Introducing Saul Rosenbaum, the artist behind our new coloring book Other Worlds.
Hi, Saul! You drew a super-fun coloring book, and we’d love to hear more about the inspirations behind it. First, what kind of stuff did you decide to draw for Other Worlds, and why?
Hi, everyone! The book has a space exploration theme. It also definitely slants towards a few of my other interests—like archaeology and the pulpy science fiction of the 1950s to the 1970s. Technically, the illustrations in Other Worlds had to be designed with coloring in mind: lots of repetition and simple patterns that weave in and out of each other. In one regard, it’s very easy coloring; in another, it’s almost like a puzzle, because things stop and start as they pass behind and through other things.
The inspirations for individual illustrations just developed during the mindless sketching stage. I like to draw rockets. I’d been drawing a lot of simple space scenes for Instagram around the time I started discussing the possibility of a book with Lanternfish Press. I wanted to make a book that adults could color by themselves or with their kids. Thematically, the book is a pretty good mix of silly kid stuff, silly adult stuff (not the rude kind—get your minds out of the gutter!), and mesmerizingly repetitive patterns.
What is your creative process like?
A. Everything starts with doodling and music. I look for some background music that sets a mood, and then I start roughly drawing every idea I can think of as fast as possible. (I use a Sharpie—you can’t get too fussy when you’re drawing in permanent ink!) At this stage it’s not about anything but capturing the idea, maybe some suggestions of big shapes. I think for Other Worlds I initially ended up with 87 separate ideas.
Once I’ve worn a few Sharpies down to nubs, I do some self-editing and mix and match my favorite bits of each piece to get a bit closer to composed illustrations. They’re still very rough, but shaping up into something like an idea.
I’ll usually clean up those roughs in magic blue pencil so I can show sketches to people (like my publisher). Experience has taught me that showing anything before the magic blue sketches is counterproductive. Then, all that’s left to do is everything. I usually like to work in ink, but I decided on day one of Other Worlds production that I wanted to work digitally.
How do you set up your workspace? What tools do you use? Tell us about your crazy new software and favorite media!
Well, I usually scan my approved pencil sketches and basically work on top of them. At some point after I block in the big shapes I discard the sketches and just keep working.
As I mentioned, I decided to do the Other Worlds artwork digitally—I wanted maximum flexibility to tweak, mash up, and repurpose as many of the bits and pieces as possible. I also really wanted the line weight to match on everything.
As far as hardware, I’m pretty happy drawing on my old (wired) Wacom tablet, but it took me a while to decide what software I wanted to draw in. Photoshop didn’t offer the flexibility I was looking for. Your lines there are only as smooth as you’re capable of pulling the pen. I knew that by the end of the book my linework would have improved, making the result disjointed. Illustrator was more flexible, but had the same potential issue with the quality of hand-drawn lines.
I briefly considered an app called Concepts for the iPad Pro but wasn’t sure I wanted to hang the whole project on a piece of hardware I’d just gotten, only a few days previously.
Ultimately, a little serendipity intervened. I was sitting at Indy Hall when I got a marketing email from Wacom, part of their Create More campaign. It was a series of profiles of happy, productive Wacom tablet users, one of whom was Brooke A. Allen. She drew a monster and created an animated gif that was fantastic. At the time, I didn’t recognize the software she was using, but I soon discovered it was Clip Studio Paint, designed by a Japanese company for creators of manga and other animation. It offered a lot of what the Adobe products offered, plus amazing stroke stabilization! I bought it the next morning, without even a trial run, and had finished the first illustration for the book by the end of the next day.
When I’m not working digitally, I like to use pens—markers, paint pens, pencils. I’m much more a pen-and-pencil kind of artist than a brush artist, though I do occasionally use some toothbrush spatter in my work. (There’s none of that in Other Worlds.)
What did you keep in mind when creating illustrations specifically for other people to color?
We made a conscious decision to combine smaller and larger shapes in each piece. I tried to balance each piece so it would be visually interesting, and neither too simple nor too difficult. I’m aware that at least a few of the pages fall into the very difficult range. I’m pleased that a coloring book could be considered “difficult”! I also focused on making every inch of the book colorable, as much as possible.
Do you have a favorite illustration in Other Worlds?
I have two favorites: the ray guns (who doesn't love ray guns?) and the alien lab with the giant syringe. Both were fun to draw, and are even more fun to color!
Who are your influences?
I like so much! Cubist art, graffiti, calligraphy, single-panel comic strips. I would probably be an accountant if it weren’t for Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, Keith Haring, and Pablo Picasso.
I really just like shapes. I like how shape and color interact with each other, and I like how different people can look at the same shapes and colors and see vastly different things!