When Richard Olson’s friends say he’s puzzling over something, it may give others the wrong impression. Puzzling for Richard is not a question of mulling over solutions but rather an act of creativity. Richard draws mazes.

A maze, of course, is a puzzle made of lines through which a path from a point marked “beginning” to a point marked “end” can be traced. Richard has drawn hundreds of them and has even published a book of mazes. The book, which contains about 50 mazes of varying difficulty, was used as one source of income for financing Richard’s mission. (He is currently serving in the Texas San Antonio Mission.)

“I got started in eighth grade in Tucson, Arizona,” Richard said. “I was in a math class with four friends. One day one of them brought a maze he had made and started a contest to see who could make the best maze. After a while the other four stopped making them, but I haven’t yet.

“I would make mazes at home and take them to school. Some of my friends got excited about them and started copying them, and that kept me excited about them. One of my favorites is a maze that’s a map of the United States. It begins in Maine and ends in Washington State.” He said he also likes a maze designed to look like wood grain and another modeled after Uncle Sam.

“When I feel like doing a maze, I sit down and think of movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, anything that might bring me an idea. I’ve taken art all through school, but I don’t have any particular tricks I use in drawing mazes, though I do like to take a particular path a long way and then turn it into a dead end before I finally create the one good path. Usually, I just sit down and start drawing, and the idea works itself out as I go along.”

Richard, 19, attended Magee Junior High and Sahuaro High schools in Tucson and Jordan High in Sandy, Utah. He is from the 15th Ward, Sandy Utah Crescent West Stake, and has held leadke, and has held leadership positions in deacons, teachers, and priests quorums. An Eagle Scout, he also enjoys hiking, art, drama, and sports.

It was Richard’s father who first thought of using the maze book as a financial resource for a mission. “I promised the Lord that all the money would go into my mission fund,” Richard said. “The books weren’t selling too well to begin with, but last Christmas we had more orders than books and had to have some more printed.” They have now published more than 1,000 copies and hope to have more printed by this Christmas.

Richard has also made mazes for friends (“Usually they want me to make their name into a maze”), for the high school paper, and for teachers. He keeps a copy of every maze he’s ever made on file at home.

For the moment, however, mazes have faded into the background. “In the mission field,” he says, “I don’t have time to draw one, because it takes about two or three hours. Besides, there are more important things to do.” When he returns home, though, he’ll probably hit the drawing board again.

Here are some samples of his work.