Maurina Burns can only wonder what life might have been like if she hadn't started painting figures of witches, ghosts and faces on Styrofoam pumpkins as gifts to those attending a neighborhood pumpkin-carving contest she and her husband were hosting inside their large decorated garage in Grain Valley.

Maurina, who worked for the Bank of Lee's Summit 21 years, says art was foreign to her when she retired six years ago. She had no interest in painting, that is, until she was asked to autograph some of her decorated pumpkins.

Though not a painter at the time, Maurina did have a flare for interior design.

“While working at the bank,” she recalls, “I started doing floral arrangements; I liked that a lot. I did show homes, arrangements for people, wall hangings. I did weddings in show homes and had a lot of fun doing that. So I got into people's homes because they asked.”

As for painting, Maurina wasn't interested in that artistic medium, she says, believing she could never do it. But when people took notice of her pumpkin paintings three years ago, she got interested in doing art, which has grown into what it is today – “Creating Art.”

Now that she has created more than 400 acrylic paintings, Maurina is looking for buyers and art venues in which to sell them.

“I am either going to have to sell them, give them away or stop painting,” she said, laughing.

“I'll never, ever be famous. I am sure of that,” adds the Greenfield, Mo., native. “But I want to be able to have more people call me (about my art) – other than just my friends – and invite me to come and set my paintings up at an art show. That is what I want people to do – know that (painting) is a love I have and invite me to participate.”

With no art schooling on her resume, Maurina is self-taught. She purchased a well-known book on painting techniques and learned the hard way – by trial and error – with the support of her husband Kyle, who has no artistic ability. Yet, he critiques his wife's work.

Says Maurina: “I ask him what he thinks; I follow his directions. Each time I would take (a painting) in to him, he never was harsh with me. He would just say, “Are you done with it?” And I would say, 'What does it need?'”

Using acrylic paint, Maurina's artistic focus is on nature – with its streams, bridges, meadows, trees, birds, snow and flowers. Birds are her favorite subjects – especially red birds and blue birds. However, don't look for large animals or people or mountains in her paintings. She doesn't do them – yet.

You're not likely to find anyone more excited about her newfound love than Maurina, who says she has found more enjoyment with art than anything she has ever done.

“I just have a love for art that I have always done,” she says. “I have worked in flower shops and have done artistic things like wall hangings and things like that forever. I am (always) making drapes and curtains with artistic thoughts in mind.”

What is it about painting that excites Maurina?

“It's so relaxing to me,” she says. “I think about what my next painting will be, and sometimes my thoughts go different places. But what do I really want to do today? You know, I like everything different. I do repeated paintings – especially on request – but I know I have another chore (to do) in my house, but (I know) I've got to get in there and do my art. It is just fun thinking about (art) being so relaxing. I know I have dishes to do; I'll do it after some art.”

Maurina says it is her love affair with art that has dramatically changed her life.

“It's such a joy, and my husband is a part of it – seeing me happy in it and in my retirement. You know, not having my lawn and my garden to do, but having (my art) to do. I think the joy of it is that my friends know the enjoyment I get out of my art and they always ask what I am painting now and what have you done this week. My husband and my family are involved in my paintings, and that is what I like. It is a connection through my friends and family that helps me with my excitement.”

What else excites Maurina?

“I am so glad I have found something that brings me so much joy in my retirement years that I can do paintings and share them with other people,” she says, adding: “It has brought an interest of something my husband and I can do together and not just do the usual things. We can go to (art) shows with other people and talk to them about their (artistic) feelings and how they do their paintings and share with them the way I do my art and just encourage other people that if they have never painted before and are interested in it – that if I can do it – somebody else can do it, too, and fill their time with the enjoyment they have always wanted to do but are afraid to do.”

Adds Maurina: “That’s the way I feel. I always tell people that if you want to do art – do it. You are never too old to start. I was almost 70 when I started, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I'm glad I did it.”

To contact Maurina Burns, call 816-847-6604 or send email to:

– Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.