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Ok, first a side note – Today is my 100th blog post! Wow, I didn’t think I had written that many, and yet it feels like I have been writing them forever now. Thank you all who have subscribed and read what I have written. I have enjoyed sharing a piece of me, as well as a lot of my opinions with you. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. Now, on to my thoughts on importance.

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I mentioned we had a broken-down car when we were Wasilla the other day in one of my recent posts. I had an interesting conversation with one of my daughters the next day. When we were ready to move the car to a safer spot in the parking lot to leave it overnight, we had to push it. Someone had to stay in the car and steer while the rest of us got out and pushed. My daughter was asked to be the driver, and my husband, myself and our two boys were the pushers, my husband also being the director for the daughter steering.

As we were talking about the wind and cold, she commented that her job was probably the most important job because without her steering, the car wouldn’t have gone where it was supposed to. I told her that without the pushers the car wouldn’t have gone where it was supposed to go either. She thought about that for a moment and decided I was probably right, and she jokingly said, “but still” with a big grin on her face.

This experience made me think about how often we think our job is the most important job or how often we see some jobs as beneath us. I don’t know about you and your family experiences, but here at my house, my kids are constantly arguing about who did the job last, and who “always” does it, so it shouldn’t be their turn again. But along with that argument comes the comments about how much better it was done last time because they did it, and how it hadn’t been done right at some point when someone else must have been doing it, if that makes sense, because sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me!

I have also heard people talk about the janitor at their school or building, or the trash man that picks up their garbage. Many people do so in a derogatory way, assuming they must be uneducated, or in some way lesser than because that is the profession they have chosen or are pursuing at the moment. And yet, because of their willingness to do what they do, we have beautiful buildings and clean streets and towns to live in. I periodically leave a pan or pot to soak in my kitchen sink overnight so that it is easier to scrub the next morning. My kids used to then put their dirty dish in the pot or pan after they finished breakfast, rather than setting it to the side. One day they were talking about how they all disliked stacking the dishwasher when there was a dirty pot in the sink because the plates, bowls and silverware put in the pot were “gross” to get out. I asked why they continued to do it then, and their comment back? Because most of the time they didn’t have to, and I (mom) did it. I asked them if they thought about whether it was gross to me, and they said it had never crossed their mind because I am the mom and it’s normal for me. Well, we had a little conversation about how disrespectful that was, and if they didn’t like it, why would I? Now, for the most part, it never happens anymore.

There are so many jobs in this world, and most of them aren’t the high paying, never get your hands dirty kinds of jobs. But all of them are necessary in some way to the functioning of society. In fact, I believe that it is the “lower jobs” that actually make our society work. I don’t believe there are menial jobs in society. I also think that each person, no matter their position should know how to, and be willing to get in and get done, every job from the ground up. If something needs doing, just get in and get it done. I think that you will find that often the person whose job it is to get it done is already overwhelmed and would love a little bit of help getting it done. The other thing I remind my kids is to be grateful. Don’t make unnecessary messes just because it’s “someone else’s job” to clean it up. Take time to thank the people who do any job that benefits you in any way. The person vacuuming the school, taking out the trash, mopping floors and cleaning toilets so you don’t have to. They are doing a great work, usually behind the scenes that benefits you every day. Be grateful.

I know that on occasion I need to be reminded to be grateful for the thing’s others do for me, whether directly or indirectly, everyone around us affects us in some way. Everyone’s job is important in some way, and everyone deserves to be thanked for how they contribute to society. We are all human beings no matter our job title or position. I challenge you (and me) to take the opportunity this week to thank someone for the job they’re doing that contributes great or small things to our society and makes it a better place to be.

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This week I decided to share how and why I stretch my watercolor paper. I bought a new painting techniques book at Barnes and Noble the other day, and the Author shared a different way of “stretching” paper that I had never heard of, so I decided to try it. I have a painting in the works using that technique (I may start it over because I don’t like the perspective I drew it in), so you’ll see a little bit of it here, but I want to focus on prepping the paper and why I like to do so.

When I started out watercolor painting, I didn’t even know about stretching paper and I would tape it down to a board and through the course of painting, the paper would begin to buckle and warp. This was irritating to say the least, but I thought it was just a part of watercolor painting. I was also using a very low-quality paper when I started out, and that, as I have learned, makes a huge difference in the paper’s ability to hold water, be stretched, and hold up to many washes.

So, first, a few pictures:

In this book the author talked about taping the edges of the paper, not taping it down to the board, and just tacking it to the board at the top to hold it on. As you can see from the above picture on the left, the paper didn’t necessarily buckle, but it still warped a little and definitely rolled on the sides. This was frustrating as I painted because it got caught on my sleeve as I turned the board, I almost bent it a couple times reaching to get paint or grab my water or paper towels. However, the paper didn’t really buckle, as far as making waves all across the paper. So, I guess, if you were in a hurry, this might be an option. Just not an option for me, because I found it frustrating.

