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Ever have one of those days where everything that could go wrong goes very wrong? That even the littlest things upset you? That’s where I was – and my day was miserable because of my mood.

But how can you shift a mood from mean and cranky back to being who your really are? Through the power of play.

As you watch this art journal page go through its layers, in the beginning every little thing irritated me. You’ll see what everyday thing irritated me so much that I purposely made brown. It was one of those days.

But just taking a few minutes to play, even making mud kind of play, helped shift my mood. By the end, you’ll see how I handle paint smearing from the stencil that is very different from how I handled things at the start of this page.

This didn’t start well thanks to my frustration that the paint had to dry before I put the next color on top. Yes, that was a huge frustration.

Paint having to dry is not something new or unreasonable, I was the one who was unreasonable in expecting that paint wouldn’t have to dry. So out of irritation and frustration, I made mud. Ugly, yucky, mud.

Being in a bad mood doesn’t lend itself to the clearest thinking.

After the mud was made, there was instant regret. Oh, that was so very ugly. It had to be covered up, so I turned to a vintage book.

Sloppy, messy, don’t tell me what do kind of gluing down of pieces of text to hide the brown. I still had a bit of attitude in me.

As I painted the paper, I was careful to not mix my colors. I was bound and determined that the colors would not mix together, I was even careful with the brushes to make sure they didn’t accidentally pick up stray paint.

With my mind so busy being in a bad mood, how on earth could I possibly have the ability to choose the paint colors or decide what to do next? Is it magic? Nope, it’s understanding the principles of art journaling.

Knowing what those foundational principles are makes it so much easier to make decisions, even on one of those days.

If you’d like me to walk you step by step through those principles so that you can apply them when your art journaling so that you never have to be stuck no matter what happens on the page the check out my online workshop called Art Journaling FUNdamentals.

The brown has been banished, the colors have stayed separate and then it happened. I made a big O.O.P.S. with black paint.

I had an idea and as soon as I stenciled just one word of the idea, I knew it was an O.O.P.S. It was an Outstanding Opportunity Presenting Suddenly.

When I started this page, in the sour mood, it was tough for me to appreciate an O.O.P.S. but I kept playing. The more I played, the better my mood. So by this point in the page, I could see the opportunity in the horrifying black smudge.

What had started as one word, became the random background using my It’s Time to Play stencil that I designed for StencilGirl Products.

There are 5 quotes about play on here. But the goal this time wasn’t to read the full quotes, but to have parts and bits of the sayings fill up the background.

That’s one big reason why I love words on stencils– they can make lots of different looks from a title on a page to background to – well, you’ll see in the next photo how these words get used.

I had worked so hard to keep the paint from smearing and it did anyway. Not from my brush or the wet paint on the page but from the palette. The edge of stencil was dipped into the paint by accident.

O.O.P.S. in the best possible way! Just yellow had been on there but now I went all in and actually added more to the back!

That created the random splotches of paint here and there. Stencils can do anything. Maybe not anything since they can’t do my laundry- but they do a whole lot in an art journal!

By this point in the play, my mood had shifted from extremely cranky and frustrated back to calm and reasonable.

If you ever have a bad day try getting out your art supplies and just making something. Anything. Just using your art supplies can help shake off a rough day because that is the power of play.


Stenciling I know. Sewing, not so much. Taking Home Economics in middle school 30+ years ago can only help you so much. But how hard could this be to take a stencil and turn it into dolls? Famous last words.

The stencil used to make these art dolls was inspired by Henri Matisse’s The Dance painting. His figures were not about proper proportions or exacting realism so it’s fitting that these dolls each ended up with their own shapes. I am not the most skilled seamstress and making really small arms had consequences.

Stencil the figures on to white cotton fabric with Marabu’s Fashion Spray. The less spray you use, the crisper your image will be. The more you use, the more likely it is that the color will go under the stencil. That’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just what happens depending on how much spray you use.

Once they’re dry, flip it over and pin a piece of plain fabric to it- with the right sides facing in.

After each color, blot the stencil dry using scrap fabric this way as you’re cleaning off the stencil, you’re also using the negative of the stencil to make patterned fabric. Every drop of Fashion Spray gets used!

