By Colleen Holt
Maura Weir of Conway has many distractions in her life, but that's a good thing, especially for those of us who enjoy artwork created by someone who has a zest for life.
A native of La Jolla, Calif., Maura started drawing when she was in second grade. She was always distracted in school, drawing on anything she could find. "In a restaurant I drew on the menu â€¦ I drew in my parents' beautiful book collection," she said.
Many things have inspired Maura over the years - nature, Native American culture, flowers, fruit, music, her children, her life in general.
As a teen in San Diego County, California, Maura grew up in a house that she called "grand central station." Her father, Jack, was a premiere adobe home builder, creating homes for exclusive clients. Many of these clients had wonderful private art collections, and being the daughter of this beloved designer, Maura was exposed to this artwork.
"Going into my father's extraordinary homes - many of which were built around an art collection - I had the freedom to see their art libraries, to see museum quality pieces like Picasso. This further inspired me," Maura said.
In college she volunteered and taught art classes, soon becoming interested in the Pala Mission Indian School in California. She began painting the local Indian community, from Old Town San Diego up the coast to Laguna Beach. Somewhere after that, she began painting formal portraits, which she continues today.
Maura is inspired by everything around her - whether it be the beautiful Bradford pears in her yard or an orange from one of her trees.
"I have an avocado tree and orange trees," she said. "I was surrounded by them growing up, and that prompted my passion for painting fruits and flowers and anything in nature."
Maura says she took "a break" from painting while raising her four sons, but she never really stopped altogether. Even when cooking a meal, she said, there might be a paint brush clenched in her teeth and a stirring spoon in her hand.
Today, Maura has returned to a California feel in her painting, finishing up a series of paintings of old missions. When the series is complete, she plans to have a show and sale of the artwork. She currently has art in galleries in Texas, Arkansas, and California, and hopes to expand to South Carolina soon - a recent visit to an art walk inspired her to check out this new opportunity.
Maura's family continues to inspire her work. The next series of artwork will be created on the family ranch at McGintytown, which was her mother's childhood home. Maura plans to do some Plein Air painting, which means "in the open air." In this series, Maura's love for nature will undoubtedly be the focus.
The ranch is just one of three places Maura paints - she also has a studio on Caldwell Street and a room at her home that is chock full of projects.
"Painting has just been my life," Maura said. "I look forward to it. â€¦ I'm so inspired that there aren't enough hours to the day."
Creativity definitely runs in the Weir family. In addition to father Jack's creation of beautiful homes, Maura's mother Connie is a writer, historian, and genealogist. Connie grew up in McGintytown, and left at age 19 for California where she met World War II pilot Jack Weir. Maura has five siblings, and they are all artistic - they include a horticulturist, a garden designer, writers, a custom home builder, painters, a Pennsylvania style log cabin builder and musicians. Maura lived for 35 years in California.
"A Weir family reunion is a stage - it's a constant flow of all ages singing and playing music," Maura said. The siblings all recently gathered at the family ranch in McGintytown, which is used as a sort of retreat. Several of the siblings have homes built on the ranch for getaways.
"We have lots of family fest times - we're a fun family. In California we all get together on the beach. We're an old California family. We're very outdoorsy," she said.
Joining in on the family fun is Maura's husband, Jim Crumpton, who has been a lifeline for Maura's art and her well-being. "I couldn't do any of this and sustain my energy without him behind this," she said of Jim. "He is an amazing guy." Jim is a retired Air Force colonel who is now working with Lockheed at Little Rock Air Force Base.
Over the years, Maura has painted for different reasons - not the least of which was trying to raise money to raise her sons. With her husband by her side, that concern is gone. "Jim told me to paint because you love it, not out of fear," Maura said. "He's been a rock for me." Jim also has three children - Greg Crumpton, a lawyer in Cabot, Josh Crumpton, an entrepreneur in Oklahoma, and Shelly Crumpton, a student at the University of Arkansas.
And when it comes to Maura's sons, the passion for life hasn't fallen far from the tree. Son Jack Lusby, 19, is a Physics major at the University of Central Arkansas. Joseph Lusby, 16, is third-year president of the German club and is "a total character," his Mom says. And her twins, Conner and Elliott Lusby, 15, are exceptional pole vaulters at Bob Courtway Middle School.
They are all interested in music or sports or something active. "They are passionate about everything they do," Maura said. All four work with their grandfather on the farm in McGintytown, and are best friends, this proud mother proclaims. "We all work hard together and then we play hard together," she added.
Maura is very open with her boys and "parents hard," she said. She delights in being "in the middle of the activity" with her sons, and says if her four boys are in the house, there will be at least four other boys who aren't her flesh and blood there, too.
"I like all the action. It all started with my mother and father. They felt their home was a blessing to be shared. We were a big part of the Catholic church, and we even entertained the priests."
As if her family and everything around her isn't inspiring enough, Maura has a special lady in her life that brings out her spirit. Betty Colvin, 93, of Conway, is Maura's mentor. "She is a woman in town who sustains me," Maura says. "We've had lunch every week for 15 years. She is also part of who I am today. She has faith in me, she inspires me â€¦ she's my angel on earth."
"I have a magical life," Maura said. "Everyone believes in me and supports me and encourages me. They've never stopped encouraging and supporting me. There is no doubt this is the thing I'm meant to do."
Maura said it gives her great pleasure when a client takes home a painting they can enjoy. She said it keeps her spirit living on in another home.
"I am a joy seeker, and I hope my art brings that to others," she said. "I want my art to evoke an emotion. I want people to feel something when they look at my art."
For more information about the artwork of Maura Weir, please visit her Web site at http://www.mauraweir.com