by Kerby Rosanes
Published by Plume Books on March 27th 2018
Style: Interactive, Paper: Medium to Heavy
Format: Card cover
A new adult coloring book from the bestselling artist behind Mythomorphia, Animorphia, and Imagimorphia.
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Fantomorphia Coloring Book Video Review
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Fantomorphia Coloring Book Review
I’ve long been a fan of Kerby Rosanes. I love his artwork. I admire his ability to illustrate the most intricate and imaginative scenes with such skill and expertise. Of course, not being an advanced colorist at all (still on my training wheels here) I like to refer to his books Animorphia, Imagimorphia, and Mythomorphia as art books. Great for looking at …but far too detailed for me to attempt at this stage of my coloring journey.
Of course, when Kerby announced that he would be releasing two more coloring books in 2018 in the “morphia” series I knew that I would buy them. The first book, Fantomorphia is the subject of this review the second Geomorphia is already available for pre-order.
When I received my copy of Fantomorphia I initially wondered if there had been a mistake. It was so thin compared to the others in the series. I had wondered if the 48 pages shown in the product description when I pre-ordered was an error – it was not.
I sat on my copy of Fantomoorphia debating whether to review it or not. Often when I first leaf through a book I develop strong feelings about it – either positive or negative. I find that sitting on things for a while (with one book it’s been over a year lol) helps me to formulate why I feel strongly about it and whether I will change my mind.
Ultimately, I reviewed Fantomorphia because I find it hard to resist filming any coloring book that crosses my path. However, in all honesty, my heart was just not in it when I filmed my review. My first feelings had not changed about Fantomorphia which was – disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Kerby Rosanes. I have always thought of Kerby’s books as art books to be collected and cherished. For me, Fantomorphia is not an art book but a coloring book.
While I’m disappointed that I don’t feel that way about it ….at least I will be tempted to finally color a Kerby picture. I admire him as an illustrator and a fantastic content creator and artist. I’m not a fan of Fantomorphia and I’ll tell you why below. First let me shine some positivity on Fantomorphia.
- On the plus side, Fantomorphia has single-sided illustrations. This is great for those colorists that love to use markers or mixed media in their work and those that are heavy handed with pencils who worry about denting the reverse of the image.
- The illustrations are less detailed because of the use of black in the art-work and because there are no double-page scenes. This may bring Kerby new fans who have previously been intimidated by his artwork and overwhelmed by the double page storybook format
- Fewer illustrations in the book (19) means that if you are challenging yourself to complete a book (like me) this goal may be achievable
- The paper is good quality – white, medium to heavy and thicker it seems then that previously used in other Kerby Rosanes books I have
- The illustrations are beautifully drawn in the coloring book
- It has a gothic feel to it that makes it appealing for Goth fans
- The book is probably satisfying the need and demand of many fans of Kerby’s work that had asked for the features listed above.
The Bad (for me)
The product description on Amazon describes Fantomorphia as “packed full of intricate images of stunning fantastical creatures morphing and shapeshifting into Kerby’s signature, breath-taking scenes”. The name and knowledge of Kerby’s style make consumers believe that this will be a fantasy based book morphing into something else in the way that Kerby’s imagination takes him.
With Animorphia and Imaginorphia we saw cute little doodles. With Mythomorphia, I felt that Kerby matured and developed as an artist and gave us a more mature morphing – but there was still a morph. With Fantomorphia I feel that it should have been named “Various Illustrations I’ve Done”. I know that’s harsh but I don’t feel the morph at all. That’s not to say that there’s no morph at all. There are a handful of pictures that morph. However, when I look at those pictures I can’t help feeling that they were meant to be in Animorphia, Imaginorphia or Mythomorphia and didn’t make the cut or were not required. That’s not to say that you the reader won’t feel the morph either ..it’s only what I feel when I look at the pictures. After all, the wonderful thing about art is that it does make us feel something. That feeling is not universal, we all have our own likes and dislikes.
