Sometimes a project comes along that’s a magical fit. That’s how I felt when a friend asked if I’d be interested in working on a t-shirt design for a local Doberman rescue organization with one of her colleagues. Not only was it great timing, it was perfectly in line with my love for designing for pets.
The project is for a great cause — raising funds to support the rescue and placement of Dobermans. Although there are a number of causes I believe in, helping animals is the one I focus on.
Christy, the Executive Director of Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue, already had a concept in mind for the t-shirt design. So in order to get the project moving in the right direction, we started by establishing a few style keywords. That way, we could build toward the final design without unpleasant surprises or missing a key idea. She chose:
I used these keywords to create a mood board of visual elements that we could use as inspiration for the artwork. At first, I was unsure how I’d connect classic with hip and fresh, but doing the mood board research helped me shape how they could come together into one design. I proposed that it:
- have a classic graphic tee layout
- be very wearable — something that people love putting on and doesn’t get relegated to the bottom of the drawer
- look cool and make other people say “Hey, I love your tee!”
- be casual, but can be worn in a hip and fresh way
- combine handwritten and sans-serif fonts (the juxtaposition of handwriting with sans-serif fonts makes it hip and fresh)
Then, building off the mood board, I created rough pencil sketches of a few different layout concepts for Christy to review. Going into the project, one of the things she wanted to see was a tee with a large Doberman graphic wrapping from the front to the back, with the words “I like Doberbutts & I can not lie”. To help make the tee fresh and wearable, I suggested we outline the dog rather than do a solid fill of color.
Taking the Skillshare class Lettering Layouts: Create Beautiful Messages came in really handy for this project, since it was essentially a lettering layout applied to a t-shirt. I used the process of establishing a hierarchy for the words and deciding on lettering shapes to bring the elements together with the dog illustration.
While the diagonal lines between the words adds a complementary decorative element to the layout, it made the tee too swing too masculine. Removing the lines helped balance it back out to be more neutral and universally appealing.
If you’d like to support Desert Harbor Doberman Rescue and get one of these tees for yourself, visit azdoberescue.org/store.
When I started taking Skillshare classes over the summer, I quickly fell in love with Teela Cunningham‘s classes. She has a knack for breaking down cool and trendy techniques into steps that make sense.
I’ve seen great hand-lettered layouts for awhile now, like with those chalkboard lettering walls, art prints, or tees. But I never understood how they were made — they seemed to appear by magic. Teela’s class Lettering Layouts: Create Beautiful Messages provides a ton of clarity on how to get started with these designs.
After choosing my phrase, “You had to have the big salad!” (from Seinfeld, of course), I designated the hierarchy:
- level 1: big salad
- level 2: you
- level 3: had to have the
Then I started sketching possible layouts using Teela’s inspiration elements PDF that she includes with class enrollment. I appreciate the resources she puts together because when there are seemingly infinite options it can be hard to just choose something and get started. But she makes it clear and easy to just start drawing.
My final layout:
I liked a lot of my sketches and it was actually hard to choose a favorite to implement. I wanted to incorporate some other little veggie illustrations, so I went with a complex layout. It got pretty busy, and is more of a food illustration than a lettering layout. But the whole experience was so informative and fun, that I know I’ll be able to do more projects with this technique.
My introductory Skillshare subscription rate has expired, but I’m tempted to renew my subscription just to watch this class again and again! Teela also shares some inspiring layouts and ways to get started with this technique on her awesome blog.
Tools & supplies
- a variety of PITT artist pens
- Canson Drawing pad
To continue my hand lettering practice, I drew this Seinfeld quote, “These pretzels are making me thirsty”, with bounce letters.
Season 3, episode 11 “The Alternate Side”
- Crayola broad line markers
To continue my hand lettering practice, I drew this Seinfeld phrase, “Chicken supernova”, with a combination of bounce letters and faux calligraphy. It’s such a goofy combination of words that makes me crack up every time I hear it.
Season 8, episode 8 “The Chicken Roaster”
- Micron pens
For years, I’ve set occasional intentions to draw more but have never stuck with it (see: drawing cute animals from… several years ago). I tend to put too much pressure on it, believing that the drawings needed to be more significant, polished, or special than I could maintain. I also just thought I wasn’t good enough at it.
