The Big Heart and Imagination of Artist Jose Lucio

Local illustrator and children’s book author has a big imagination and an even bigger heart.

One morning, you might find José Lucio sitting in a classroom in Savannah, reading to children at a local school. Later that night, you might find him spinning records at a hip downtown bar or teaching art to young students at Scribble Art Studios, under the name José Ray. José Lucio Ray, 36, is a busy man. His latest creative endeavor, though, a second children’s book, has him thinking even more outside the box than usual. 

Free Rain” is José Lucio’s newest book, a story about chickens making the transition from the coop to free range. As the title implies, the naïve chickens are confused about their new home and get swept up in buzz around the barn. The book, which goes to print in January, sees the chickens come together to achieve a common goal and improve their lives. His friend from Seattle, Daniel Wentzel, helped write the book, inspired by contemporary, humane farming. 

“It’s been fun to write,” says José. “Animating these otherwise expressionless animals has been a blast.”

José uses two names to make the distinction between his many artistic endeavors. He goes by José Lucio, his middle name, when he’s working on digital illustration, like his children’s books. He saves Ray, his last name, for his studio work and paintings, like his vibrant murals across downtown Savannah. 

“I can always tell what people are looking for based on what name they call me and what avenue they found me through,” he says. 

It’s a distinction that’s as different as his styles. Lucio creates illustrations with flat textures and implied lines; Ray uses strictly line work. 

He found his personal style at the Savannah College of Art and Design nine years ago – and his passion for visual storytelling. A painting and illustrations major, José decided to try a children’s book illustration class. From there, the idea for his first book, “Heave, Ho!,” took root. 

 

“I like books that show animal protagonists up against a bigger power and seeing them band together,” José says. 

The book follows the struggle of a worm being pulled from the ground by a bird, and all the creatures that come to help both sides in a tug-of-war match.

José says that he and Wentzel both appreciate the use of children’s books as a metaphor. “I liked the tension and absurdity of it,” he says.

José created the entire book without text, then added it at the very end. It was an intentional move. “I really wanted it to read visually for kids who aren’t reading yet,” he explains. 

His unorthodox approaches go beyond just his creative process. He applies outside-the-box thinking to more than just his children’s stories. At 60 pages, "Free Rain" is much longer than the typical children’s book. 

"I’m always thinking about rhythm and design,” José says, “I wanted to pace out the text in the story the way I pictured it."

 

To find out if José Lucio writes again and more, subscribe now or pick up the February/March issue of South Magazine.