The cover features a full-bodied wolf on the front and back cover. It is decorated with Kerby’s doodles that we know so well from his first coloring books. There’s the rub. First of all, with Mythomorphia Kerby’s style developed and he added more elements and less little doodles so why is this doodlefest on the cover of Fantamorphia? Second of all, a wolf with doodles is very similar to Animorphia – we’ve seen this style before, this is meant to be new art. With this, is the nagging feeling that I have that this illustration was left over from Animorphia and not created for this book. Third there is only one other illustration in Fantamorhia with this doodle style (I strongly feel that that image should have been in Mythomorphia – see image at the bottom of the post) so it is confusing and affects the flow of the book.
I could forgive all of those things and put it down to a nod to Kerby’s beginnings if it wasn’t for the fact that the complete cover art is not included in the book. Whilst I appreciate that this book is single-sided pages, you can do double-page scenes, even in single-sided books. Johanna Basford did it in, for memory, Johanna’s Christmas. It takes a bit more formatting from the publisher’s point of view, but you do not end up with half a picture which is, in effect, what we now have. I have to wonder if we will get the rear end of the wolf in Geomorphia.
The other thing about the cover is that the title while lovely in the sky blue is not the glossy decal that my other books have. For someone slightly obsessive about her coloring books it irks me a little, but I’ll learn to live with it.
This is the real bugbear with the coloring book. There does not seem to be a consistent theme and flow with the illustrations. They feel like a random selection of images that do not correlate with the title, the theme or Kerby’s style that colorists are familiar with. Some illustrations have a Gothic feel to them, dark castles and ravens and skulls but others do not flow with that theme or the fantasy theme, in my opinion.
Whilst many artists and coloring book authors can produce a coloring book full of various illustrations, this is not any coloring book artist. This is Kerby Rosanes. This is the amazingly skilled and imaginative illustrator who has produced three coloring books in the “morhpia” series with a consistent style, flow, and theme to them. When you look at those pages you feel that they belong in the book, that they were created for those books. In fact, each of the first three books in the “morphia” series just got better, in my opinion. Even his sketchbook, Sketchy Stories is filled with consistent and beautiful illustrations that you can connect with him and the theme of the sketchbook. I don’t feel that this with this small collection of images. You might, I don’t.
Some of the illustrations in this book to me, seem beneath the talent of Kerby. Skulls with butterflies – it’s a lovely image, goth and pretty but to me, it is an illustration that other artists could do, it doesn’t have the Kerby flair. Many of the illustrations do not seem to contain the wild imagination and creativity of Kerby Rosanes (except for the ones that I feel are leftover from other books – just my opinion). A page of decorated bugs – we’ve seen this now in so many books from Swedish artists, Beauty of Horror, you name it, that it is a bit same same. The beautiful peacock – while I appreciate the detail and the skill in drawing it, I feel that other artists could have done it as well. For Kerby Rosanes, it feels underdone. There’s the disappointment for me. There are only a few pictures that I feel I can say “yes, that’s a Kerby Rosanes”. The other pictures I could easily forget who illustrated them, because they could be any number of artists that I am familiar with.
Many of the illustrations included in this coloring book could have been improved, in my opinion with better placement on the page and positioning. Some of the illustrations appear “unfinished” and lack detail on butterfly wings for example and clock faces. Perhaps, this is intentional so the colorist can add their own detail in – I don’t know.
Elements being cut off in a picture is always something that I do not like. In this book, part of the butterfly wing and the hose on the steampunk cat I feel could have been better placed on the page. Some of the pictures, like the peacock could have been scaled to fit the page more, if there was nothing else to be added.
In this coloring book, Kerby has used a lot of black to create a gothic type look. I actually really like this and feel that it gives a lot of contrast to the page. However, for some colorists, it is going to be difficult to color the picture the way they had envisaged because of this.
Publisher v Self Publishing
When I saw Kerby Rosanes post this on Facebook I had thought that he was preparing for some flak with Fantomorphia. What is interesting is that Kerby discusses how little creative control he has over the coloring book process. That’s always one of the things that artists and authors sacrifice when they choose a mainstream publisher for their books.
Their other choices are smaller publishers that specialize in the coloring book market like Phoenix Amulet for example. The final choice is to self-publish.
While self-publishing gives you creative control over your content, you are also stuck with all of the publicity, marketing, expense and, of course, you cannot control the product that suppliers offer you, like Create Space paper.
