The result has been a historically accurate project that he has dedicated a lot of time into researching. It’s worth noting that the small details in the illustrations that describe the events of that period have been meticulously considered so that they are true to the facts and will please even the keenest enthusiast of the story of the ill-fated Titanic.
Aside from obviously having the most care and attention in even the tiniest areas of each illustration, the drawings themselves are pencilled in with the easy fluidity of a 2B. Watercolour and other textures are layered in, along with handwritten type to fill every inch with masses to look at and absorb. When we asked Alan to tell us more about his process, he was kind enough to give us a detailed breakdown of every step with examples to top it off— enjoy!
I first heard about Fr Frank Browne’s Titanic photographs in 2005 from a radio interview with Eddie O’Donnell, the authority on the life of Fr Browne. Since then, I have always been interested in his amazing adventure on Titanic. I always thought his story would translate very well to a graphic novel or animation.
The Script & Storyboard:
Over the years, I wrote a script based on his own recorded accounts and collected much research material in order to construct a narrative to be as historically accurate as possible. It turned out to be six chapters long with a prologue and epilogue, so a hefty tome that required a lot of planning and editing. As I work as a motion graphics designer for TV, there has often been projects that needed storyboarding, so it’s something I felt quite comfortable with.
Titanic enthusiasts are known to be the first to spot any mistakes Titanic-related in cinema. So, I was very careful to maintain visual accuracy and I have many folders of visuals for each location and scene.
As ‘Get Off That Ship’ is my first graphic novel, it was sort of idiosyncratic how I came up with my work process of creating a graphic novel. When I work on a page, I would generally start by referencing the page’s thumbnail drawing from my storyboard, which is like my bible.
From this, I would plan the layout of the full-sized page on gridded paper, that way, I can accurately size up the panels with a panel gutters etc. For the next step, I draw from my roughs, sometimes using the lightbox as a guide. I would also paint the panel using acrylic using the light box.
One of my favourite drawing tools is mechanical pencil with 2B leads. I use laser printer heavy stock paper— it’s smoother than Bristol board, and takes so well to the pencil, it glides very easily and you can achieve great effects particularly when shading. I would then scan this artwork and colour it on the computer. In order to give the imagery a more traditional style, I would scan in watercolour textures that I apply to the illustration.
I absolutely love the aesthetic of hand rendered type. Often with graphic novels and picture books, the artist resorts to a typeface that is faux-hand written or a generic comic font. I have always been thrown by that and have considered it a process that needed to be really considered.
I therefore inked all of the type with a pin pen, never duplicating any of the letters to save time. And, though I have opted for a slower even painstaking process, I believe that it adds much character to the type, and people do notice those subtleties.
© Alan Dunne, 2012