Dragon Riding has been a subject much discussed and mused upon in our house due to the fact that my youngest son George, knew that this was what he wanted to do when he grew up. He is now turning eighteen and I have an inkling that within his heart, to be a Dragon Rider is still a dream he holds onto. Five years ago our family were lucky enough to be introduced to dear Ciruelo by a mutual friend at Comic-Con in San Diego. My English ‘Dragon Boy’ finally got to meet his hero, the wonderful man who painted and thought of dragons the way George himself had always passionately envisioned them to be. Ciruelo greeted this young lad with immense warmth and grace, and on a level of mutual friendship that only the two of them could really understand… they both believed, and in these creature’s goodness and wisdom too, it is a moment I recall with much affection. In George’s room his walls have always been covered with this awesome artist’s fine work. To enter that space therefore, is to be transported into Ciruelo’s stunning world of majestic, breathtaking dragons flying free, taking you with them on their magical journeys. Imagine then both of our delight, when Ciruelo recently published a book about Fairies And Dragons, I am as enraptured as my son. In this impressive volume are the beautiful fae I believe in, together within a fantastic adventure story illustrated with Ciruelo’s instantly recognisable, exquisite art. We also discover the true tales, myths and legends pertaining to these dragons we already know so well…
"I dedicate this book to the original peoples of the American continent." Ciruelo
…Kume was a special boy, drawing everything that caught his eye in a sketchbook… his sister Yssala, was the girl who when dancing under the sun, fairies would follow her merry footsteps. She too was special in that they were completely unaware of the magic they possessed. Until one day the dragons came for the boy; aware of his ability to talk to stones, and the fairies summoned the girl because they knew that her voice had the ability to channel fire…
Fairies only speak through dreams to those prepared to listen to the Earth Mother, Pachamama… Yssala was surrounded by tiny lights… these fairies looked like sparkling thistle-down, moving very rapidly… and appeared to be made out of light… possessing the essence of the rainbow...”
(From the book, Fairies and Dragons: Art is Magic)
Ciruelo Cabral was born in 1963 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “I began to draw when I was a child as most illustrators do, since art is a natural way of expression for everybody. It was at the age of fifteen, when I discovered the art of Roger Dean on the covers of Yes albums, that I said to myself that I would be an illustrator like him. At that time I already had a great passion for music as well and played electric guitar in a rock band.”
You can guess how delighted my son was when he found out that his artist hero was also an accomplished guitarist! It often seems that the most talented folk are also musical or gifted in other artistic endeavours, as we can see by the fact that Ciruelo is a wonderful writer as well.
When he was still only nineteen years old, Ciruelo decided to pursue illustration as his profession, already oriented to all things fantastic from the books he'd read and films he’d enjoyed. After attending art college and working as a freelance illustrator, he moved to Spain in 1987.
Ciruelo settled in Barcelona, a city marked by the image of the dragon due to its patron, Saint George, and started working for a publisher doing fantasy book covers. Soon after, he produced his "Book of the Dragon" published in 1991 by that Spanish publisher; and in 1992 in London.
From that moment on, Ciruelo’s name became related to the dragon figure all over the world. Many US publishing houses began to hire him to create fantasy book illustrations, and he’s had eight books published of his work so far. He also designed the two wonderful dragons for the 2004 Sci-Fi channel film, George and the Dragon (Dragonsword) starring Patrick Swayze and James Purefoy. This production has a great screenplay, and it is a delight to see ‘proper’ dragons depicted in such an intelligent, kindly manner for a change!
Ciruelo listens to music continuously while he works, since it is a powerful source of inspiration for him. “I feel that music alters my perception and has a determining result in my art. Recently I have had the chance to devote time to composing and recording my own music, due to the advances in digital technology, and I am using those soundscapes to accompany my exhibitions, including the one currently running in Argentina (March 2009).” Ciruelo has been over there recently to open this exhibition and will personally be there for the close in April.
The fact that Ciruelo feels that art can be hidden in every single situation in life, became more evident in 1995. “This is when I started painting on rocks and called that art Petropictos. In this, I take advantage of the natural volume and texture of the stones, and paint to create shapes on something that is already three-dimensional. It's like sculpting with paint and the result is something halfway between a painting and a sculpture. What happens between the stone and myself is magic. It is not something I can explain since I do not know why or how I see it. The stone is giving me what I need to achieve a three-dimensional piece just by painting. I act, but I am also an instrument.
