Paul: Let me start by asking you about your early pencil and paper days. What were some of the first things you drew?
Ciruelo: Surely, the first things I drew came from characters out of some children's comic books. At a very early age, I was interested in fantastic comics. However, I also remember having a passion for drawing animals.
P: What neighborhood did you grow up in?
C: In Flores mainly. Due to economic problems, we had to move around a lot during my childhood. That made is so I wasn’t as attached to neighborhoods like others were.
P: When did you first consider a career as an artist, as compared to a hobby?
C: It was at the age of fifteen, when I discovered the art of Roger Dean on the covers of Yes albums. That was when I said to myself that I would be an illustrator like him.
P: Did your job as an illustrator play a big part in your artistic career, how?
C: An illustrator is an artist that applies his work to a text or to the ideas of another. I did that for many years, and now, I have achieved the liberty to work freely, and I create my art only for my own ideas and texts.
P: Is there a turning point in your life that you would like to share?
C: Apart from the birth of my children, i can say the experience of having built the house where I reside with my family with own two hands is the most important thing that has happened to me.
also the fact of moving to a foreign country opened my points of view and made me experiment the sensation of being a citizen of the world and make me feel at home in any city to which I travel.
P: I know you enjoy traveling, what is the most inspiring place you have visited in Argentina?
C: I have been in many places of the Patagonia in which I stumbled upon pure magic. I wrote some of those places in my Travel Book: "I often wish to awaken in that land of fossils I can see out there. That place that oozes mirages from which all sorts of invisible animals lurk. I am aware that awakening there is dangerous, for there is a risk of fading amid the aura of the winds, only to return as something different. But I long to be there even if in an undefined body, to witness souls evaporate from the stones.
P: I like the old Sinbad movies and Greek mythology films like; Clash of the Titans. What are some of your favorite films? Have they influenced your art?
C: No doubt about it, many films have influenced me; such as: Willow, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, etc…But literature and music influence me just as much.
P: When was your first book "The Book of Dragons" published?
C: My "Book of the Dragon" was published in 1991 by a Spanish editorial; and in 1992 by Paper Tiger in London. It was later translated into seven languages and touched every corner of the world. As I have already mentioned, I was always held a passion for animals and the "design" that nature applies to them, so you see, it was not difficult to create dragons based on iguanas and crocodiles with the wings of a bat.
P: You have done several album covers for musicians like; Steve Vai, how do the worlds of music and art combine?
C: In my particular case, both worlds are absolutely connected. I listen to music continuously while I work, I feel music alters my perception, and that has determining result in my work. I believe the combination of music and image bloomed with the invention of cinematography.
P: Is there anyone who has served as a source of inspiration? Why?
C: Like I said, music is a very powerful source of inspiration for me, and I must cite Spinetta, Steve Vai, and Pat Metheny…as great messengers for my inspiration. I shall also cite, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tolkien, Castaneda, and Don Juan, Deepak Chopra, Hayao Miyazaki, Moebius, Frazetta, etc, etc…
P: Speaking of Spinetta, I remember we met at his house, how did you meet him?
C: Ever since I was fourteen, Spinetta has been a great source of influence for me; both musically and poetically. In 1983, at the age of twenty, I had the opportunity to meet him and show him my first drawings. A few years later, my first book came out in London and I took Spinetta a copy of it when I returned to Argentina. I showed him a portrait I had included of him in the book. Since then, our friendship has grown, just like my admiration for his infinite and inspiring art.
P: Do you believe a person is born with artistic talent?
C: I firmly believe that EVERYONE is born with some sort of artistic talent. The problem is that most people don't harvest it. What's more, they don't realize it even exists. And then, given the obligations of society, they end up working at something that is in no way related to that primitive talent. And they stray further from their mission. I dare say that there lies the outlining problem of most human beings.
P: What sparks your imagination?
C: Nature, love, music, dreams, kids, fire, the clouds, and about ten million other things.
P: What are some of the main obstacles that an artist must face?
C: In terms of freelance illustrators-artists, one of the main obstacles is self-discipline, because you don't have a boss breathing down your back. Another of the problems is that, apart from artistic talent, one must possess the ability to deal with clients and know how to "sell" your work. But in fact, perhaps the most important problem is finding the way to create the kind of art you like, within that which the market requests.