So when I watched Kate Bingaman-Burt’s Skillshare class Drawing Collections: Illustrating Stories through Taxonomies I was filled with relief, enthusiasm, and inspiration. It doesn’t have to be a high-pressure activity! Kate’s easy, relaxed approach to drawing was like a breath of fresh air. It’s easy to look at the collected works of an artist and think “Oh, I’ll never have that many drawings” or “I’m not that good, so why bother” or “I don’t have good ideas like other artists”. But she helped me see that collections of drawings don’t happen all at once — they build up over time. The way you get good at something is to practice, practice, practice. And a drawing can be of anything — ANYTHING! She’s a great example of how stories can be told through the most ordinary objects.
So I finally started doing daily drawings. I hope I don’t fizzle out on it any time soon.
While on our recent summer vacation (a week in a cabin in the California Redwoods), I took the opportunity to document (journal with drawings, really) some of the things around us. This activity helped me see how much I like my drawings to have context. Adding little blurbs per Kate’s suggestion was one of the keys I had been missing before, and it makes me enjoy the process so much more.
The class also made me more aware of the types of drawings and illustrations that I like. I looked back through my Pinterest board of inspiring illustrations and noticed some patterns:
- handmade, imperfect style
- groupings/collections of objects
- ink drawings
- isolated objects
- labeling of objects
- distinct lines, shapes, and patterns as if they are screen prints or cut out of paper (vs. soft or painterly style)
These actually track with what I’ve learned about myself (through taking personality tests — I never met a personality test I didn’t like!) over the years:
- I love to collect and archive all kinds of information
- my desire to learn and improve
- intellectual things are important to me
- I’m analytical, objective, methodical, and detail-oriented
- I just want things to make sense!
For now, I’m sketching first in pencil, and then I go over the lines with a Rapidograph pen filled with black ink (except for one day where I forgot and grabbed a Micron instead — which wasn’t nearly as dark as the india ink) and erase the ink. Sometimes I don’t wait long enough for the ink to dry before I erase and the ink smudges. Sometimes I add some watercolor or india ink wash. And sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s about having fun and exploring and not perfection.
- Rapidograph pen filled with india ink
- Micron 05 pen
- tube watercolors
- size 4 watercolor brush
- pencil and white plastic eraser
I started my bounce and brush lettering practice with “bosco“, one of our dogs, because it’s nice and short. Now it’s Pipsqueak’s turn. I’m working on my watercolor lettering, and for this one I used a regular brush and three watercolor colors blended with a gradient effect.
- size 4 watercolor brush
- tube watercolor
On a scale of 1 to 10, I give peanut butter + chocolate a 27. So I did a little hand lettered version of the delightful duo, with bounce letters and a faux calligraphy effect. The flourishy little “and” was fun — I’d like to practice that type effect more.
- Micron pen
Practicing my bounce brush lettering with a green color blend:
- tube watercolors
- size 4 watercolor brush
I learned how to do this technique with the Skillshare classes Waterbrush Lettering Essentials and Bounce Letters: Adding Character to your Hand Lettering
This drawing is inspired by a laurel wreath and the flora of the Redwood forest where we vacationed. The top half is a grouping of coniferous things, found higher in the trees, and the bottom half is ferns, flowers, and berries found lower to the ground.
- Micron pen
- Paper Mate Flair color felt tip pen
I improvised a batch of granola using walnuts, cinnamon, and maple syrup. It tastes perfect, and it’s my favorite combo so far. Unfortunately I didn’t take detailed notes of the recipe! I learned a lesson there, and once I realized how much I like this flavor I jotted down the formula the best I could remember:
- 3 c raw, whole rolled oats
- ½ c raw walnut pieces
- 4 tbsp flax seeds
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 3 tbsp oil
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 large pinch fine sea salt
Inspired by the Skillshare class Drawing pens: make it simple class, I sketched out the plants that were around the cabin we rented for our summer vacation. There was such a variety in the northern California Redwood forest, especially compared to what I’m used to seeing in the Arizona desert. And I wanted to do my own version of a flora wreath with lettering inside since the first time I mimicked the instructor’s version.
And of course, I had “This Land is Your Land” running through my mind:
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me
- Micron pen
- Paper Mate Flair color pens