Interview by Paul Perry for the magazine THE ARGENTIMES

Argentine born Ciruelo, started his professional artistic career at a very early age. He went from working as a freelance illustrator, to one of today's most highly respected authorities on Fantastic Art. He has published several art books and created album covers for rock icons such as Steve Vai, and book covers for Hollywood names like George Lucas. Ciruelo has recently published a book that is soon to hit the big screen. Today Ciruelo will take us on a fantastic journey into his mind and reveal to Argentimers, "The man behind the Dragon."   I met Ciruelo Cabral one chilly Buenos Aires evening in June of 2007, when I stopped by my buddy Louie's house to drop off the first copy of my book. "Come in, I want you to meet a good friend of mine, " was all he said after opening the door. His good friend was none other than Ciruelo, an artist he had talked about several times while sitting around shooting the breeze. I was introduced as his friend "Paul Perry the poet," and Ciruelo as "The Genius of Dragons." We shook hands, and after a brief get to know you, I ran home to get another copy of my book. I came back and gave him book number two. He returned my humble gesture by giving me a copy of his latest book, "Cuaderno de Viajes." We became friends; and that is where this journey begins.

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's why 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 my 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 the Dragon" published?

C: My "Book of the Dragon" was first published in 1991 by a Spanish publishing house; and in 1992 by Paper Tiger in London who had previously published my book "Ciruelo". The Book of the Dragon was later translated into seven languages and touched every corner of the world making me known as a Dragon Artist. As I have already mentioned, I 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. I was also amazed about the presence of the Dragon in the ancient cultures from all over the world and that gave my paintings a more realistic and mystical approach. I became a dragon specialist after the publication of that book.

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 a 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 mentors for my inspiration. I shall also cite many authors and painters like, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tolkien, Castaneda, 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, Captain Beto. 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. Also, there are people who are born with incredible artistic talent which they need to develop through patience and effort.

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. In terms of personal obstacles an artist has to learn how to pull out his own creativity to create works of art with a personal and unique style.

P: Were you ever afraid of failure?

C: Yes, sometimes, when I started working in advertising at the age of twenty I was quickly hired by important advertising agencies and some of the orders were very challenging and difficult to do. Also, since I am color blind I always needed an extra care for achieving the right colors, and I have always required the help of somebody to check them.

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. I have a natural tendency to find beauty in every thing I see and that's the basic skill for an artist.

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. As beings of a modern society we need to open our minds and try to understand how our ancestors perceived the world. 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 logic 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. And the more durable results for the original artwork.

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, in 1995. 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 largest 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.

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.…



Copyright by Ciruelo