editions: When did you first discover
your artistic skill?
Ciruelo: I began to draw when I was a child, as most illustrators
At the age of nine I knew that I had the personal facilities for
drawing. In fact, I spent many hours a day doing it.
DAC: What training have you received,
formal or otherwise?
C: On the advice of some of my teachers, my mother sent
me to a school which had some artistic courses: drawing, interior
decoration and handicraft. Besides the normal classes, I did three
specialised years of drawing. At 18 I finished that school and,
after a while, joined an advertisting agency doing all the menial
jobs. Working in that agency I really learnt what's necessary
to be independent. I became familiar with the airbrush and all
kinds of materials, and also got to know other illustrators. I
left that agency at 20 and ever since I've been a freelance illustrator.
So my apprenticeship was really informal, based on practising
techniques I saw in books and speaking with other artists. Anyway,
hard work was the better school.
DAC: When and why did you move
to Spain from Argentina?
C: I moved to Spain in 1987 and came to Europe mainly because
of Argentina's economic problems. Furthermore, I had the necessity
of making more creative illustrations so I had to keep away from
advertising, which I couldn't do living in Argentina. I chose
Spain because of the language and because there were some friends,
also illustrators, living there.
Influences and techniques
DAC: What started your interest
in fantasy art?
C: Since I was a child I was delighted by comics, fantasy
literature and movies, but what really fired my interest in fantasy
art was the discovery of the books of Roger Dean and Frank Frazetta,
at the age of 15. I thought that to make a living doing this sort
of work would be just marvellous.
DAC: Which artists do you admire
C: There are many artists I really admire, whose styles
differ very much from each other: Frazetta, Moebius, Alan Lee,
Carlos Nine and Chichoni are artists for whom my admiration is
unchanging. I consider it very important to keep technique, drawing,
composition and imagination at the same level of quality. That
is what the illustrators I mentioned do.
DAC: Can you describe how you
work, from the initial idea to the completed work.
C: When I start an illustration I imagine it until I have
finished it in my head. Then I begin to gather information to
use as references. I have a file with photos taken from magazines,
and some others taken by myself. I usually photograph my wife
Daniela as a model for the feminine characters and myself for
the masculine ones. Then I make many little pencil sketches and,
if possible, color sketches too.
When I have the idea resolved, I start to make the original pencil
drawing which is transferred to the canvas. The average time that
an illustration takes is approximately fifteen days.
DAC: Do you have a favourite
C: My favourite medium at the moment is based on the acrylic
paints handled with a brush on canvas. An airbrush is also used
over the brush work. Although I have tried out many different
techniques and styles, I still love to experiment. The airbrush
applied on cardboard used to be my main tool during an important
part of my career.
The following is an interview posted on the Paper Tiger website on September 1999
News from Spain by
is one of the most exciting sf/fantasy artists around, because
he's always followed his own muse. Right at the moment, for example,
he's deeply engaged in ... but perhaps you'd better read this
interview he was kind enough to grant us.
PS: Although you
work for US publishers and your reputation as an illustrator is
international, you choose to live in Spain. Most other fantasy
artists of your calibre live in either the UK or the USA. Why
did you choose Spain? And do you ever feel that living in Spain
puts you at a disadvantage in the competition with those other
CC: I moved to
Spain in 1987 because there were a couple of friends of mine living
there and, coming from Argentina, I found it a paradise in which
I could settle to start working for the fantasy market. The language
was also an important factor in my decision. Of course it's a
disadvantage not to live in the USA when it comes to getting assignments
from publishers in New York. But I really like living in Spain
so I will keep trying to contact the publishers through conventions
and fairs, which I attend twice a year in the USA. Also nowadays,
with the new communications technologies, you can live wherever
you want in the world and have your work seen on a website, get
assignments through it, finish your painting and get it digitalized
and send it "through space" via satellite to wherever
your client is, for him to get it printed. And that possibility
is breaking the boundaries in this field faster than you can imagine.
PS: Of course,
one of the big fields of fantasy art that isn't so concentrated
in the English-speaking world is animation, which is obviously
very strong in Japan, the old Communist Bloc countries, Italy
and so on. The other that immediately comes to my mind is comics,
which are especially important in Japan, Italy, the South American
countries and Spain, among others. Do you ever feel like turning
your attention to either animation or the comics?
CC: I really love
some comic artists' work but I don't think I will do comics. Animation
is an incredible medium - nowadays due to computers as well -
and I really hope to do much work for that in the future. In fact
there is a film company in New York which is working on a computer-animated
movie in which I could be involved. It's still too soon to say
more about that project.