The center picture is of paper that has been properly stretched and lays flat. I created a YouTube tutorial on Stretching Watercolor Paper that you can view, and I will go through some of the reason why here.

The Paper is one of the biggest keys to stretching watercolor paper. It needs to be 100% cotton paper. If it is wood pulp paper, or a mixture it doesn’t hold up as well to the stretching, some you can’t even stretch, it will just tear. It also doesn’t hold up to lots of washes, scrubbing techniques and things of that sort. Stores like Wal-Mart and Michael’s rarely carry 100% cotton paper. Most student grade paper is not 100% cotton. So, when you buy paper, pay attention to what it’s made of. Art supply stores are a great place to find 100% cotton paper, my favorite brand is Arches, but there are a number of different brands to choose from. There are also a number of online stores (I have bought through Cheap Joe’s and Blick mainly) that sell a large variety or cotton watercolor paper in large sheets, notebooks and blocks, all really nice papers.

The purpose of stretching the paper is to get rid of the buckling and warping. Paper just left without being secured down will roll up when wet as you can see in the picture of the Lion above. It dries that way as well, so you are constantly fighting the rolling if it’s not secured down to a board of some kind. Paper that is secured, without stretching, will buckle and warp because the edges have been secured down. As you wet the paper, the paper swells and has nowhere to go, consequently you get that buckling and warping effect. This makes it harder to control the paint as you have hills and valleys. The paint wants to run down the hills and puddle in the valleys. If you paint on the drier side of watercolor, you can control this if you are careful, but washes of any kind will puddle.

Wetting the paper gives the paper opportunity to swell to its full capacity. After fulling wetting both sides, securing it to a board of some kind at that stage and letting it dry means that it will stretch as it shrinks. When fully dry, it will be fully stretch. If properly stretched, as you add water through washes and the painting process, the paper will not swell beyond the stretched staples and your paper will lay flat throughout the painting process. This is much easier to work on, and consequently a much easier surface to control the paint on. Just a note, I stretch using staples, which you will see how in the video, and then I tape the edges simply to give me a nice, finished edge when the painting is done.

If you are just starting out watercolor painting or have become frustrated because of paper problems, I would encourage you to buy 100% cotton paper, and to stretch it before you begin. This way you start out without the problems that frustrate a lot of beginner watercolor artists and make some quit because of the frustration. In my YouTube video I also discuss options for cheap DIY boards as well as tell you my favorite boards (a little more expensive but worth it) to staple paper down on for your backing. I also give some options of paper blocks that don’t need to be stretch that I love using especially when I travel.

If you have any questions about stretching paper, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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I am still on the Burnout topic from a couple of posts ago. I was thinking of this as I was writing about Burnout, but I felt like it would be a better post on its own. We live in a world where it is super easy to share anything and everything we do in our lives. We are inundated with pictures from our friends of their vacations, date nights, girls (or boys) nights out, even down to what we ate for dinner. And everything looks perfect. And of course, we stand back and see all this “perfection” everywhere and compare it to what we might be doing at the moment, the laundry, the dishes, cooking dinner, cleaning the toilet.

If we look too long, we forget that everyone out there has a toilet to clean, a house to tidy up. Everyone has to eat at some point and go to work to make the money to make it all possible. It’s amazing how much of life is really just mundane stuff that simply has to be done, whether it be for sheer survival, like food, water, heat, or whether it is for physical comfort, like cleaning, doing laundry, and so on. Obviously, there are people who can afford to have others do much of this for them, but that’s not the norm, no matter how much we may wish it was sometimes.

Burnout comes when we see one thing, the “perfection” that everyone portraits, and compare it with the mundane that we feel we experience for the most part in our lives. Burnout comes when we are constantly working for the “perfection” as well, constantly feeling like we missed the mark, that we didn’t measure up to someone else’s standard, that we never will.

I am grateful for the opportunity to paint. I have learned through my painting that perfection isn’t really attainable. I have seen beautiful pieces of art, commented to the artist about it, and they can tell me everything wrong with it. If there is a stroke in the wrong place, the wrong color, whatever, they see it. I am the same way. I start a painting, and at least once during the process I look at it and think it’s been ruined. At first it was hard to persevere through that part of the painting, but I have learned a couple things through the process.

The first lesson I have learned is that if I persevere through the ugly or ruined looking stage of the painting, that rarely do I have to start over. It may not turn out exactly like I wanted, but I always learned something, and it never turns out as ugly as I thought it was going to somewhere in the middle when I wanted to quit.

