at his brother’s house in Gilboa.
Velasquez said he never tires of all the travel involved in being a roaming artist, as it’s the only life he’s ever known. And, he pointed out, Picasso painted well into his 90s.
“Somebody asked me this morning if I was going to retire,” he said. “I said, ‘Retire to what?'”