Interview with DULK for ‘Heritage’ | Exhibition June 3 – June 24, 2023 

Thinkspace is excited to present DULKHeritage‘ where he brings his worlds of stylized animalia and character creatures. Striking an unlikely balance between the playful ease of children’s make-believe and the prescient threat of ecological doomsday, Dulk’s works celebrate the beauty of nature’s biodiversity while simultaneously mourning the imminence of its loss. Much in the same way that fantasy actively invites collusion with nightmare, Dulk’s extravagantly lush imagination, for all of its seductive warmth, is punctuated by premonitory distress, and poignantly aberrant, if not predictive, details. 

Our interview with Dulk (aka Antonio Segura) reveals places he’s explored to find his inspirations for his latest collection, about his safari trips, how he makes a great paella and so much more!

What was your inspiration and process for developing the works within this exhibition? Did all the ideas evolve over the last year, or did you peak into past archives and explore previous sparks of inspiration?

In 2017 I traveled to Denver for a mural project and after that me and my wife decided to spend some days to discover the natural spaces close to the city. A friend of us brought us to the Rocky Mountains and I felt so impressed about the amount of wildlife and incredible landscapes that we discovered there. It was truly amazing. Since then, every time that we came back to the US we took some days to scape from the city and visit the natural spaces that we could find around. It’s incredible the diversity of ecosystems that you can find in North America. It’s probably one the most diverse continents on earth. And it’s the only place where you can find every landscape from polar ice cap to baking desert, and everything in between. To prepare this exhibition I spent the last 5 years visiting and photographing most of the places you can find in the artworks. I visited the natural paradise of Alaska, the mangroves of the Everglades in Florida, the magical sequoias forests in California, the astonishing and unique Yellowstone or the breathtaking volcanoes in Hawai’i among many others. In each place I felt something very special and it’s why I decided to produce a body of works to collect all these journeys and experiences as memories.

We know every piece brings forth its own challenges and tests. Did you ever have to start over and completely pivot with a piece in this exhibition? Do you embrace or resist those types of choices?

Not in this show, but I did it many times. For me being satisfied with the result is essential and if something is failed between it I would never hesitate in restart the concept or whatever. I know myself and I know that every time that I look the artwork I would think, why I didn’t changed it? For this exhibition I spent a lot of time in conceptualizing each artwork, this is my favorite part of the process in a project like this one. It has been the longest process I did ever for an exhibition and I’m quite happy with the result. Each time I’m investing more time in the sketching and concept development so when I take the brushes the main idea is already solid. Some small details can change during the progress but not so much.

Who are some our your favorite nature photographers? Have you learned techniques from them that have influenced your own nature photography?

I’m amateur in wildlife photography but it’s a long time since I’m following the work of incredible photographers as Joel Sartore, Shaaz Jung or Paul Nicklen to inspire my work. It was during my first Safari in Kenya when I discover that this discipline could be the perfect starting point of my creative process. Not only to get a good image with my camera, also living the sensation of being in the place surrounded by the inhabitants of it. Nature has a special power and feeling it in first person is just incredible. For me the most special point about this is living the moment and remind it forever. I really enjoy being in the place in the perfect moment, but at the same time is very difficult to complete with a nice picture. To get one OK I normally shoot dozens of them, but when you get the perfect light with the perfect composition that’s magical.

What helps to ground you in the inherently chaotic and unpredictable profession of a full-time artist?

Creative process is something that I always needed. At the same time I always thought that I could never live from my art so that’s the reason that I pushed myself so hard working day at night to get something with this. At 18 I started my university career in economics and I left it two years later to start with the fine arts. I consider myself very young and I try to not thinking in the future so much and work hard day by day. Art scene is very unpredictable and I prefer to work hard and motivate my mind traveling and discovering the nature worldwide to keep harvesting my labor. If I look back I see a strong evolution in my work and that’s what motivate me to keep working hard. Nowadays for me being an artist is my life, it’s not just a work, it’s a way of life.

You’ve shared before that you do not mean to be an activist with your work but merely provide a catalyst for reflection. However, the state of our planet’s ecosystem is definitely a concern and value of yours. Are there activists or organizations you admire and believe more people should be aware of the work they are doing?

Cold reasoning does not change people. Emotion is necessary, as Jacques Cousteau said, “Man only cares for what he loves, and only loves what he knows.”
That is why I am convinced that my images can help. Shocking, exciting, moving. And with this helping many people, especially the youngest, to fall in love with nature and therefore decide to protect it throughout their lives. I have worked and shown my work in many corners of the planet. In presentations, workshops, murals in many countries. I have seen and heard comments of love, emotion, even tears. It is then when I consider that I have contributed something to the message of change. With art we extol an element, we can do it with the nature.
I consider myself as an artivist. We can educate people and organizations through artistic expression, to convey the importance and urgency of conserving and promoting the wealth of natural heritage.
I collaborated with some organizations like Olpejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Pangeaseed foundation or WWF Spain and I’m totally open to do it more often as an important goal as an objective.

