Friday, August 15, 2014

Interview with Artist: Luis V. Rey

Luis V. Rey is a Spanish-Mexican artist residing in London. Visual Arts MA from San Carlos Academy (UNAM), Mexico. Professional Surrealist multi-media illustrator and also amateur paleontologist for more than 35 years. He is currently devoting most of his time to accurate but daring paleontological reconstructions. He has recently collaborated with authors like Henry Gee ("Field Guide To Dinosaurs") and Palaeontologists Thom Holtz (Random House’s “The Most Complete Up To Date Dinosaur Encyclopedia") and Robert Bakker ("Golden Book of Dinosaurs").

Luis V. Rey has been one of my favorite paleo-artists since I first saw his work.  He could always be counted on to reconstruct dinosaurs in a totally unique and out-of-the-box way yet still staying within the realm of scientific accuracy.  Icing on the cake is his work is freakin beautiful.  Nobody uses color like Luis V Rey.  He was definitely a big inspiration for me when making my own art and serves as a beautiful example of how paleo-art is a perfect marriage of science and imagination.

At what age did you become interested in dinosaurs?  Were they always a subject of your art?

LR: I was interested in dinosaurs all my childhood (to start with)… but I didn’t really get into serious dinosaur restorations until the Dinosaur Renaissance (specifically end of the 1980’s)…. and no, they were not always a subject of my art. Being what they were (part of my childhood), at the beginning I integrated them in my surrealism once in a while!
Only later I decided to study palaeontology and get serious about it.

Luis V. Rey's rendition of a very happy Carnotaurus couple.

Is there any particular artist who particularly inspired you growing up?  How about today?

LR: If you talk about “paleoartists”(a term unknown until fairly recently)… I would have to say that Burian and Zallinger were my main inspiration… but during the Dinosaur Renaissance that switched me to Robert Bakker, Greg Paul, John Sibbick… and the lot!

Luis Rey's rendition of the famous theropod, Spinosaurus, based on the most recent discoveries made about the animal.

When did you decide to pursue a career in illustration?

LR: When I was 21 I took my leave from being dependent from my father and became full time professional illustrator. That was after I started  three years earlier studying in the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico (when I was 18). But the Art thing was always running high in the family’s father side. I’ve been painting, sculpting and drawing all my life.

Luis Rey's recent depiction of Triceratops.

What medium do you most prefer to use for your art?  Any particular reason why?

LR: It has changed through the years. Now I combine drawing with pencils on paper and finishing the whole thing in veritable “orchestra mood” in the computer.

Luis Rey's depiction of Protoceratops and Velociraptor based on a real fossil found of the two in very close quarters to one another.
You recently started working a lot more with digital media.  How do you like that compared to actual paints?  Is one particularly better than the other in your opinion?

LR: They are completely different mediums. And as long as you have developed you own style you can use both without any problem… it has been almost a “prefect” sequence. The main thing is tho continue to be “you” and don’t let the tools take over..,. that is a danger with computers… if you haven’t developed a style beforehand you become victim of repeating what the computer tells you.
Everything I do is “handmade” one way or another!

Ouranosaurus being threatened by the large crocodile, Sarcosuchus.  This scene was created with the help of a computer but the artist's work still shines through clearly.

Your paleo-art has always known to be bold and certainly unique.  You are not afraid to think outside the box on a lot of reconstructions.  What is your mentality behind this?

LR: Apart from the obvious influence that my upbringing and my cultural background has provided me, my main inspirations are  the natural world and  thorough  research to back my restorations. It is important to build your own criterio and style based on these two things.

Luis Rey's portrait of a dynodont, a reptile with some mammalian features.

Have you ever received any negative feedback on any of your work?  How do you respond to that?

LR: I’m used to it. The only thing I can say… there’s no obligation to like what I do! But I can’t let that put me down… and I have had PLENTY of criticism all these years! As long as my “homework” is done (that is, the anatomy of the animals is correct)… at least I can’t be accused of not trying to do my best !

Luis Rey's rendition of a Tyrannosaurus family enjoying Sunday dinner.

Art and illustration is such a diverse field.  It has also changed dramatically within the past decade or so.  What advice would you have to give an aspiring artist today?

