REVIEW: Sketchy Stories

Front cover of the book Sketchy Stories

Kerby Rosanes is an illustrator based in the Phillipines. He creates spectacular works of art by drawing lots of small detailed elements that accumulate into beautiful larger images. Having loved art since he was young it wasn't until 2012 that Kerby, then a graphic designer, realised that what he really loved to do (and wanted to concentrate on) was create black and white ink drawings. His drawings can already be found in a selection of colouring books but Sketchy Stories documents Kerby's work in chronological order so far, from 2012 through to early 2016. The sketches are reproduced directly from his actual moleskin sketchbooks into a sweet moleskin replica, complete with elastic strap. 

Firstly I would like to point out that there aren't many words. There is an introduction by Chuckie Campbell, Ph.D (artist at Deep Thinka Records and Instructor of English at Bryant and Stratton College), a preface by Kerby, and a brief summary of Kerby's creative process. Other than that, there are titles and the year sketches were created, and the odd quick explanation, but the rest is simply filled with Kerby's work. The thing is though, that is more than enough, you don't need thousands of words and descriptions, you just need to look and enjoy, Kerby's work has the habit of speaking for itself. 

Image taken from Sketchy Stories showing the piece Crow-ded

The sketches are presented in chronological order which I find really interesting, I can see how Kerby has progressed from happy, comical monsters and creatures exploding from the page to focusing more on detailed animals, finer lines (while still incorporating the characters and creatures), telling stories and communicating more subtle messages. 

Image taken from Sketchy Stories showing the piece Meltdown

The book seems to be made up of opposites and contradictions; the printed images themselves are obviously static, but they nearly all contain movement and feel very dynamic and expressive, then there are the themes such as nature, the mechanical, life, death and fantasy. One might assume that such juxtapositions would jar against each other, but instead they elegantly collide, as if the most natural thing in the world. 

Image taken from Sketchy Stories showing the piece Rex

It would be difficult to go through this book and choose favourite pieces, they are all breathtakingly impressive (especially the larger compositions), but I do love ‘The Gioconda Project’ for bringing together classic imagery of The Mona Lisa with such a variety of doodles, some fun, others fantastical and symbolic, it is a feast for the eyes. 

I also love ‘Growth which seems to have all manner of life writhing from a skull, I especially like the toadstools, and how a happy little happy character (who appears in many of the illustrations - like a visual signature) is lounging on top of one. 

Even simpler pieces are just as eye-catching, 'Plumes' from 2014 show four feathers, each built from different themes and ideas, one showing the feather turning to birds in flight, one filled with a night scene with owls and planets, another filled with stacked skulls, and the last drawn as a hybrid of plume and mechanical pieces. They really are very beautiful and I imagine they would make great tattoos (with permission of course). 

It is easy to be impressed by the more detailed and evocative images but I also adore those that show Kerby’s sense of wit, humour and charm. ‘Mecha Xmas Tree’, which sees the happy little character controlling a mechanical Christmas tree on legs, and ‘Snail Mail’, which depicts a snail carry a skull as a shell with a postbox slot with letters, never fail to make me smile. 

Image taken from Sketchy Stories showing the piece Lost City

I guess you could say you get as much out of these artworks as the time you put in looking at them. It would be easy to quickly browse through and think that it was a bunch of samey (yet still impressive) doodles, but you would be missing out on so much. The more you look at each drawing, the more you look at the details, the more you see something that you didn’t notice before, it’s enough to make your eyes and brain do cartwheels. 

I really enjoy receiving books to review in the post, but sometimes it can be hard to woo me (I've read A LOT of craft and recipe books) and while I believe all books have merit, sometimes I really struggle to find it. Sketchy Stories on the other hand wasn't a struggle at all. Sketchy Stories is a treat of a book. It’s the kind of book you can gift yourself or gift to others. It provides the simple pleasure of losing yourself for an afternoon, because with Kerby Rosanes, anything is possible.

(If you would like to see more work by Kerby Rosanes I highly recommend browsing his Instagram account - @kerbyrosanes).


Sketchy Stories: The Sketchbook Art of Kerby Rosanes by Kerby Rosanes 

Published by Race Point Publishing (£10.99).

All images © Kerby Rosanes.

ISBN-10: 1631061755
ISBN-13: 978-1631061752