The second lesson I have learned is that everyone is different. I have painted pictures that I thought, “it’s alright, but not my favorite.” I share it on my Instagram page and have people request prints. They love it way more than I do. But it’s something that brings them joy in their life. I have also painted beautiful pictures, that are my absolute favorite pictures and have no one purchase them, ever. It is what it is. Both of the paintings are beautiful, and because of the differences in each one of us, my perfection isn’t going to be yours and vice versa. Maybe that vacation was super fun for that person, but you may go and find out that it’s not really what you wanted to do with your time or money. When we compare, we often can’t see that the experience was for someone else, not for us.

The third lesson I have learned is that there are a lot of really awesome people out there, when you get off social media and out into the real world, who are super supportive of others. I talk to so many people, some who buy my art or books, some who don’t, but they talk to me about it, they’re curious about how it’s done, and they usually have a story to tell that gives them some sort of background or experience with art that is super interesting and connects them to what I am trying to do. They are encouraging and have great ideas and suggestions. I have never had someone come in and tell me I painted something wrong or that they were better than me, even if they’re an artist as well.

The last lesson I have learned is that I am unique. I have gone to bazaars and shows where there was other artist, even other watercolor artists, and each person’s creation is unique. You could have three watercolor artists line up their work of the same subject, and each one would be unique. Each one would have a personal flair or touch that was different from the rest, and the people who came to look would like different artists as well because the viewer is just as unique as the painter. I love that because it reminds me that in all reality, you can’t compare yourself with anyone else, because each person has a unique flair, a unique touch that sets them apart from others. It doesn’t make any one of us better than the other, but it makes us individual.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Sometimes we have to look around and see how everyone is doing and strive to be better because of the inspiration we get, but we should not compare where we are with where anyone else is. We need to celebrate our success, and celebrate our neighbors’ successes, because there is enough success for every single person. So, for less burnout, and more peace and happiness, put down the phone or turn off the social media. Don’t try to keep up with your neighbor, simply be yourself and succeed in what you are striving to do.

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I have been thinking a lot recently about this topic. Well, this topic along with what I wrote about on Wednesday – Burnout. I think we are all a little bit self-centered, probably all a little bit selfish on occasion. I know I can be, and I am grateful for a family that will call me on it. But I think we all know at least one person who can’t talk about anything but themselves. It can be a bit frustrating. I was thinking today about how social media and the ability to share every aspect of our lives with others affects this aspect of our lives. I know more and more I see things on social media or online in articles and things, that talk about how you need to take care of yourself, you need to get rid of all the negativity in your life, you need to make sure you’re needs are met before anyone else’s, and if anyone gets in the way of that, well get rid of them in your life.

I think about being a mom. What if I decided my kids were contributing to the negativity (because wow, sometimes they do!), or that they were infringing upon my ability to take care of myself (because that happens all the time, they’re kids)? What if I got rid of my husband because we didn’t agree on something or because he offended me by calling me out one day? What if I quit my job because my boss yelled at me, especially if it was warranted because I was so focused on myself that I didn’t actually do the job? There is so much in this life that isn’t convenient, that isn’t fun, and that causes stress and frustration. That’s just a part of living, part of the process of growing. We can’t get rid of this, and yet so many people really want to. They want to sail along through life without a care in the world. And it’s interesting, amidst the cares of the world, and all the things going wrong, a lot of people are working for that, the ability to live without care, without responsibility, with worry, without challenge, without change, without purpose.

The first few items on that list can be very tempting and aren’t necessarily bad desires in the right context, like retirement – fewer cares, having more time, having fewer responsibilities or worries. But the last few items on the list, I guess for me anyway are very scary – no challenges, no change, no purpose. What would be the point in life? Now, I am not saying that it’s bad to strive to save for retirement, to want to not have a 9-5 job at some point in time. But we shouldn’t want to just sit either. We need to have a reason to continue. There have been numerous studies done among retired people, who seemingly have nothing to do but float along through the rest of their lives. Which group did better, people floating along, or those with purpose? Those with a purpose, those who reached out beyond themselves and had more of a reason to be here, whether it was taking care of grandkids, volunteering in their community, or a myriad of other opportunities. And with that purpose comes challenge, change and growth, all things that can seem hard in the moment.

Selfishness and being self-centered are all affected by the same thing, having no purpose beyond yourself. Now, I am not talking about those who have goals, and work toward those goals, but remember, even in goal setting, one of the best things you can do to achieve your goals is to have someone else involved, someone to encourage you, someone to keep track of you, but also super important, someone who will keep your feet on the ground, and tell you when you need to adjust your goals so that they don’t become self-centered, or self-destructive. It’s also really great to be that person for someone else, because you learn a lot being the on helping someone else grow.

