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Spotlight Artist – Rey Bustos

Rey Bustos is one of the leading artistic anatomists in the country today! Rey has taught in all of LAAFA’s Programs for many years and is one of our students’ most respected instructors. We are currently in production and post production for online educational videos by Rey, which are due out in 2011/2012.

Why did you decide to become an artist?

When my family came here from Colombia, South America, I was the youngest of four and at six years old I really didn’t know what was going on. The move, the language, nothing was explained to me. Anyway, I had a very difficult time. I had never been to school before and all of a sudden I was in the first grade in a “Sink or Swim” educational system. Though I had no desire to draw nor color in Colombia, here in our new home, the U.S., I discovered that when we had “Art Time” the kids seemed to gather around me and what I drew. It was the only time that I felt that I was on an equal playing field. I was hooked.

What other interests do you have besides being an artist and instructor?

I love going to museums and I never have a single day without working on a crossword puzzle. I do about 400 a year, every year. I am also an American history buff with a slight leaning towards U.S. Presidents. It’s hard to stump me on presidential trivia. If I didn’t teach art, I’d love to teach American History.

What motivates you to teach and how do you keep up your enthusiasm when things get tough in class?

Enthusiasm is something no one can learn nor teach. At its root, enthusiasm is inspiration and the root of that is the Latin word “Spiritus” or breath. You can see that it is where we got the word for spirit or inspiration. It is said that it is the spirit from those that came before you that breathe into you the love that they shared for a thing and when you feel their breath, you are filled with their spirit. I feel that every time that I teach. I feel the spirit of the old masters telling me to keep passing on the knowledge that has been passed to me and in turn it is my moral obligation to pass it on to my students. I can’t be any other way than to be full of that spirit and when I am in front of my classes, that spirit is overwhelming and it takes over.

How did you discover you had a talent for art?

This question is the most interesting for me to answer because I am one of the only people that I know that can answer that almost to the exact date. As stated above I came here at six. When I discovered through the attention from the other kids that I had a talent for drawing, I looked forward to art time and especially rainy days when we got to stay inside and either read or do art. I loved not only being able to draw but I have always loved the rain. It was second grade and I had a seat by the window that year. One particularly rainy day, the rain was coming down so hard that the blacktop outside was being pelted by torrents of water. The tetherball courts seemed to glisten and dance in the wind and rain. It was loud and I was warm and drawing inside. I felt a wave of joy that I had never felt before, and I remember that October day in 1965 (I always remembered Octobers since it is my birth month). It was raining and I was drawing and I remember very clearly thinking, “I want to do this for the rest of my life!”

When I bought my home, I looked to see which room would be my studio, it was the big bedroom with the large windows. I put my drawing table there next to the window and every time that it rains I go there and draw and remember it was that
little boy that decided what I would do the rest of my life. It’s hard not to be grateful and in love with life when I feel that feeling over and over again starting with that rainy day so long ago.

Where did you train and how did your training influence you?

I taught myself a lot before I went to college. But at a point I knew that I needed a lot more than what I could do on my own. So after helping my late wife get through her school and after she got her masters in audiology, it was my turn. I was accepted to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. It was there that I had some amazing teachers and one of them in particular was my anatomy teacher, the legendary Burne Hogarth. I graduated with honors. I was even elected by the student body to be their speaker at graduation and illustrated and did fine art exhibits for a few years. I am still an exhibiting artist…but it’s as a teacher that I feel most at home and most fulfilled.

I remember very clearly listening to Mr. Hogarth talk and talk and talk about anatomy. His knowledge was scary. I remember listening and thinking to myself, “I want to do that for the rest of my life!” See a pattern? Well Mr. Hogarth died in 1995 and he left a big hole at Art Center. I started teaching the same class in January of 1998 and I made the class my own….but one thing was and has always been the same; the room. I insisted on teaching the class in the same room as he did. I will still be there until I die and someone fills my shoes.

How do you convey to students the importance of learning anatomy?

I simply talk. I am not a salesman but I believe in the knowledge that made the old masters great is still and always will be of vital importance to any art and its culture. My passion speaks loudly through my teachings. I always make sure that regardless of the kind of art that you pursue, communication is the key no matter what. An artist is nothing if they can’t speak with knowledge. The ability to communicate with art and wisdom is the voice of the artist.

What do you consider to be the key factors to having a successful career as an artist?

Belief in oneself! Not through arrogance but through knowledge of the past, those that came before us, integrity and humility but with an iron will and steadfastness!