Let it Snow Sign

Image showing the completed Let It Snow artwork.
Let it Snow Sign Mixed Media Sign Board 6″ x 16″

Happy New Year!

Well we didn’t get a white Christmas this year, but we did wake up to a winter wonderland on the first day of the year! What a way to start out. It’s so pretty and peaceful (and let’s be honest, even better to be on vacation so I didn’t have to venture out into it very far!).

I also received my box of new design team goodies from TCW. Boy are we spoiled! The most exciting part for me was the new stencil butters and the new stamps and stencils, not to mention more matte medium gel which I have used more of this past year than ever!

To celebrate the new supplies, of course I had to dive right in. The irony is that several of us chose the same stencil using our new stencil butters, so I realized I had to do something different.

The Crafter’s Workshop provided me with some product to create this project. The opinions I share are solely my own.

I always have gloves, but I don’t have any mittens. However, when I saw the new TCW2193 Snowy Mittens Sign Stencil, I just knew I had to use it. In addition to the adorable mittens, I knew I wanted more snowflakes in the background, so I also used our TCW720 Snowflakes stencil.

To start, I used clear embossing fluid with a dauber bottle for the snowflakes stencil. I applied white embossing powder and heat set it using my heat gun. This formed a resist of snowflakes in white on the white mixed media board.

Next, I sprinked Colorsparx powders in Cerulean blue, turquoise, and orchid randomly all over the board, then spritzed it with my Ken Oliver Spritz bottle. Just look at all these beautiful, deeply pigmented powders all mingling together in the water spritz. Yummo! Again, I dried it with my heat gun.

Close up image showing embossed snowflakes with multiple colors of ColorSparx powders sprayed with water.
ColorSparx powders activated with water spritzer over embossed snowflakes

Here’s a close up image of the dried ColorSparx powders over the white embossed snowflake background. I really love the effect it gave to both the snowflakes and the background, definitely a technique I will be using again!

Close up image showing the white embossed snowflakes on the mixed media board, with the ColorSparx powders dried by the heat gun.
Close up image showing the dried ColorSparx powders over the embossed snowflake background.

In order to be able to apply the mitten stencil over the ColorSparx powders, I knew I had to seal them somehow. The snow we had was a very wet and heavy snow, which made me think of replicating a ‘wet look’ somehow. TCW9006 Gloss Gel Medium was the perfect solution.
Recently, I learned that you can apply mediums to a gel plate, then lay it face down with the medium onto the substrate. This enables you to apply the medium without smudging or reactivating and moving the water soluble product below. In the following photo, it shows my catalyst spreader being used to apply the gloss gel medium to my Gel Press six inch square Gel Plate.

Close up image showing the mixed media board in the background, with the gloss gel medium, catalyst spreader, and 6 inch gel plate ready to be placed onto the board.
A 4mm catalyst spreader was used to apply gloss gel medium to the gel plate.

I repeated the gel plate process until the entire mixed media board was covered with the gloss gel. I dried the gloss gel medium with my heat gun to set it, then let it cool a while before I continued.

Now, it was time to add my adorable knitted mittens to the sign. Using a cosmetic sponge, I pounced vertically up and down to lightly apply the TCW9001 White Gesso through the TCW2193 Snowy Mittens Sign Stencil. I used my heat gun to dry the gesso, being careful not to overheat the gloss gel medium so that it did not bubble up.

Close up image showing the snowy mittens stencil applied with white gesso and a cosmetic sponge to the mixed media board.
TCW9001 White Gesso was pounced through the stencil using a cosmetic sponge.

And now for the gloriously creamy, incredibly smooth, easy to use stencil butter. You guys have to try these, they are so easy to use and the vibrant colors are just amazing! I decided to use the Fuschia Stencil Butter with a palette knife held at a 45 degree angle. Working slowly and smoothly, I applied the Fuschia stencil butter to the mixed media board over the stenciled mittens and snowflakes. Just look at that gorgeous deep pink color, isn’t it fabulous?

Close up image showing the Fuschia Stencil Butter applied to the stencil using a palette knife.
I attached permanent botanical foliage to the grapevine wreath around the wired stag’s head.