P: Were you ever afraid of failure?
C: Yes, sometimes, when I started working in advertising at the age of 20. I was quickly hired by large agencies and some of the orders were very important and difficult.
P: I believe artists, as well as poets; see the world around them in a unique and mystifying way, as if looking through eyes that enhance perception and detect aspects that go unnoticed to the average eye. How do you see the world?
C: Your question already has plenty of the answer I would give. For me, art is a way to look inside oneself and explore mysterious and infinite universes. Within those dimensions, I find from the simplest entertainment to the most profound spirituality, passing through intellect, pleasure, self- healing, communication with others, etc…
P: Do you believe dragons existed or still exist somewhere?
C: In one of my drawings in the Travel Book I say, "Everything Exists." And I am referring to my belief that within this infinite universe, everything that we can imagine, "Exists." With respects to dragons, I just want to make it clear that this planet was at one time; the planet of the Reptil-Saurios for millions of years. The history of mammals is very recent on Earth, and of humans even more recent. So it should come as no surprise for the energy of those Sauruses still seep into everything. The figure of the dragon dates back to Celtic, Asian and Pre-Colombian cultures and is present in almost all ancestral cultures, and that can not be just a coincidence. For now, I leave my answer at that.
P: I read most of your Travel Book on a train ride to Retiro station, and it was one of the transcendental train rides I had ever taken. The combination of the words and the drawings blew me away. It honestly turned a monotonous and awful commuting experience into a cool moment. When the train got to the station, I had totally forgotten where I was going and where I was. Anyway, my question is; what inspires you to create these odd beings; do you just doodle, or do you actually see them? I myself see little green people from time to time and lived with a ghost in Rio for six months, so…I'll believe just about anything you tell me.
C: My Travel Book gathers a series of drawings and texts that are very personal, which in fact were not created with the intention of being exhibited to others. They are notes of things that dawned on me and could only be captured through short captions and simple drawings. Some of them were created while in a state of "a blank mind," which is an exercise that I love to practice and that involves starting to draw without expectations, trying to not think of anything. When the drawing is complete, I try to interpret what it says to me and then I come up with the words to accompany it. That is all. In fact, I would love to spend the whole day drawing in this state; without letting my mind interfere at any time. That state is "inspiration" and that is when I connect with the deep dimensions of my spirit.
P: Which techniques do you use and which do you prefer?
C: I really enjoy experimenting with different techniques. However, lately I've been focused on oil on canvas, because to me they seem to present the richest array of possibilities.
P: What non-living artist do you admire most?
C: There are so many, but I have to cite Leonardo Da Vinci as a complete artist.
P: What is your greatest masterpiece; apart from your kids?
C: Truly, my kids are my masterpiece. Apart from that I could say, my Petropictos are my manifestation of art where I most vibrate and with which I reach people most.
P: I've seen picture of Petropictos on your web page, but what exactly are they?
C: Petropictos is the art of painting on stones, which is a technique I created almost fifteen years ago. I took advantage of the natural volume and the texture of the stones. I paint to create shapes on something that is already three dimensional. It's like sculpting with paint. The effect is truly interesting. What happens between the stone and I is magic. That is where the secret in technique rests. It is not something I can explain. I do not know why or how I see it; I just simply do. The stone is giving me what I need. I act but I am also an instrument. I hold Petropictos exhibitions in many cities around the world. However, the most important one was held here in Buenos Aires.
P: What projects are you currently working on?
C: I have just finished writing and illustrating a book called; "Fairies and Dragons. Art is magic." It is a story that took me three years to complete. It targets youngsters and includes everything I have just mentioned, but in an adventurous manner. It has to do with the magic of the ancient cultures throughout the American continent. I will present it officially at the Buenos Aires book fair in May. Also, I will be holding a series of international and local exhibits throughout this year and next. The book is being made into a movie and will be filmed in La Patagonia.
P: Finally, what advice would you give to a person who wants to pursue a career as an artist?
C: First of all, that they find their true calling and own personality with their art. Secondly, when they feel love for what they are doing, that they share it with the world.
P: Thanks so much for your time, Ciruelo. It has been a true pleasure.
C: You're welcome.
To learn more about Ciruelo and his fascinating artwork, visit his webpage: www.dac-editions.com