PS: What media
do you prefer to use in your fantasy and sf illustration, and
CC: I have tried
and experimented with many different techniques in my career,
and I've had the opportunity to create some new ones as a result
of that constant search. All of them can be seen in my four artbooks:
Ciruelo, The Book of the Dragon, Luz: The Art
of Ciruelo and Magia: The Ciruelo Sketchbook. But when
it comes to my art for book covers I usually use acrylic on canvas
with brush and a few touches of airbrush. I am trying to use more
oils in the future as well, much in the classic way; but, contrariwise,
I love computers and enjoy producing digital art also.
PS: I understand
you've been doing a lot of 3D work/sculpture recently. Can you
tell our readers a bit about this?
CC: Yes, I am currently
working on a new branch of my art which I call Petropictos:
The Art of Painting on Stone, and that in fact is three-dimensional
work although my part of it is only painting. The market for my
stones is different from that of my fantasy art since I exhibit
and sell them in galleries. The following is part of a text included
in my book Luz: "His first Petropictos were
created early in 1995, when the artist found himself excited by
the very nature of the work. Painting directly onto the surface
of stones, he follows their natural configurations, in which he
is able to discover three-dimensional images of animals and human
beings. His stones seem to have been sculpted when in fact they
are only studied until they reveal their own natural forms. The
result is something halfway between a painting and a sculpture.
To achieve his realistic effects, Ciruelo uses an airbrush but,
for certain details, a paintbrush as well. His paint is acrylic.
The inexhaustible wealth of shapes and textures that stone can
contribute enriches the artist's work incomparably. Stone has
always fascinated the artist, and it has inspired many of his
illustrations as well. Ciruelo believes that stones condense energy,
that they possess a singular memory, which perhaps through art
can be deciphered and represented. When they see this new kind
of artistic expression, people - whether in Berlin, New York,
Los Angeles or Barcelona, cities where Ciruelo has exhibited his
stones - react with the same surprise and interest. Ciruelo's
Petropictos change our perception of the landscape. After we see
them, the stones on a beach or a mountain are no longer the same."
PS: How do you
go about creating a cover illustration for a rock album? Do you
immerse yourself in the music until you find inspiration, or do
you prefer to work at a more remote distance than that?
CC: Since I have
always been a musician myself I love to listen to music when I
work. I have had the opportunity to create album covers for musicians
that I admire like Steve Vai and some Argentinian artists like
Spinetta, Pedro Aznar and Marcelo Torres. So I had a great time
doing those commissions and I hope to keep on doing that.
PS: How much of
a part does music play in your non-album-cover work?
CC: I find music
absolutely inspirational in my art and in my life in general so
it plays an important role in the references that act in my creativity.
PS: Do you read
much fantasy and sf when you're not illustrating it? What sorts
of fantasy and sf do you personally prefer?
CC: I used to read
lot of fantasy literature when I was a teenager - comic magazines,
too. Unfortunately I don't have much spare time to do that now,
but when I do I read books about ancient cultures like the Mayans,
Celts and Tibetans and their approach to life and nature.
PS: You've recently
put out a CD-ROM edition of your The Book of the Dragon.
Did all the technical stuff involved prove painful, or did you
enjoy translating the book into the different medium?
CC: As I mentioned
before I love computers, so I hugely enjoyed manipulating my images
in Photoshop to insert them in the "movie" for the CD-ROM.
Also, I was amazed to discover, this medium allowed me to include
music along with the pictures, so I took the opportunity to compose
and perform the soundtrack for it. I realized that technology
was helping me yet again, because I had a whole orchestra at my
disposal through synthesizers (which I mixed with Spanish guitars).
As a result I've decided to reÄpursue my career as a musician
from now on.
PS: Have you any
exhibitions on the horizon, either in galleries or at conventions?
CC: I am currently
exhibiting a lot in galleries and conventions all over the world.
I am planning a big exhibition of Petropictos in Buenos
Aires and also in Los Angeles. I have a permanent one in London
and in Sitges, Spain, where I live. I will be at DragonCon, San
Diego Comic Con and GenCon in the USA, and also many more conventions
in Germany, France and England, where people can meet me and see
my work for a weekend. All details about those events are announced
on my website, www.dac-editions.com.
PS: And the almost
inevitable final question - what are your artistic plans for the
CC: Some of my
plans I've already explained, but in general I will keep on working
in the same direction, since I am doing what I want to do. You
will always find the fantastic aspect of life in my paintings,
an aspect that for many ancient cultures was the "real"
PS: Ciruelo Cabral,
thank you very much.
TM and © 1999 Paper Tiger
& Associates, Authors & Artists