My friends call me the “Texture Queen”, because I love to manipulate mediums to see what I can get them to do. One of the techniques I love to get into my works is 3D dimension. If you use a heat gun to dry modeling paste, you can experiment with how close you hold the heat gun to the modeling paste. Holding my heat gun about 2″ from the modeling paste allows me to get it to dry, then bubble and puff up, giving a raised, bumpy effect, kind of like puffy paint.

I often use this technique to introduce a 3D aspect into many of my works. So of course I wanted to try it with the new stencil butter, to see how it would perform. As you can see in the following image, it performed absolutely perfectly, giving me a bubbly look, as though someone had thrown wet snow onto the letters.

Close up image show 'it' and 'S' dried and puffy.
Some of the leaves on the wreath were also dry brushed with TCW9001 White Gesso.

As a last step, I really wanted more contrast around the letters to make them stand out more on the sign. Using black water-based ink and a paintbrush, I washed the ink over and around the letters. The ink sinks down into the valleys of the letters and around the edges, helping the letters really pop out against the background. If you accidentally apply too much ink, you can remove it very lightly with a damp paintbrush. The mountains of bubbles in the modeling paste are very fragile as they are hollow. If you touch them too hard, they will collapse down, and it is almost impossible to get them to rise again because the modeling paste has already been dried.

The finished "Let it Snow" sign board displayed so that the whole completed sign is visible.
The completed “Let it Snow” sign.

Want to see a quick video? Hop on over and watch my quick fly-by video on my YouTube Channel.

Until next time, happy experimenting and happy day!

Michaela Butterworth
The Crafter’s Workshop Design Team Member

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Stenciling over alcohol inks

Multiple mixed media artworks featuring alcohol inks and stenciling with a variety of mediums and stencils.


Can you believe we are almost halfway through November already? Where does the time go sometimes?

A couple of weeks ago, I took a fabulous class in our Wanderlust 2020 course with Jennifer Pipe from Self Esteem Through Art. It was my first time trying alcohol inks and I had an absolute blast. If you are fascinated by watching things take on a life of their own, then I definitely recommend giving alcohol inks a try. It’s such fascinating fun to watch the inks flow and morph together, sometimes producing colours that you didn’t even use! It’s so cool! All my examples shown used a medium weight yupo paper.

To begin, I played with Ranger alcohol inks on the yupo paper. Then I let them dry fully for a day before I began my stenciling experiments. I took lots of photos as I went, and have included quite a few here for you to see the outcomes. If you have any questions, please feel free to pop them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to reply to you.

For this page, I used stencil TCW899 Striped Mandala with TCW9012 Shimmery Goodness which dries iridescent. It gave this piece a translucent effect to the point that my friends were asking me how I got the alcohol inks into the mandala design (I didn’t, I just stenciled it over the top of the alcohol inks with a palette knife!). Doesn’t it look fantastic? This is definitely one of my favourite combinations.

Yupo paper with blue, turquoise, and purple alcohol inks that has been stencilied over using shimmery goodness applied with a palette knife through the striped mandala stencil.
TCW899 Striped Mandala stencil with TCW9012 Shimmery Goodness applied with a palette knife.

My next experiment had me using the TCW924 Lush Petals stencil with the TCW9033 Marcasite Silver Modeling Paste applied with a palette knife. Once the modeling paste was dry (the next day), I applied some mica sprays and finishing wax in silver to really make the design pop! I love the richness, dimension, and depth of the finished piece.

I also decided to try the TCW9033 Marcasite Silver Modeling Paste through the TCW500 Nautilus stencil over some ocean coloured alcohol inks.

Marcasite silver modeling paste applied with a palette knife through the TCW500 Nautilus stencil on top of blue and green alcohol inks on yupo paper.
TCW9033 Marcasite Silver Modeling Paste applied with a palette knife through the TCW500 Nautilus stencil.

I’ve wanted to try the TCW865 Asian floral stencil for ages, but I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity. This was it! I applied TCW9009 Black Modeling Paste with a palette knife.

Black modeling paste applied with a palette knife through the Asian Floral stencil on top of yellow, gold, orange, and red alcohol inks on medium weight yupo paper.
TCW865 Asian floral stencil stenciled with TCW9009 Black Modeling Paste using a palette knife.

Next, I decided to use the TCW912 Wheat Stalks stencil with the TCW9037 Grecian Gold Modeling paste applied using a palette knife. To add a tiny bit of dimension, but not darkness to the wheat grains, I lightly applied some black stabilo all pencil to the edges of the stenciling. This helped the wheat stalks stand out from the background a little more. This is the perfect Thanksgiving combination and will make a beautiful greeting card.

