Painting by St. Pete artist, 97, featured in award-winning calendar

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A St. Petersburg, Florida senior has just received national recognition for her work as a painter.

The 97-year-old has found her golden years have filled her with joy and inspiration.

Stella Szemela says she always liked to sketch, but a painting class with a group of friends introduced her to the world of blending colors.

"And ever since then I kept my brush wet," she explained.

As a retired secretary, she's spent 40 years honing her artistic skills.

She never sought the recognition, but those years have resulted in a big jump in her notoriety.

Szemela's oil painting titled "Rutabagas" was selected in the Expression 2019 calendar.  

The national award-winning calendar celebrates active aging in the arts.

"I was so honored," she said. "I don't like to brag but my husband brags for me."

Szemela says hours seem like minutes when she is painting.

"I can paint half a day and be so engrossed in what I am doing that I forget everything else," she said.

Her advice for those of who think they don't have a creative touch: "They often say to me, 'I can't even draw a straight line.' You don't have to draw a straight line. You just have to enjoy what you are doing."

She says that's what life is all about: enjoyment.

"I'm so thankful for whatever I have [and] for a good life," said Szemela.