Posted on

Tutorial: Process of an Art Journal Part 2

Totem Poppet Dolphin in gray, black and white..

The second Part of the art journal for me was to create the Totem Poppet animals that I wanted to include in the art journal. I decided on two animals we had seen during our trip to Florida: an alligator and dolphins!

When preparing the Totem Poppets to doodle or zentangle on I first like to gesso them so that I use less ink. (The chipboard can really absorb paint and mute your colors if you don’t use a undercoating. Of course sometimes you might want this look…) I used gray gesso: which I like a lot as it allows me to use both a white pen and a black pen in my doodling.

    Tip: To make gray gesso I just combine some white gesso and some black gesso in a mason jar. Put the lid on and shake. You could probably use black acrylic paint too.




First I lay out the parts to see what direction I want then animals to face. After they are dry I zentangle away. Here are pictures of my doodling process for the dolphin…




























Here is the finished Totem Poppet Dolphin.

Next Monday we will take a look at the zentangling of the alligator and then the finished art journal page.
Hope you’ll join us!


Here is Part 1 of the Art Journaling Process in case you missed it.


Posted on

Tutorial: Process of an art journal, Part 1

So, this is going to be a series of blog posts showing the full progression of an art journal page. For me an art journal page can take several sittings. Each section can take anywhere from just 15 minutes to up to 2 hours it depends on my focus -and my toddler’s nap time. 🙂
Step 1. background
Step 2. collage
Step 3. totem poppet painting, construction and addition.

So Step 1.


Typically I paint the background of the page first. Recently, all of my backgrounds have had black gesso backgrounds to start, -for some reason I find a less intimidating then a white or even colored one. This month’s journal came preprinted with a graduation of colors though, so that was a fun change.

The art journal in my round robin for this month had a very open ended topic: The Everyday. I decided to treat is as a typical journal entry that I might do documenting early spring and our Easter vacation to Florida.


Here are the first collage additions:

    First I add a central image of a red bud trees’ blooms. I took this photograph and then used SeamLess Maker a inexpensive software program to make a kaleidoscope image from the original.
    Then I had some left over print outs of a watercolor Lemon Summer Citrus collection I did for Parcai Designs. I cut these in half and used them on the edges. I added the yellow and brown argyle pattern I painted to match. Originally this was a seamless repeating square swatch but I cut it into long strips.


Finally I added:

    A photograph of a steam train I took a while back on my iPhone. I used a sepia filter on it in the iPhone app Photoforge 2, and then printed it out with my Epson.
    A photo of a fawn I stumbled across walking through the cemetery in early spring.

And finally I added a

    And a watercolor of a sea urchin to fill in a spot I thought looked a bit empty.
Posted on

Art that moves

It’s May, and that means May apples, and May Day and May poles and of course the Faire Fest! Even though there are many faire fests -and the one in Glen Rock is a little bit of a drive- we really enjoy attending this large Faire Fest at Sprout Wood Farms for the good food, lively music and great costumes. The were plenty of fairies, and ogres, sprites and pans, and even some dragons, but perhaps the two most elaborate and interesting costumes I saw this year were a sort of skull/crow/death mask thing and a full on sphinx costume.


The jaw of the skull even opened and closed when she talked! (Wish I knew how she did that!) Here is a shot of these two incredible animal costumes. (I also wish I had gotten the one where the crow skull girl photo bombed the sphinx as she posed with an attendee!)


I love artwork that moves. Be it 2-D or 3-D; wood, metal or paper; if it moves, I’m captivated. The technical term for artwork that moves is kinesthetic art. That why I invented the Totem PopPets really, because I love art that moves. There is a certain inventiveness, a mechanical aptitude required in creating art that moves. It’s a skill that I really admire and even envy; creating artwork that moves. And hopefully, we have made adding a little motion and fun to your artwork a little easier.

– Erin Sparler, Owner

Posted on

Totem Poppet Example: Duck as The Little Red Hen

Last month’s art journal topic was stories that influenced you. I particularly remember the folk story, The Little Red Hen from when I was a child. I decided to do a spread using the duck Totem Poppet. Turns out the duck works well not only as a duck, but also as a chicken or a song bird. The shape is indicative of all three.

To start the page: I painted the top blue, the bottom green and then painted a brown rectangle for the field. I wasn’t very detailed about it as I knew I’d be collaging over it. They were messy. The brown rectangle I made smaller towards the back and bigger in the front to imply perspective.

Then I used some printouts of a watercolor painting I did of corn, for the wheat. I printed out a whole bunch in various sizes from Lightroom, cut them out and turn them upside down.


I added the duck totem which I had done in the video tutorial I made with Charmed I’m Sure studios using just a little bit of foam double-sided tape.



Finally, I wrote the words the little red hen using weight paint pan and gray Coppic marker.


