Well done Phil! Couple of tips: SOAK that poplar with a heavy coat of sanding sealer after you surface plane it. You can lightly sand it and THEN carve. It will reduce your fuzzies considerably. Then, after you carve and clean up your fuzzies, soak it again in sanding sealer before painting. The sealer dries SUPER fast so it shouldn’t add too much time to your process.
You can also apply three or more coats of matte clear coat prior to painting your black. LIghtly sand the last coat and then your black paint will wipe off like you are cleaning a spill from tile. I do a lot of fine engraving in oak - which has ridiculous grain and this is s life-saver.
Hope this helps!