gallery by The Editors

The Manila-based illustrator shares his mythical creatures and creative insights

reading time 14 minutes

Kerby Rosanes fills his sketchbooks with hauntingly beautiful universes. The young Manila-based illustrator combines doodles and precise sketches to draw worlds at once ultra-realistic and mind-blowingly fantastical. At the center of it all is the natural terrain of his imagination: mythical beasts, surreal animals, and eye-catching patterns, inspired by his childhood. The majesty of his pen and pencil strokes has rightfully earned Kerby a vast devoted following and several best-selling coloring books. Below he shares some of his favorite doodles and discusses the process that accounts for both a rich fantasy world and a fulfilling illustration career.

I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I ended up studying IT instead, but that never slowed down my passion for drawing. I found time whenever I was free or even when I wasn’t. I would doodle or draw during breaks from school projects and in boring Math classes. With less time for art, I would always bring a small sketchbook with me so whenever an idea popped up, I could quickly draw it. I never thought those sketchbook doodles would lead me to a full time illustration career.

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The nature-related themes in most of my works are influenced by the place where I grew up. I was born and raised in Albay, my home province in the south of Manila in the Philippines. I spent my childhood playing with friends in rice fields, rivers and greeny plains with views of rainforests, mountains, oceans and an active volcano in the horizon. Being exposed to lots of foliage and animals first hand is now reflected in my art.

I work best when I’m alone – at my working table in a small corner of my house. I’m particularly productive after a long travel or vacation. Seeing other cultures refuels my creativity.

My personal work is thematically more expressive and meaningful than commercial projects that follow a certain creative brief. In order to thrive creatively as an artist, you need passion projects as well as client work.

In early 2012, I started a tumblr blog of my sketchbook drawings, and within weeks people started taking notice. Soon art and design blogs were picking up my work, and I was getting illustrations projects. For a long time I worked as a marketing specialist by day and an illustrator by night. I finally became a full time illustrator in 2014 – best decision of my life.

I developed the morphing style in my drawings to distinguish my work from other artists. The doodling style became very popular around the time I started, and every other ink artist was doing it. To be able to stand out, I tried combining realistic drawing and doodling. The result was the sketchbook series featuring animals morphing into tiny doodles. The feedback for the project was so overwhelming it caught the attention of my current London publisher, which kickstarted my coloring book projects.

My work has been heavily influenced by anime, which was one of the first things I started drawing. My all time favorite is Eichiro Oda’s “One Piece” which inspired me in so many ways, beyond the creative process. Another obvious influence are the magical and dreamy films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

My favorite animal to draw is a tough choice between the lion, the wolf, the owl and the whale. My favorite works that I’ve done are the doodles in my personal sketchbooks. In my sketchbooks, I can freely dive into my own quirky universe. 

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