Sketchy Stories: The Sketchbook Art of Kerby Rosanes – A Review

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Sketchy Stories: The Sketchbook Art of Kerby Rosanes is published and kindly sent to me to review by Racepoint Publishing, an imprint of Quarto. This book is illustrated by Kerby Rosanes, best known for Animorphia and Imagimorphia, but this book is different both in function, format and purpose. It is not actually a colouring book, though all of the illustrations are black line drawings in Kerby’s signature style so of course they can be coloured if you wish, it is actually a reproduction of his own sketchbook with illustrations chronologically organised from 2012 up to early 2016. It is hardback with a soft feel cover which is black with a white wrap around illustration of a whale with a few of his signature alien doodles, it closes with a black elastic strap. The paper is cream, lightly textured and thick, while you can see the black lines of the illustrations of the following pages through it, it held up fantastically to my water-based pens without even the slightest hint of shadowing so you can easily colour this book with water-based pens or pencils, if you wish to colour it at all, alcohol based markers will bleed through. The spine is flexibound, with glue and string and is fairly tight, the images are printed double-sided with some being partial pages, single-pages spreads, double-page spreads or even three-quarter page spreads so a fair number of the images do run across the spine and these can be a little difficult to access though the spine will ease up with use. While I absolutely love this book and it wasn’t designed with colourists in mind, I think it’s a shame that it is so small and that so many of the images enter the spine because it does make them difficult to colour and even to fully appreciate the image because there’s a line down the middle breaking it up. The production quality is really high but I wish it was available as a colouring version in the same format as Animorphia and Imagimorphia. Each image is titled and dated and a few state what or who they were commissioned for but there is very little written commentary aside from the 4 page introduction, the 1 page preface written by Kerby himself, and a double-page spread briefly describing his drawing process; it would have been really interesting to read more information about the design briefs, the purpose of the work, and also the rationale behind the finished piece, and to see them on a larger scale as some of these images are extremely small and really lose their impact when shrunk down (it is unclear what scale any of these images were originally drawn in).

The image content is really varied but it all has Kerby’s signature style. There are lots of morphing animals, objects and scenes that show vast contrast between nature and mechanics, softness and structure, ethereality and reality. There are small drawings and large drawings, some which are much more realistic and others which are filled with alien creatures and the surreal. The images contain a huge number of different animals from deer to bats, birds of all types to sea creatures, foxes to giraffes and so much more. Interspersed with these are skulls, feathers, buildings and structures, mechanical images and doodles. As with all of Kerby’s work, the majority of the images include heavy black shading which isn’t to everyone’s taste but I personally find that it really adds to the movement and reality of the image. Some of the images have black backgrounds and some are drawn entirely in black with thin white lines that could be coloured if you wished, there is a real variety within this book and it truly shows off the versatility and talent of this illustrator.

In terms of mental health, this book is just fascinating to look through let alone colour! The images are so interesting to look at and ponder over and the more you look, the more you notice and see so this is definitely a book that keeps on giving and you’re unlikely to ever tire of it! In many ways, this book is almost too beautiful to colour, but it would look truly stunning if you chose to, though it does of course look finished as it is. The line thickness varies throughout from thin to spindly thin and some are verging on microscopic because the images have been shrunk from the original drawing scale. The intricacy and detail levels also massively vary from large open spaces of animal faces to the teeniest tiniest details that are difficult to even see, let alone to contemplate colouring, this means that it’s essential that you have very good vision and fine motor control if you’re wanting to colour this book, though this won’t be necessary if you’re wanting to just view it as a finished piece of art. I personally found this book to be ideal for mindfulness and distraction, the images are so packed full of detail that you can’t help but become completely immersed and absorbed within this fantasy world and you quickly feel your anxiety and other symptoms melt away. The artwork is breathtakingly beautiful and it really does have to be seen to be believed!

This book is ideal as a work of art, but would also be beautiful for adult colourers to fill with their own colour. You will need very good vision and motor control but the size of these images makes them ideal for bad days as small colouring projects, the format could have been improved for the colouring community but as a reproduction of Kerby’s sketchbook it’s beautifully produced and just fascinating to look through!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Sketchy Stories: The Sketchbook Art of Kerby Rosanes
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Sketchy-Stories/9781631061752/?a_aid=colouringitmom

If you’re new to Kerby’s work then you can read my reviews of his adult colouring books here: Animorphia and Imagimorphia.

The image below was coloured using Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners.

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