THE NEWS FROM SPAIN by Paul Barnett for the Paper Tiger website - September 1999

Ciruelo Cabral 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.

PB: 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 artists?

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.

PB: 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 other that immediately comes to my mind is comics. 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 although I would do concept art, characters design and so on, not the animation work directly.

PB: What media do you prefer to use in your fantasy and sf illustration, and why?

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. During many years I used to work with acrylics on canvas with brush and a few touches of airbrush. But in the last few years I have been using exclusively oils on canvas, much in the classic way.

PB: 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. As I don't carve the rock at all it can't be called "sculpture" although the final result is a threedimensional piece.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."

PB: 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, so it's easy for me to get inspired to do an album cover by listening the music. The subject of the image is usually the result of sketching over the musician's ideas. I have had the opportunity to create album covers for musicians that I admire like Steve Vai, The Flower Kings 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.

PB: 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.

PB: 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 and 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. Some of my favorite authors are: Tolkien, Borges, Liliana Bodoc, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Castaneda, etc.

PB: 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 repursue my career as a musician from now on.

PB: 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 Italy, where people can meet me and see my work for a few days. All details about those events are announced on my website,

PB: And the almost inevitable final question - what are your artistic plans for the future?

CC: In general I will keep on working in the same direction since I am doing what I want to do. The "illustrated book" format is one that I always loved so I will try to write my own stories to paint the scenes I really have in my head. I will always represent the fantastic aspect of life in my paintings, an aspect that for many ancient cultures was the "real" world.

PB: Ciruelo Cabral, thank you very much.

TM and © 1999 Paper Tiger & Associates, Authors & Artists


Copyright by Ciruelo