Posted on

Totem PopPet Example: Totem Owl

A close up photo of the detailed pen work on the Totem Owl.

Session 1.

  1. First I painted the background with black gesso.
  2. Then I started adding some collage.I added rounded edge rectangles cut in half to the upper edge.Bits of pattern from a previous project went down the edge. I added in the Totem Owl write-up right from the packaging and added three trees from my watercolor paintings to sort of hold it in place. Kind of like book ends.
  3. Finally, I painted this horribly basic tree in the center. lol. And I created the green texture using an old piece of orange plastic I saved from a Clementine box as a stencil.
  4. I also added the moon chipboard embellishment that comes with the Owl Totem PopPet. I drew lots and lots of different sized circles all over it with my Singno white pen. Each circle just barely touches the others.


Session 2.

In this next session I added more collage. I added a tree branch and some acorns from my children’s’ book watercolors. And some kaleidoscope images from a photography of a red bud trees I made with SeamLess Maker. I also added a light wash of white acrylic paint to see what fog might look like. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9583

Session 3.

Now I turned to the Totem Poppet Owl. I gessoed each of the owls pieces gray and let them dry. Then I assembled the Totem Owl using 1/16 inch eyelets. I used the Fiskar Eyelet setters to do this. (For a short video tutorial on how to do this Check out this tutorial.) Totem_Poppet_Frog-9487 I started with the eyes and adding pattern around the eyelets. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9489 Here’s a close up of the finished Totem Owl. samples_owl-9632

Session 4.

Here’s where I’m testing the placement of the Totem Owl and add in some text. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9624 I pulled a quote for one of my favorite essays by Emerson. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9625 I thouight the whole things was bit to bright for our night loving friend the Owl so I put a blue wash over most all of the piece. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9631 I raised and lowered his wings a couple of times to make sure the pattern when all the way underneath. And to test out his pose-ability. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9632   When I added the wash of blue over the entire page to make it feel more like twilight; but, it also smudged some of the text so I had to go back in and redo some areas. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9635   Here’s the finished page. I’ve added vines using a green paint pen. And I outlined the text using a dark blue marker to make it pop out a bit more. I also went back over the moon circles with the white pen again. Totem_Poppet_Frog-9637

Posted on

Totem PopPet Idea: Zentangled Totem Swan

Zentangled Totem Swan

Totem PopPets make a great base for zentangles. In this example we use the Totem Swan as a base.

  1. Just paint your pieces white using acrylic paint or gesso.


Then zentangle away!


Tip: For best results assemble them after zentangling the pieces to get under the overlapping parts. (lol.)


Here’s our finished Totem Swan all zentangled in black and white.

Posted on

Mandala/Spider Web Project Idea

April showers are here in profusion, making everything wet and muddy. I clean, and the dog, my husband and my toddler just track it right back in. But, the sound of rain at night is so peaceful -and the prospect of spring so thrilling- that it’s all worth it. So, it was appropriate that this art journal be about sounds.

In this art journal the subject was, ” Your Favorite Sound.” What’s your favorite sound and how would you depict it visually? Let me know in the comments or better yet send me a picture or piece of art showing what your favorite sound is!

Step 1.

I painted the entire page black using black gesso. I then added some collage. Bits of a tail, a cut out from one of my abstract watercolor paints and a whole bunch of chipboard holes from the Lace-Ups I had tested and played with earlier in the month. (Yes, I even keep and reuse the holes from our Lace-Ups… Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! LOL!)



Step 2.

I cut one of the square pocket that came with the art journal in half to fit a test tag I had made in developing our Lace-Up tags. I painted it black.

I  painted the tag with white gesso, and then I dumped some water color painted on my painting surface mat and rubbed the dried tag on the paint. I added words in blue calligraphy pen.



Step 3.

I added the pocket and the tag to the page. Then, using my white Singo pen I started drawing circles around each of the chipboard hole punches. I was thinking of the ripples that rain drops make when they hit a puddle of water.

I also used black gesso to prime the Totem PopPet Snake and a small and a medium mandala or spider web. I wasn’t sure which ones I would end up using so I placed them on the side page to look at and think about.

  • Tip: If you can’t decide if you want to add a piece you can place it on the page and then take a picture with your phone. Move it around and take a couple more pictures. You can then look at the different placements over the course of a day or two. Seeing it on the phone changes your perspective and taking time to think about it might bring other ideas.



Step 4.

I tried used silver metal wire to make a spider web with moon stones one it, but the metal didn’t fit through the holes.I tried jump rings and glue too. Neither worded as well. lol. So I decided to use embroidery floss that faded from dark blue, to light blue, to white.



Step 5.

Finally, I added in the words; writing them in blue outlines with white. I added small white circles around the edge of the page to “frame” and complete the image.


Here’s the full poem by Langston Hughes…

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.


Here’s a close up of the finished piece.