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Fab Ciraolo

Chilean illustrator combines pop culture, sci-fi and fantasy in a mind-bending amalgamation

by Greg Stefano in Culture on 09 January 2012

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The work of Fab Ciraolo makes it immediately clear that the Chilean-born illustrator has a very interesting outlook on this world. His pieces combine re-imagined elements of nostalgic popular culture with fantastical sci-fi standards and beautiful space-like atmospheres. Incorporating classic cartoon characters, fairy tale favorites and edgy popular icons, Ciraolo constructs compelling and enchanting artwork that stirs up whimsical feelings for the past while keeping one foot forward. We recently caught up with Ciraolo and got some insight into his process and where his surreal scenes take root.

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Where are you from and what is your background? How long have you been illustrating?

I am from Santiago Chile, born here. I think I've been illustrating since I can remember. My background was always around paintings, drawings and art exhibitions. I must thank my parents for this, they always encouraged me to keep doing this and showed me that this can be my way of living. The most important advice from them was to always stay true to what I love and to what I need to be happy, other stuff comes free if you are at peace with your talent.

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What techniques do you use to create your work?

Traditional painting, a lot of drawing, acrylics, color pencils, mostly anything I have near that might work to get a final result that makes me happy. I can remember using coffee in some paintings. Coffee is good to make some cool textures!

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What is the story behind your "Old School Heroes" series? How did Skeletor end up in a plaid suit?

These cartoons were always in my mind, when I was little I would draw all of them by hand, I just loved them, so one day it just came to me. Drawing He-Man in a flower suit, I just did it and the result was interesting and fun to me. So I keep digging in all these characters making them more fashionable, always wondering how will they look in cool suits and jackets and tight pants— hipster looks. I wasn't inventing something out of this world, just giving a little twist to things that were in my mind a long time ago.

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A lot of your work incorporates space-like elements and fairy tale references as well as pop culture icons, where does your inspiration comes from?

I am like a sponge, very visual, I hate reading but love looking. My mind is full of these icons and these images. I love to mix the old with the modern, giving things that already exist a new fresh air, a new vision. I am working in these series, with Frida, Che Guevara and Dalí, it is the result of all these things that are in my mind. How would these great characters look today? This is the main idea of all of these. I mix them with all the images that are inside my head and it is like an explosion of images that I need to get out and put them together in one piece.

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How much of your work is commercial and how much is personal? Is there much crossover between the two?

I think it's 50/50. I think this is the perfect mix, sometimes I get tired of doing commissions, but sometimes I love it. I have been lucky to participate in very interesting projects this year, and to always have time to make my personal art as well. You must find a balance between these two things, but always, ALWAYS give time to your own art, this is the best way to grow, to learn, to make mistakes and not be afraid of changes.

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How do you think art fits into popular culture now with the power of the Internet? How has the web affected your craft?

It is amazing and has helped me so much. It let me show my art to the entire world and really fast too. I was very afraid at first to show my work, because it was so mine, it was my real thing, what comes out of my head, but people like it and I am so glad. Art should be a popular culture, art is culture, art is expression it is a must! At least for me!

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