For the last several pieces, rather than using a three dimensional modeling paste, I wanted to try tracing through stencils using Signo uni-ball pens. The names of the stencils are included in the captions below each photo.

Yupo paper with bleu, purple, and turquoise alcohol inks beneath the Celestial sun and Star shower stencils traced with black, white, and gold Signo uni-ball pens.
TCW923 Celestial Sun stencil and TCW5004 Star Shower stencil with white, black, and gold Signo uni-ball pens, and white paint.
Yupo paper with purple, green, and yellow alcohol inks beneath stenciled fern fronds with black and white Signo uni-ball pens.
TCW243 Ferns stencil with yellow acrylic paint over alcohol ink on yupo paper. Outlined in black and white Signo uni-ball pens.
Red, orange, and yellow alcohol inks on yupo paper with the striped mandala stencil outlined in black, gold, white, and silver Signo uni-ball pens. Black stabilio all pencil has been shaded around the outside of the stencil to give a shadow effect.
TCW899 Striped Mandala outlined in white, black, gold, and silver Signo uni-ball pens. Black Stabilo all pencil shadow.
TCW912 Wheat Stalks stencil with Raw Umber acrylic paint dabbed through with a cosmetic sponge.

Bloom where you are planted

Image showing the "Bloom where you are planted" mixed media artwork on 9" x 12" water color paper.
“Bloom where you are planted”. Mixed media artwork on water color paper. 9″ x 12″.



Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today, I really appreciate it. Recently, I took an online class with Renee Mueller. Her class was inspired by an afternoon in the garden with her family, the sense of connection she felt with them, and the beauty of her surroundings and the sky, as they laid on a blanket and watched the clouds go scudding by.

My interpretation of this class is shown in the image, above. I created a deep purple clematis vine, which reminds me of my maternal grandfather’s garden. He grew passionfruit along the back fence, and I always remember with fascination the flowers and their color. Watching Renee work and asking us to select a vine to paint, brought this deep purple clematis to mind which also brought the passionfruit flower memories flooding back.

Before I began, I wanted to give the background some interest before the class work started, so I did some gelli printing using my 8″ x 10″ Gel Press Gelli Plate to begin and to help the page lose it’s initial white starkness. I find it’s always easier to create on a non-blank page, don’t you?

The Crafter’s Workshop provided me with some product to create this project. The opinions I share are solely my own.

For this page, I started with stencil TCW874 12″ Poppy Grid by Rebekah Meier, using Unbleached Titanium acrylic paint. I brayered over the stencil with the paint, then did the print. Next, I used stencil TCW454 12″ Specimens by Rebekah Meier, with Light Naples Yellow acrylic paint. I used only the geometrical shapes from this stencil as background accents in a few places on the page.

Next, I wanted to try gelli printing a sky with clouds over the previous stenciling. I wanted to keep the paint light and airy to simulate the sky with clouds, but also to reveal some of the stenciling underneath for interest and depth. I lightly rolled Permanent Blue Light acrylic paint with the brayer first, then I added Titanium white, brayered randomly and lightly as clouds, and pulled the print. The finished sky is shown in the bottom right corner of the image, below.

Image showing the gelli-plate printing process with brayer, acrylic paints, stenciling, and outcome.
Stencils TCW874 Poppy Grid and TCW454 Specimens gelli-printed for background depth and interest.

To protect the gelli-printed sky background, I covered it with a thin layer of TCW9007 Matte Clear Gesso. Now, I was ready to begin the class. Renee had us begin the project by doing a wash of acrylic paint for the sky, clouds, and surrounding greenery. I used Payne’s Gray, Sap Green, and Titanium white as my wash colors. Once I had achieved my desired effects, I then used TCW9001 White Gesso with my fingers to blend it in as clouds and light. I must admit, I was so tempted to stop here because I absolutely adore how this background turned out and I didn’t want to cover any of it up! I will definitely be using these techniques again.
I added some watered down splatters of sap green acrylic paint and dried the project fully. I then added another layer of clear gesso to seal and protect these middle ground layers, as shown in the image, below. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Image showing close up images of the middle ground with acrylic paint washes, paint splatters, and white gesso clouds and light.
TCW9001 White Gesso blended with fingers to add light and clouds to the background.