For me, it is a real shame that an illustrator that I admire so much, does not have the creative control to really express themselves. Kerby has said that Geomorphia will be his last coloring book. I hope that one day when he has time between all of his other artistic endeavors, he comes back to the coloring book world and blows us away with something. A true Kerby Rosanes book fueled by that amazing imagination and brought to life with his skill.
Like everyone, I have a budget. I always think about what else I can buy for the same amount of money and what will bring me the most joy and value for money. Fantomorphia with fewer illustrations than Kerby’s previous books for me does not feel like good value. I may be in the minority, but I prefer Kerby’s work on double-page scenes, and was quite happy with the paper quality in previous books.
Not for one minute do I think any less of Kerby Rosanes because of this coloring book. It is just one of many of his beautiful pieces of art that he has given us. Just like any piece of art, I don’t have to like it or be over the moon about every book and every illustration in it. Just because I don’t like it either, doesn’t mean that there will not be thousands of others that will like or love it. It’s just not my favorite of his books.
There are several illustrations in this coloring book that I do like and will enjoy coloring. My disappointment with this coloring book will not stop me from buying his final coloring book, Geomorphia either. I do like to have the set 🙂
Cover & Layout
The card cover has a textured feel to it. On the cover, we see line art of an intricate wolf with just one speck of color in his blue eye. This color matches the title and subtitle on the cover and the speckles on the black background. On the back cover, you will see the rear end of the wolf. This part of the illustration has not been included in this coloring book.
Fantamorphia is consistent with size with Kerby Rosanes previous coloring books however it is a lot thinner at 48 pages rather than 96 pages.
It measures 10 in x 10 in.
The wolf cover art features as the title page for the book. It includes some of the cover art that is on the spine and the back cover. On the reverse, you will find an intricate frame noting Kerby as the author. On the facing page is another intricate frame as a nameplate page. Both of these ancillary pages have a lot of black in the line art and a dark gothic feel to them. Over the page, you will find copyright information and a note from the artist. These ancillary pages are the only ones that have been printed on both sides of the page in the book.
As always, this coloring book is interactive with objects to find along the way. The objects to find are listed at the rear of the book (unusually one of these pages is printed on the reverse of the cover art wolf image). There are three pages of visual thumbnails setting out the answer key at the end of the book.
Any of these pages would be great to test out your mediums.
Excluding the Ancillary Pages, there are 19 illustrations to color in the book. Each illustration has been printed on one side of the paper only. The paper is very good quality being smooth white medium to heavy paper. it has the feel of a light cardstock. As always, I recommend popping a few pages under the page you are working on to ensure that there are no indentations or shadowing from markers.
Fans of Kerby Rosanes that prefer to use markers and wet mediums will be happy with the single-sided illustrations that give greater opportunities to try new mediums.
All of the illustrations have been orientated portrait style within the book.
In my opinion, many of the illustrations could have been centered, positioned and scaled to better suit the page.
The artwork in Fantomorphia has a darker more gothic feel to it than Kerby’s previous works. I like the Gothic feel but many of the illustrations feel repetitive or unfinished.
In this book, Kerby has used a lot of black in his drawings more so than any of his other books. Whilst this may limit the coloring opportunities on the page, I actually like the black and feel that it suits some of the gothic-inspired pages included in this book. The black also provides a lot of contrast making colors pop against it. For new colorists, the use of black may be a blessing as it shows areas of heavy shading and shadowing on the picture.
The line art is dull black and a medium weight line. Finer details have been added to each illustration in a lighter, finer hand. The details and hatching used on the illustrations will be useful to those new to coloring as it indicates the area that the artist believes should be more heavily shaded.
Colorists that have a minor visual impairment will probably find any of Kerby Rosanes coloring books challenging. Although this one is not as detailed as his others because it lacks the double page spreads, there are still plenty of details. For colorists with motor skill challenges and visual impairment coloring in this book may need to be done slowly and over time rather than just diving in.
Where to buy Fantomorphia Coloring Book
|Amazon US||Amazon UK||Amazon CA||Amazon JP||Book Depository|
Happy coloring x
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