Hand Lettering Project & Sketches

These last few weeks I have been participating an online project on illustration and lettering in label design run by hand-lettering guru Jon Contino through the online education website Skillshare.

So what was I hoping to get out of this course? Well, whilst I am not trying to design a label for a product, I have had in my mind a vintage label/dog tag inspired design for a new print… one based on specific dog breeds and their story…

Skillshare run project based classes in hundreds of subjects, taught online by experts in their field. Its not just art and design though… there are classes in computer technology, fashion, photography, business and writing too. This is my first time using Skillshare so I don’t know if all classes work in the same way, but for the hand lettering project Jon, our teacher, provided guidance through downloadable notes and instructional videos. We students then upload our sketches and ideas as the project progresses, for feedback.

The first thing we had to do was create a ‘mood board’ for our project… this is to help establish the tone for the project and describe the kind of style that will influence it… here is mine…

hand lettering ideas


Then we get down to some serious creative business….

blank sketchbook


Sharpened pencils at the ready and favourite pens on hand, the blank sketchbook always freaks me out a bit but once I get going that soon dissipates with frequent breaks for dog walks and, more recently, some gentle running – perfect for getting the creative juices flowing!

Feedback comes mainly from your peers who are also participating in the class. Its a great community feel and the more you get involved in both your work and looking at other student’s work, the more support and feedback you get from the other people participating in the project. Unfortunately feedback from the teacher is not very forthcoming… but there were over 450 participants in this class so I guess it isn’t realistic for teachers to comment on all of them individually… but it doesn’t really matter as the other participants, being like minded folk from design backgrounds are generous, constructive and supportive in their feedback.

Now the ideas are ticking along nicely and I have lots of sketches and ideas to refine and play with…

hand lettering and illustration sketches by Debbie Kendall


The project is taking shape now and I am finalizing my ideas… so far it has been fun and creatively challenging participating in the Skillshare project… I have started this design with the Portuguese Water Dog as the subject becasue this is the breed closest to my heart but I am open to ideas for which breed to do next… let me know what you would like to see and  watch this space for the new print!


3 thoughts on “Hand Lettering Project & Sketches

  1. Lovely ideas! Really like the ‘dog tag’ look of your designs. How about Border Collies next? Of course, that’s what I have so I would say that and she has such a personality (as does every dog of course…).
    Love your website and blog etc – both things I love and do too- dogs and lino printing, what else does a girl need?

  2. I had a good laugh with your comment: “…the blank sketchbook always freaks me out a bit but once I get going that soon dissipates…”

    I know that feeling all too well myself. Once there’s something on the paper, it becomes a lot easier. At least until nearing the end when the thought with each additional pencil or paintbrush stroke becomes a question of “Is this last change too much?”.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and processes with everyone!

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