LR: The same I was talking before: develop your own style and be passionate about what you do. Be bold and try to think out of box… never try to copy for the sake of copying. Be original in your approach!

What is your favorite part about creating paleo-art.  Is there anything you don't like about it?

LR: Favourite things? Well, the thrill of doing a new reconstruction like nobody has done before for starters…
And the main thing I don’t like is bureaucracy.  In the late nineties I put a stop of being handled by publishers or academics. If they wanted to blacklist me, go ahead… but I’m not painting my Deinonychus without feathers or compelled doing things in “John Sibbick's Style” (for good or bad I have my own)! Yes, I understand that I’m never going to be “rich” in this profession!

Luis Rey's depiction of Deinonychus with a strong turkey influence which is perfectly plausible much to the dismay of all the Jurassic Park fanboys.

You have illustrated some great dinosaur books written by very knowledgeable paleontologists like Dr. Thomas Holtz's dinosaur encyclopedia or, more recently, Dr. Robert Bakker's remake of the Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs.  How much artistic freedom do you usually have working with scientists like them?  Do you ever bounce ideas off each other or collaborate?

LR: We try as much as possible to collaborate… but there were moments that each side just went on “our own”… sometimes It was chaotic (special with Dr. Bob)… but he is also an artist… and at the end we understood each other. Academics are difficult to pin down because they are always busy with their own things… tell that to Dr. Holtz… we have TWO great projects hanging in there for at least four years! ... One day they will happen.

Luis Rey and the DOCTOR Thomas Holtz showcasing their wildly successful book, Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages.  This book is also one of my favorites to the point where I drove down to Maryland to have Dr. Holtz sign it in person back in 2012.

What was your favorite dinosaur growing up?  How about today?

LR: Obviously it has to be Tyrannosaurus rex… today there are too many to count… most of the feathered!

Luis Rey's rendition of a pair of Tyrannosaurus (feathered as they should be) making some new Tyrannosaurus.

Jurassic Park and Land Before Time (opposite ends of the spectrum I know) were the movies I remember as a kid that fueled my passion for dinosaurs. What was your most memorable movie?

LR: Jurassic Park was obviously the catalyst, but suddenly I understood that dinosaurs were NOT monsters of film land as Spielberg would try to show… too many mistakes and too much fiction. I like TV series best… and there have been some good recent ones. I simply adore the work of David Krentz (but NOT with Disney!).

Allosaurus feeding her family a sauropod leg.

Dinosaurs and the animals that lived at the same time as them were amazing creatures. Why do you feel dinosaurs continue to fascinate us?

LR: We all have a child inside and the first thing those skeletons in the museums do to you is to fill you with awe. The next thing is: how did they look? How did they live and where and when. The detective inside is immediately triggered. Then there’s the other factor (that I talk quite a lot about in my presentations), the “Icon” factor. We have certain images that go beyond time and space and become symbols in the collective mind. Dinosaurs are one of these. To change these images (that in time foster prejudices) and give them different meanings and ways of looking at them is also a task and a challenge for the artist, specially considering you are depicting REAL animals… not just icons in a museum.
How  do you convince people that dinosaurs are NOT extinct? A marriage of Science with Imagination is the key.

Utahraptor and Troodon from Dr. Robert Bakker's book, Raptor Red.

What is your favorite time period?

LR: If you count the amount of dinosaurs that exercise more fascination in me, it has to be the Cretaceous… but the Jurassic is perfectly OK too!

Deinocheirus and Tarbosaurus.  Luis Rey did NOT make up the spoon bill nor the hump, by the way.  The animal actually had those.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests (paleo or non paleo related)?

LR: All sorts of Arts and art crafts, Psychology, Social Sciences and… Music… specially Music!

and don't forget dinosaur cosplay!

Thank you so much Luis V Rey!  Be sure to check out Mr. Rey's blog and online gallery.


  1. Son tan hermosos. gracias por compartir.

  2. Hm, interesting. His art was in a book i read when i was 6-10 years old, i'm not sure what happened to it. These bring back memories and i'm really proud of his work, even showing up in the kids movie: Walking with Dinosaurs!