Next, sew around the shape but be sure to leave an opening so you can turn it right side out. You might think it’s obvious to leave the opening, but I got so wrapped up in the sewing that I totally forgot to do that once.

I’m not a precise free motion person, so that means there were some interesting shapes in the end. The extra wide spots and extra narrow spots made each doll unique.

Smaller areas, like arms can get very narrow so it is tough to pull the arms out. So I started giving them some very wide arm pits- just to make it easier to get the arms out.

On those dolls where I accidentally made the arms extra narrow, they just didn’t have one or both arms. Let’s just say I was making them like the ancient Greek statues who always seem to be missing arms.

Once they’re sewn, trim off the excess fabric. Then the fun begins – turning them right side out. Needle nose pliers and a pin are handy to have for this process. It’s an exercise in patience and one I didn’t always have. That’s why some arms seem rather short or completely missing.

Now it’s time for the stuffing. Putting in little bits of it a time is best, but that takes patience so sometimes I did that, and sometimes not so much.

Once they are stuffed, then stitch up the opening with some hand stitching. After making these, I have a new respect for doll makers and anyone who can make 2 that look like!

One of my dogs thought I made new toys for him, so he secretly got ahold of one of the art dolls and took it outside. When I found it in the grass, a silly thought popped into my head- this would make a great piece of installation art!

So I turned a little portion of my backyard into a soft sculpture garden representing the feeling of getting lost in the weeds. But only temporarily, as my dog was way way way too interested in chewing on them!

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links are affiliate links which means I get a small percentage. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps keep the free tutorials coming! The colors of the sprays in the images below are a bit weird, so go by more of the colors in my video or photos than these thumbnail images for colors.


Does everything go as planned? No & that is the fun, this is play after all! You’ll probably laugh at how many times I redid the stenciling on this piece of recycled cardboard and why I chose to do the very last thing to it.

You can art on anything- including cardboard packing material. And you don’t have to do everything in one session, after all painted cardboard doesn’t have an expiration date.

Is there only one type of paint to use for this? Absolutely not! Use whatever paint you have- after all the best art supplies are the ones within arm’s reach!

Those 3 openings felt like windows but they needed something silly in them. They needed Silas and Sigmund.

Who are Silas and Sigmund? They’re like vaudeville stage managers of our lives who just can’t seem to take things too seriously. 

Silas, on the bottom of the stencil, is trying to coral all the everyday happenings, the feelings, the thoughts, while Sigmund is perched up top to get the best view of the show we call our lives.

This is one of my new stencils at StencilGirl and Silly Silas and Sigmund comes with not only the stencil but 3 masks as well.

The yellow gel print created the feeling of warm lights glowing in the window so it’s like we’re peering in watching a not so serious conversation.

Once Silas and Sigmund were positioned in the windows, tape was used to hold them in place. Use any tape you have or any glue you like, since nobody will see the backside.

To get the words on here, I used a quote by George Dorsey from my It’s Time to Play stencil. “Play is the beginning of knowledge.”

To stencil crisp images or text, use a small amount of paint and pounce in an up and down motion. But did I? Nope.

Even though I know this, and can do it, I don’t always. The first part was stenciled crisply, but the second part was a mess. O.O.P.S.!

This wasn’t a horrifying mistake to beat myself up over, it was just an O.O.P.S., an Outstanding Opportunity Presenting Suddenly.

In the video, you see how many times I messed with it from wiping it off, to stenciling in another color, but in the end it was finger painting that won out.

Before I understood the power of play, I would have beaten myself up senseless from having made so many mistakes, screwing so much of this stuff up as if I’d committed some kind of crime.

But once I understood the power of play there was no more beating myself up. There was no more of this crazy pressure to get everything right the first time. It became about the freedom to play, about the process, about the joy.

If you want to feel the freedom of play, I’ve got a free workshop called Permission to Play It’s got very specific strategies for how you can let go and let yourself play. Join in on the fun of play here.

I had to laugh at myself. The stenciling was finally all neat and tidy and I didn’t like it one bit. So I went and messed it up a bit with a nib pen.

When I chose the quote for this, I had no idea how fitting it would be. After all, every “mistake” I made was just the beginning of something better and I bet if you ever happen to make a “mistake” in your play.

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links are affiliate links which means I get a small percentage. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps keep the free tutorials coming!