Now, it was time to create the foreground and focal points. I created the clematis vines and leaves using the Sap green acrylic paint. I then added the clematis flower blooms and buds using the TCW9055 Orchid ColorSparx powder as a watercolor paint mixed with water. I just adore the vibrancy and intensity of the ColorSparx powders, and this color might just be my new favorite!

Image showing close up of clematis vine with deep purple flowers and green leaves and stems.
TCW9055 ColorSparx Orchid powder was used as watercolor for the flowers.

Next, I completed the focal point images with a hand-painted bud, torn paper collage, and hand embroidery on ribbon to represent the connections stitching us all together. I applied these focal point elements to my page using TCW9011 Matte Gel Medium as both glue and sealer.

Image showing close ups of collage and hand embroidery focal point elements.
TCW9011 Matte Gel Medium was used as glue and sealer for the focal point elements.

To finish the project, I added a hand lettered sentiment that fit with the theme. I chose ‘Bloom where you are planted’ because I have moved multiple times in my life around the world (not recently), and I realize it is up to me to thrive wherever I plant myself!

To see more of this project up close and in progress, please check out my quick video overview on my YouTube Channel.

Image of artwork page: Bloom where you are planted by Michaela Butterworth.
“Bloom where you are planted”. 9″ x 12″ Mixed media on watercolor paper.

Thanks again for stopping by today, it really means a lot to me. I hope this post inspired you and gave you the courage to try some new techniques and maybe even some new supplies too.
Until next time, happy playing, and happy day!


ColorSparx At Play


ColorSparx and stenciling art journal backgrounds.

Well hello there!

Here in Kansas, fall is really beginning. Lots of leaves are falling from the trees, most of which haven’t had cold enough temperatures yet to start to change to pretty colors. However, I noticed this morning, the tips of some of the trees are beginning to turn to beautiful fall shades, which I adore and which inspire me greatly.

This week, I was trying some new techniques, experimenting with stencils and the wonderful ColorSparx powders. Before I joined the TCW Design Team, I had never used the ColorSparx powders, so I hadn’t experienced their beauty or their versatility first hand.

Since receiving my first ColorSparx powders about two months ago, I have been playing with them constantly, trying new techniques, learning what to do, and just as importantly, what not to do with them.

I thought this week I would show you some of what I tried, what worked, what didn’t, and what I learned during the process, all in the hopes that it will encourage you to experiment and try something new, too!

When you purchase ColorSparx, they come with a card of great suggestions to try. I definitely recommend giving those techniques a start. That’s how I got started. From there, I have progressed to trying the ColorSparx powders mixed into different mediums, such as modeling pastes, gessoes, and gel mediums. There are so many possibilities!

This week, I wanted to try some water techniques with the Colorsparx powders and stencils. Here’s some photos and narrative of what I tried, and how it turned out…

Recently, I learned a technique which intrigued me. After adding water to the watercolor paper page with a brush, sprinkle on the ColorSparx powders, lay the stencil on top and walk away. Yep, walk away. Let the page dry overnight.

Using this technique, the color pools under the plastic stencil, and clings to the edges of the stencil cut lines, leaving darker outlines of the cut out shapes. Once dried, I took a black Micron pigma pen and outlined the stencil shapes, and voila! One hot, and happening page! (if you turn the page upside down, it looks like flames! Good to know, right?).

For this page, I used stencil TCW568 Moving Vines with TCW ColorSparx Powders in Gamboge, Crimson, Scarlet, and Orange. For the sentiment, I used TCW9039 Copper Penny Modeling Paste which has a dreamy, creamy, spreadable texture, that is so easy to use with a palette knife. The next morning I was swooning over these gorgeous, vibrant, fall colors and shimmery copper sentiment!

ColorSparx Journal page with stenciling and copper modeling paste.

My next experiment had me using the TCW192 Gingko Stencil with the Gamboge, Fuschia, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Orange, and Scarlet ColorSparx Powders. I used exactly the same water technique as the Moving Vines experiment, above. The Yellow Ochre and Gamboge powders have a touch of green sparks in them, and I really love how that green soaked into the ginko leaf shapes. For this page, I used the same black Micron pigma pen to outline the leaves. Then, I decided I wanted the leaves to ‘pop’ out of the page more, so I outlined the leaves with a white signo pen. In places, you can see where the white ink absorbs some of the color sparks pigment, adding unexpected tints! To make the tints more noticeable, I outlined the leaves one more time with the pigma pen. I really love the way the leaves look three-dimensional, and as though they are about to pop off the page!