How has fatherhood influenced your art and practice? What element of fatherhood is most rewarding at the moment and most challenging?

Being a father made me view life with another eyes. It has awakened something in me that I did not know and I could never expect in any way. Since then every day has a moment of joy saved for you and that’s magical.
Luckily me and my wife, Sara, are a strong team, personal and professional. She is my manager, so we travel together most of the time. It makes everything easier in terms of organization. We travel a lot and since we are parents it is a bit different because we no longer go alone, sometimes it is complicated but all the times it is a joy to be all together. A young kid demands a lot and it is difficult to balance it with an artist’s life but I think we do our best with him. Sara is the best and she manages the home and the studio as no one could do it. She deserves the best from us. I try to do the best I can do and it’s not easy but seeing how a two and a half years old kid has visited places all over the world makes me look at him and feel proud to be able to offer that to my son. I think traveling is very important to open minds and learn about different cultures and places. Looking at him amazed observing the whales of Alaska, the dolphins in French Polynesia or the sequoias in California makes me shed a tear.

You have ventured into collaborations with clothing brands and jewelry, along with regularly producing amazing sculptures and traveling for mural opportunities. Do you have support for these business ventures, or do you manage both these efforts along with your painting independently? And advice for other artists looking to expand their revenue streams?

We are a team of 5 people in the studio right now. It truly helps to get new goals and expand my work to new places that I could never get working alone. It let me focus myself in the creative process and in the painting development. Collaborations with brands that have on mind the same goals as ours and spread your message make me comfortable of working together. I enjoying viewing my work growing to new directions without losing the essence of itself.

If you could bring any extinct animal back, which one would it be and why?

I don’t have any preference on that. I would prefer choose the option of not losing more. It’s going so fast and it’s real. Day by day we are losing species worldwide and people doesn’t pay the necessary attention. Art is an invaluable tool for create awareness in people about the risks and dangers of climate change, as well as inspiring a commitment to address it. The works can help people to understand the importance of acting to prevent climate change and promote sustainability.

What is one of your most memorable meals? It could be because of the food you ate or the company you dined with, but a meal that has stood the test of time.

If I have to choose one I choose the Paella, we love cooking at home but my work each weekend is cooking it for the family or friends. The Valencian paella is the most famous Spanish dish worldwide and I learnt it from my grandma. I’m cooking it for my friends since I was 15 years old and I never stoped. For Valencians cooking the paella it’s like a religion and I’m not a believer but I think I do it quite well haha.

How do you like to enjoy your time outside of the studio? Do you celebrate the completion of a body of work?

Normally if I’m in town a normal day would be being in the studio around 7 hours, I’m an early bird and I’m much more productive the first hours of the day. The rest of the day is being with my family and do some trail in the mountains. We got a nice house close to there and doing sport makes me release my mind after a hard working day. I enjoy being involved around nature, running or wildlife photography would be my favorite activities out of the studio and of course traveling with my family.

When I finish a body of work is something unique. The feeling of finally see in front of you the idea and concept that you had in mind 8 months ago done is amazing. This time we celebrated with the studio team at home having a lunch party and relaxing a bit after a several months of hard work.

Exhibition on view June 3 – June 24, 2023 at:
Thinkspace Projects
4217 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90016

Interview with Dulk for “Ephemeral Treasures” showing at Spoke Art

Dulk’s ‘Ephemeral Treasures‘ is a special exhibition taking place in NYC, curated by Thinkspace and co-hosted with our good friends at Spoke Art.

This will be DULK’s debut NYC solo exhibition showcasing new works on canvas. The debut of a new one of a kind sculpture alongside the debut of a new line of jewelry inspired by his work.

Our interview with Dulk explores a memorable moment from a recent safari adventure, how 2020 changed his life, and the stories he is most looking forward to sharing.

What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? Could you share with us a bit of your process for approaching the sculpture and jewelry line that will be debuting for Ephemeral Treasures?

Well, as with all of my paintings, my inspiration behind any of them is based on my trips all around the world where I go to observe the animals in their natural habitat. I love getting inspired in nature because those feelings are transmitted to the paintings once I’m back at the studio. This time I would like to go a little bit further and create a sort of window into the threatened habitats where the animals live.

I love to make sculptures of most of my paintings’ characters, and in every solo show, I try to have at least one hand made. In this exhibition, I would like to pay tribute to an extinct animal that passed away 3 years ago. It’s a very special sculpture because it’s a unique piece and it has a very special meaning to me. On my latest trip to Kenya I had the opportunity to visit the tomb of Sudan, at Olpejeta conservancy, he was the last male of northern white rhino and the feelings there were indescribable.

About the jewelry line, it’s been more than a year since I’ve been talking about it with my friend Gabriel Suarez who is the creative director of Suarez, a renowned Spanish jewelry brand. They already produced some jewelry collection with other artist like Okuda or James Jean and he asked me to launch my own jewelry line, I accepted immediately because it’s something special that old masters like Dali or Pablo Picasso did in the past.

