Subscriberthon guest post: Matthew Dunn on the creative process behind Melbourne Futures

You might remember that Overland 196 included a colour supplement showcasing the work of the graphic artist, Matthew Dunn, to accompany a series of SF works imagining our city in the future. It was a dark and beautiful little collection, enhanced considerably by the quality of the artwork. Matthew Dunn guest blogs for us today on the creative process behind commissioned works that will necessarily be in dialogue with the written word. We’re pretty excited to welcome him now …


1. Read the story (in this instance being ‘Heart Of Dockness’ by Andrew Morgan).

2. Read the story again, this time making note of anything that could be represented in a literal sense.

3. Work through the literal ideas to see which of them has a naturally emotional and/or abstract branch from which to climb.

4. Sketch some ideas out.

5. Get frustrated that what you’re seeing in your mind isn’t coming out properly on paper.

6. Drink more coffee (I should mention that coffee also plays a big part in steps 1–5).

7. Sketch more things down.

8. Take a break and draw something completely unrelated to this piece.

9. Return with a clear mind and start sketching again (this time sketching with the graphics tablet directly into Illustrator, which gives you the wonderful freedom and control of the almighty UNDO option).

10. Finally manage to get that damn image out of your head and into the real world!


11. Transfer the Illustrator sketch over to Photoshop to add some textures and colour.

12. Email the image through to Overland for their approval/opinion.

13. Get the all clear to proceed.

14. Return to Illustrator to redraw the central part of the image. That being the cranes and buildings. There were two central things that I wanted to achieve with this image. The first being that the Docklands themselves needed to be a somewhat organic and all-consuming creature. The second was simply wanting to capture an oppressive and sombre mood. For this I created more empty space, and also added the very cold/technical image of the people hanging from the cranes (more defined and lifeless than the original abstract shapes). I also flipped the colouring, moving the lighter tones up so as to hold the eye longer on the main image (whereas in the initial sketch the lighter tone of the water instantly dragged your eye down). Being an obsessive comic book collector/creator since childhood I sometimes pay far too much attention to trying to guide the viewers eye in such ways.

15. Save the final image and let it sleep for 24 hours. This can be useful as after working on the same image for awhile the line between what’s on paper/screen and what’s in your head can blur, and this sometimes results in things being left out of the real image completely. So it’s nice to return to it after a small break to make sure everything came through okay.

16. Check the final image and realise that, much like in life, your worries and concerns were unnecessary.

docklandsprocess217. Send the image through to Overland, make another coffee, then start drawing once again.

18. Attend the launch of the issue containing this image, heading down to the stage afterwards to meet everyone in person for the first time, knowing that as you wait to introduce yourself they’re all probably thinking “Why’s that guy hanging around? Show’s over buddy!” (This is not what happened at all. But I may have taken overlong to come and greet you because I was busy making eyes at China Miéville – Ed.).

19. Return to the start, a little wiser, but not too much.


Karen Pickering

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