Review | The Art of Kerby Rosanes

Recently, I realized I needed to make some personal changes. You see, I’m a full-time editor, and I’m also an author, which means I spend hours upon hours upon hours on my computer. That’s fine, it’s all part of the job, but sometimes I get so lost in what I’m doing, I forget the real world exists around me. And while I love books, I think it’s good to remember things exist outside of books.

Usually, I turn to photography for this, but currently my meatsack isn’t meatsacking very well, and my mobility is still in the toilet from my delightful foray down the stairs, so doing things that require much motion is out. I’m not a big fan of movies, and because of the fact I can’t walk much right now, my pain is spiking pretty high, and we’ve had just intense, amazing heatwaves, my entire garden is dead.

So my usual means of getting off the computer and reminding myself the world exists are out, at least for now. I needed something else.

Insert adult coloring.

(I’ll post some of the images I’ve done at the end, but keep in mind, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so prepare yourself to be unimpressed.)

Now, to put this in perspective, I took an art class when I was twelve, and I am now just shy of forty. I go out of my way to never draw, because I’m pretty sure I’m the worst drawer on the planet, and I can’t paint or color worth a damn. My dad is an oil painter, and he passed absolutely none of that skill on to me. So when I thought, “maybe I should give this a try” I figured I’d be horrible at it. It would be something I did to relax and not something I wanted to show off.

I ended up going onto YouTube and looking up adult colorists. I wanted to see what they frequently used (should I buy gel pens, markers, or colored pencils?) and I wanted to look at some books they used. After a little bit of that, I decided on splurging and buying a set of 120 nice colored pencils in this cool case, which I love. I figured colored pencils would be more forgiving than markers and pens, and as I’m completely inexperienced with any of this stuff, “forgiving” is the name of my game.

I wish I could give you a good review of these pencils but I don’t really know what artists are looking for when they buy these things. I know they are cheaper than other artist colored pencils. I’m absolutely in love with the range of colors, and they are soft and blend really, really, really well. So, I’m a fan.

Anyway, after I did that, I decided to look at some books. I saw a ton of mandala books, but that doesn’t really look like what I’m after. I saw a bunch of steampunk-themed books and garden books and those are all great but I’m a storyteller, and I wanted a book where I could spend a really impressive amount of time on each picture. Furthermore, the rule in photography is to always make sure your pictures tell a story and I wanted the same thing with my coloring book. Basically, I wanted to invest in something that would challenge me in unexpected ways, and force me to learn a bit more about how things like shading and blending work. I didn’t want to sit down and pop out a mandala picture, I wanted to learn how to color a picture I’d be willing to hang on my wall.

I happened across Kerby Rosanes completely by accident, but once I saw his books I knew I had to get them. Currently I have Worlds Within Worlds and Mythomorphia (though I’ve ordered Fragile World and it’ll be here sometime today.)

I am no pro, but Kerby Rosane’s art is exactly what I was looking for. He specializes in really interesting fantasy-esque art that requires a lot of thought and tinkering to color well. Every picture challenges me in ways I didn’t anticipate or expect. Each picture tells a story, or is a unique twist on something mundane you just don’t expect to see. While his lines and art are carefully controlled (yet fun as well), each artist will handle each picture differently. These aren’t one-and-done pictures, either. They take days and days to work on (at least for me, some colorists I follow can blast through a picture in a day). They require thought and concentration.

I am not a big fan of instagram, but I’ve recently discovered a vibrant community of colorists on there, and I learn a lot by pulling up their feeds and trying to figure out how they do what they do. If you have an instagram account, I suggest you look up the following hashtags: #Kerbyrosanes and #Mythomorphia to see what some artists who absolutely know what they are doing can accomplish with these pictures.

What I love about Rosanes’s art, is how easy it is to get lost in it. There are always so many details in each picture, and yet somehow you know that they’ll take forever to accomplish but in the end, they’ll be so worth it. His books are packed full of scenes of mermaids, kraken, lions sprouting trees, cats with cities on their backs, orcs, nymphs, fairies, trolls, subways morphing into snakes, Medusa and the list goes on and on. The artwork is absolutely incredible, which makes the coloring of it that much more exciting. It makes it feel like this isn’t just a thing I do to get my mind off the cybersphere a bit, but like I’m learning how to art.

Kerby Rosanes is, from what I’ve read, an artist in the Philippines. According to his page on Amazon, he now works as an artist full-time, and enjoys making pictures of his “doodle-world” for public consumption. His fanbase is huge. It seems like nearly ever colorist I follow these days loves to work on his books, and there’s a reason for that. Quite simply, there’s nothing else like his artwork. It’s not only visually interesting, even in its black-and-white form, but it’s absolutely stunning when colored. Due to the nature of the images, no two people will end up with the same results, which is part of the fun. I absolutely love flipping through the aforementioned hashtags and seeing how different people can make one image appear.

The books themselves are extremely high quality. I’m not well-versed enough to be able to talk about tooth, and I can’t talk about bleed (I don’t use markers or pens so I don’t know). I can say the paper is extremely thick. I tend to use a dab of water on the end of a q-tip to blend my colors, and I’ve never had an issue with it wrinkling the paper or warping anything, or even effecting the picture on the back side of the page. The spine is easy to crack (I know this sounds bad, but when you do a double-page spread, you need to crack the hell out of that spine). There are images on both sides of the page, which may or may not be a drawback to some colorists out there. I know some people prefer to only have images on one side of the page when they color, but this doesn’t really bother me. I figure it is worth noting.

Each book is thick, absolutely full of images that will be so fun to color. I work on a picture for at least an hour a day. I turn on a podcast (I’m on a true crime kick right now) and let myself go. I’m no master colorist. I bought some Faber-Castell pastels (a very small kit) and now I try to see how I can use both colored pencils and pastels in each picture. I always tend to go into an image with an idea of how I want it to turn out, and somewhere in the process of doing it, the entire thing turns on its head and I end up with a very different product than what I’d anticipated. I like some of my images more than others, but by and large, Kerby Rosanes’ art forces me outside of my comfort zone. It demands I pay attention to detail, and requires me to learn how to blend, shade, and layer. Each picture tells a story, and that storyteller part of my brain engages in that.

More, though, it’s just really, really fun to see the product of such a talented artist, and somehow be a (very small) part of it.

If anyone out there enjoys coloring, I cannot recommend Kerby Rosanes highly enough. I am going to probably slowly acquire all of his books. Currently he’s an auto buy for me.

Here are some of my completed pages:

First picture I ever did. This one is from Mythomorphia.
July, 2021
Second picture completed, from Worlds Within Worlds.
July, 2021
Probably my least favorite picture so far. My first attempt using pastels as a background, and just ugh. Oh well, live and learn. From Mythomorphia.
July, 2021
Current WIP from Worlds Within Worlds.
July, 2021