It is a unique collaboration, in which the work of an author is turned into a piece of jewelry after a process of elaborate preciousness, in collaboration with the artist to achieve custom-made art. The jewels make up the exhibition as part of the whole. There will be 2 unique pieces available, one of a kind each, one ring and a pair of earrings, and I can say that I’m really happy with the result. The concept of converting the animals into jewels is something that I always strive for with my artworks and now with these pieces it’s more evident.

Do you have any pre-studio rituals that help you tap into a creative flow? Do you have a structure for how you approach your time in the studio?

Not especially, I used to arrive at the studio early in the morning, prepare some coffee and put some music in the speaker, then I can start painting. This is what I used to do every day at the studio before anything else.

About how to approach the time in the studio it depends on the season in the year, or if I have other projects at the same time. If I have other things to do at the studio apart from painting I used to do everything in the morning, then, in the afternoon, when everything is done I can chill and paint quietly without any disturbance around me like phone calls or other stuff.

What piece in this latest body of work was really challenging and pushed you as an artist?

All of them showed me something and pushed me as an artist. Any painting is a challenge because I always try to paint different animals that I never painted before or different landscapes, but I have to mention one I would say “Bird Concert: Songs of extinct birds”. This painting is the biggest I did for this show and it has so many birds and characters, so many colors and details so I would say this one.

In the research you’ve done for reference material or inspiration, have you come across a crazy fact about an animal or plant that has blown your mind or stuck with you?

One of the most special moments I remember is during my inspiration trip to Kenya last year. We had been looking for black rhinos at Olpejeta Conservacy, the biggest reserve of black rhino population in Africa, during 3 days and we couldn’t find them. The last day we were there, because we had to continue our journey to the south, at the last moment of the day at twilight time we found a couple of them hidden in the bushes. It was a magical moment after looking for them so hard, and we finally found them in the most special moment.

Your work is incredibly colorful, and you have a real command of color. How do you keep track of the color combinations and storing mixed paints, so they don’t dry out between sessions at the canvas?

I prepare each color at the time that I’m going to use it. I don’t use or store mixed paints between sessions. The acrylic paint dries faster than oil so I finish each part with the mixed colors I prepared when I start it. I like to schedule each part of the painting I’m going to paint so I can mix only the colors that I’m going to use.

Outside of the pandemic, 2020 was pretty significant for you on a personal level; as you’ve shared, you underwent a serious surgery and are now a father to a sweet little baby. Could you share a little bit about how you feel your perspective on life has shifted based on these events?

2020 has been a plenty year, both personal and at work. On the personal side, I had this serious surgery as you mentioned in April and I spent a week in the hospital during the worst part of the pandemic and my wife was pregnant so I couldn’t see her during this. I had really bad moments there but after this my mind changed completely. When I was out, I felt so blessed because everything went well but at the same time powerful and full of energy to face everything that came ahead. After this, everything shifted 180º and things started to go well. I started painting the NYC show, I won the Falla contest to design the main Falla in Valencia for 2021 and I could paint a mural after the surgery so I was 100% recovered. Also, this summer, my son was born and everything went so well, he changed my life forever. Being a father means so much for me and it’s something indescribable.

Who are some of your creative influences? They do not have to be fellow artists, but anyone who inspires you creatively.

Undoubtedly the artist who inspired me from my beginnings was Hieronymus Bosch, a wonderful creator of strange and comical images singularly outlandish. Also, some artists of surrealism like Salvador Dalí or Rene Magritte.

Also, there are other people who inspire me with their photography work like Paul Nicklen or Ami Vitale between many other nature photographers. I love wildlife photography and these photographers with their incredible job share with the world amazing habitats and landscapes to inspire the people to protect the treasures of nature.

Your compositions capture complex storybook-like narratives within the imagery that lets the imagination run wild. Have you ever thought about writing a book or creating a folk tale around these animal figures?

Yes, I thought about it many times but right now I’m totally focused in an artistic way. Anyway, I know it’s something I’ll do in due time.

Follow up, do you have a favorite fairytale or folk story? Something you might look forward to sharing with your own child?

Actually, I don’t have any fairytale or folk story favorites. I like the fables of Jean de la Fontaine so much. One thing that I see while my son grows up, he is now 6 months, it’s that he observes so much of my paintings and shows so much interest in them. I don’t know if it is for the colors or because of the characters but it’s very satisfying for me. One thing that I would love in the future it’s telling him the stories behind my paintings. The imaginary stories that I create while I sketch each painting is something unique that I hope he will love as much I do.

What is one of the most memorable meals you’ve had while traveling? It could be memorable because of the food or the company you were with while enjoying said meal?

I had many memorable meals in my trips around the world but if I have to mention one I think any meal I did in Taiwan when I was there for Pow Wow Taiwan. It was my first time in Asia, and I was so curious about the food there. Any meal I did there was a surprising discovery, starting with the dumplings, followed by a typical Taiwanese tavern and ending with the fish ramen. Also, the company was so great in each place where we went to eat, and the local people introduced me to all the typical food from there. One of the most amazing food experiences I ever had.