ColorSparx art journal page background with stenciled Gingko Leaves.

Last, I decided to use the TCW658 Mini Jungle Vines stencil with the TCW9043 Marcasite Silver Modeling paste applied using a palette knife. I used another combination of the Colorsparx powders, in Olive Green, Crimson, Gamboge, Orange, and Scarlet, and I used the same water technique that I used for the previous two pages, shown above.

This page was a good learning experience for me. I added too much water, when the modeling paste was not fully dry. I should have dried the modeling paste completely with my heat gun, then added the water and powders. Lesson learned.

The water soaked into the edges of some of the leaves, making the modeling paste dissolve overnight. When adding the water for the powder, I added too much water to the page, which caused some of the colors to blend together, turning an icky mud brown. Ooops, please, learn from my mistakes!

As a result, it took this page far longer to dry than the previous two pages, and the colors turned out much murkier and darker than I would have liked. Once dried, I used the same outlining technique for the stenciled shapes, that I did for the gingko leaves. In the end, it really didn’t turn out too badly, as you can see in the image below, on the right side.

On the right side, TCW658 Mini Jungle Vines stencil with TCW9043 Marcasite Silver Modeling paste and ColorSparx powders. On the left side, a fall mini collage named “Fall Beauty”. 6″ x 8″ mini collage.

I’m sure you’re probably wondering what the image on the left side of the above photo is. While I had the powders out, I played with just sprinkling powders on some other pages I had practiced on earlier with modeling paste. I left these pages to dry with the other pages shown above.
When I came to look at the pages the next morning, they were all simply too gorgeous to not be used.

What I decided to do was take the off cuts from the pages above, combined with these other pages cut into what I like to call “moments of joy and beauty”. I then created a series of seven mini collages, each collage measuring approx.. 6″ x 8″, featuring a fall theme, using these ‘left over bits’ die and hand cut into pieces. I hand poured some resin leaves, painted them with TCW9002 Black gesso and finished them with waxes. One leaf was added to each collage as a three-dimensional element. I’ve included photos of the six additional mini collages, below, for you to see.

“Fall’s Desire” and “Fall, Olive you”. 6″ x 8″ mini collages.
“Falling for you” and “Leaves Aflame”. 6″ x 8″ mini collages.
“Free Falling” and “Fall Suspension”. 6″ x 8″ mini collages.


Sunflower Garden


Sunflower Garden 12″ x 12″ Mixed Media Board

View my latest blog post over on the TCW Blog that tells you all about the creation of this beauty!
Want to see my latest two part step-by-step video tutorial for this project? Hop on over to my YouTube Channel and check it out!


Explore Multi-Layered Mixed Media Artwork Page


For this project, I wanted to really experiment using a combination of products: An 8″ x 10″ Gel Press Gel Plate, several different stencils, ColorSparx watercolor powders, and a myriad of mediums.

I ended up with 12 yummy layers of texture and dimension by the end of my experimental project.

To read my in-depth blog post for this artwork, please read my blog post on the TCW Blog, or check out the photos on my Instagram account.

Want to see a step-by-step video tutorial for this project? Hop on over to my YouTube Channel and check it out!

Until next time, happy experimenting and happy day!



Albert’s Steampunk Dreams

Image of Albert's Steampunk Dreams, April 2020.
Albert’s Steampunk Dreams, April 2020

I was selected to work with the otters by Topeka Zoo for their 2020 Roar and Pour fundraiser. Albert created some fantastic paw prints for me to work with and incorporate into the art work. Here is the final completed artwork, which is now delivered to the Zoo in anticipation of the Live Auction and event on April 25, 2020 at 6 pm. Hop on and join us for the excitement on the Friends of Topeka Zoo Facebook page!

In this first video, we go behind the scenes with Albert, his brother Tony, and their keepers, Shanna and Tracy. Watch as Albert creates his paw prints!

In this second video, watch as I incorporated Albert’s many paw prints into his dream work titled ‘Albert’s Steampunk Dreams’.