I believe that stones condense energy, that they possess a singular memory, which perhaps through art can be deciphered and represented. When people see this new kind of artistic expression - whether in Berlin, New York, Barcelona or Buenos Aires, cities where I have exhibited my stones – they react with the same surprise and interest. Petropictos changes people's perception of the landscape, after they’ve seen them, the stones that are laying on a beach or up a mountain no longer look the same. I think my Petropictos are the manifestation of my art with which I reach people the most.”
These truly astonishing works of uniquely original art really need to be seen in person. Years ago, the first time I actually held one of these treasures, I was drawn to want to touch the stone. My eyes completely convinced my brain that there just had to be an uneven surface full of all these natural looking contours. Ciruelo though, has ‘found’ that figure, creature or design in there and made it look like he’s sculpted the result, yet the smooth stone remains the same as it has for thousands of years. It is like the greatest illusion, and one becomes fascinated and transfixed with trying to persuade your mind that the image really is painted! I have included photos here of a stone before Ciruelo has worked his magic, and one of the finished Petropictos. They are truly the most remarkable and extremely clever pieces of elemental art I have ever had the pleasure to behold.
“For me, art is a way to look inside oneself and explore mysterious and infinite universes. Within those dimensions I find the simplest entertainment through to the most profound spirituality; together with intellect, pleasure, self-healing, communication, Mother Earth and so on.”
In 2004, Ciruelo published Travel Notebook, gathering together a series of drawings and texts that were very personal to him. “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 whilst in a state of “blank mind," which is an exercise that I love to practice, involving starting to draw without expectations and trying not to 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 every day drawing in this way, not letting my mind interfere at all. That state is "inspiration", and it is then when I connect with the deep dimensions of my spirit. One of those resulting texts says, "I'll draw no more. Now I want to be a magician." And when I made magic I realized that it was just like drawing.
In another text I say, "Everything Exists." And I am referring to my belief that within this infinite universe, everything that we can imagine "exists."
With respect to dragons, I just want to clarify that this planet was the planet of the Reptil-Saurians 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 that the energy of those Saurians still seeps into everything. The figure of the dragon dates back to Celtic, Asian and Pre-Colombian cultures and is present in almost all ancestral cultures. That cannot just be a coincidence.”
This latest book, "Fairies and Dragons: Art is Magic", was published in 2008, and the text and illustrations took Ciruelo almost three years to complete. It is aimed at the young, although I feel that any age would love this profound and exciting story. It includes, “…everything I am interested in, but in an adventurous manner.” This gorgeous hard-covered, tactile volume is very carefully thought through and presented in a beautiful, sympathetic format. Ciruelo imaginatively threads his colourful paintings throughout, every page is alive with energy and activity from all angles, including sketches, maps and striking full double-page spreads. All the illustrations were done in oil on canvas. The story is about a boy who is an artist, but it also tells about the ancient cultures throughout the American continent, and the real power that art possesses.
“Art lies within the essence of everything that exists.”
“Of course the book includes dragons and fairies since they are also present in all the Pre-Colombian culture's mythology. For these peoples, the world is multidimensional and full of different kinds of life, some of whom can interact with human beings. The woods, waters and mountains are inhabited by spirits that were very real for our ancestors all over the world, and I wanted that variety of entities to be ever present in my book.”
The main character is based on Ciruelo’s, eleven year-old, son Angelo. “He continuously reminds me of how I was when I was his age. I certainly lived ‘on another planet’ since my imagination was off traveling all the time, but I had no problems handling ‘this planet's duties’ as well. Since then, my task has been to keep that child alive within myself, and my two kids, Lys (my daughter who inspired the character of Yssala) and Angelo, help me a lot with that.”
The book is due to be made into a movie and will be filmed in La Patagonia.
Ciruelo lives with his lovely wife Daniela and their two children, in Sitges, a quaint, enchanted town near Barcelona on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This charming chap is modest and family-loving, with his feet firmly planted in this contemporary era while he takes us on journeys of infinite magic, weaving tales; pen, pencil, paintbrush and mind embedded in days of old. Ciruelo has been revered and highly respected within the Fantasy Art community for many years and his work is collected by a huge number of diverse, devoted fans from all over the world. This art needs no translation.
Hobsyllwin, the white dragon (“…in a class of their own.”) is like a family friend in our home, and maybe one day, my own George-who-loves-dragons’ ambitious dream will become a reality - all of us here understand the power of belief in wonder… As the fairy queen, Alhelsian says, “Fairies and dragons have always worked together. And thus it will be today as well.”
“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 stray further from their mission. I dare say that therein lies the outlying problem of most human beings." . .....................................Ciruelo
.....Elixana, the Sorceress and Hobsyllwin. Oil painting from the book Fairies and Dragons.