What can we do to be less self-centered and selfish? Focus on others. Service is a great way to do that. There are so many opportunities to serve people all around us. Last night we had a car break down in Wasilla, which is 30 miles from our home. While my husband was trying to get it fixed, we were watching people try to load stuff in the backs of their trucks with the wind blowing really hard. It was cold, and I’m sure the windchill factor in that parking lot was well below zero, it wasn’t much above zero without the wind. But we watched as a man, who was trying to load stuff into his truck stopped to help someone else who almost lost a large sheet of Styrofoam. This inspired one of my boys, who then took the opportunity to try and help someone else a little while later. They didn’t end up needing help, but I was so grateful for his example of stepping out of his comfort zone, and out into the cold, to go and help someone else. I was being selfish on the other hand, not wanting to get out of the car into the wind. Little tiny acts of kindness, yeah, they may be a little bit hard, yeah, they may take a little bit of our time, but ultimately, the effect on us as individuals, and those we take the opportunity to serve is huge. It helps us individually to feel a little bit lighter and better, and the other person will never forget the true act of kindness shown them.

Gratitude is another great way to be less selfish. When we can recognize someone else’s hand in our lives helps us to see that we didn’t get where we are without other people helping us. One of the biggest ways I see that in life is that of education. None of us educated ourselves. We went to school of some sort, and we learned at the hand of someone more knowledgeable than we were at the time. As we went along, we progressed and moved from class to class and subject to subject. At this point you might be the most knowledgeable person in your profession, but you didn’t do it alone. This is just one huge example of something to be grateful for. Once we start seeing others and those little acts of kindness though, we really truly start to understand how good most people really are. I remember one funny experience my son had. We were in Lowes buying Lime for our garden. The bags weren’t really big, but they weighed about 40 pounds each. We needed about 8 of them. As we started loading, an elderly man came to the same area and started loading bags into a shopping cart and he was struggling, so my son stopped and helped him first. When he came back, I commented on how nice that was, and his comment was something the effect of: “I’m sure glad his bags were a lot lighter than ours, I wouldn’t have wanted to do that twice!” He was suddenly grateful, even though it didn’t apply to our load, it made our loading lighter.

Helping our families, taking care of the needs of someone else before we take care of our own needs, saying yes to opportunities to help in our kids’ school, or our community events, and so many more ways, will help us see others. Being grateful to others and seeing how someone else, as well as our Heavenly Father, has positively affected our lives helps us appreciate what we have and helps us be more appreciative of our own circumstances a little bit more. All of these things keep burnout at bay in our lives. Whether you tend to be selfish or tend to look outside yourself on a regular basis, I hope you take opportunity to see others and be grateful in your own life.

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I didn’t get a whole lot of response back about adding an additional day to my blog focused mainly on my art, so today I am going to start. This past week I watched a tutorial from Emily Olsen Art about painting Icicles. I really don’t like painting winter scenes in the winter, don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because I’m ready for summer, or I’m always freezing in the winter. But this tutorial intrigued me, so I decided to watch her video and see what I thought. I loved the technique, so I went in search of icicle reference photos. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I wanted a brighter background than what she had painted. I found several sunset type backgrounds that I liked and decided to kind of combine, as well as use my imagination. When I was finished, I showed my daughter who is currently serving a mission in New Mexico. She loved the painting and thought it was the marshy swamp outside our living room window. I decided that was the best compliment of all, although I thought I had come up with the idea on my own, I guess what I look at daily stayed in my mind just waiting for a painting like this to express itself.

During Covid I decided to learn how to digitize my own photos. My husband had purchased a really nice camera that I decided to try and use. It worked great. There is quite the learning curve to digitize art as compared to photographs because there aren’t presets for digitizing art, and the colors really do make a huge difference to get it to match the original piece of art. But, through a lot of experimentation I am learning how to do a better and better job. Plus, it saves me a lot of money. That was the expensive part of getting my art printed.

I also have a fantastic new printer as well, that prints archival prints. The ink is not an inkjet type ink, but a pigmented ink. If taken care of, a print from a pigmented ink printer will last 300 years or more, which I am learning is the standard for high quality art prints. I love this printer. It has to be used regularly so the heads don’t get plugged, but so far, I haven’t had an issue with that! Today I printed the prints for my icicles. I am amazed at how good the quality is, but also amazed at how much the paper affects the clarity of the final print. I am learning why people like a high gloss finish on photos, as the pictures pop off the page on the gloss paper and have a duller look to them on the matte finish art papers.

The lighting in my basement is very yellow, so these aren’t the best pictures, it’s also from my phone, which doesn’t have the best camera. But even in these pictures you can see the difference. The picture on the left was printed on a matte finish cardstock weight paper. The picture on the right was printed on a glossy photo paper. While both pictures look nice, I like the crispness of the one on the right better than the one on the left.

Well, that’s what I have been working on this week. I would love to know what you are doing to be creative in your world through a picture comment or email.