Spanish Artist Dulk Captures the Essence of Surrealist Art
"Once I started doing graffiti, something special came alive in me. I remember it being very emotional."
Antonio Segura always had an eye for the otherworldly. The artist, known professionally as Dulk, laughs while remembering the art he created as a child— monsters with multiple arms and legs, dragons with the body of a lion. Segura says his mother saved many of his drawings from youth, which set the stage for who he is now.
Segura’s roots in Spain's vibrant graffiti scene was just the beginning for the artist who, through the medium of paint, sculpture, and mural creation, has transported viewers into another world — one with boundless colors and animals that take center stage. Segura is a devout disciple of nature’s gospel, and showcases the animals he has encountered in ways that push the limits of what surrealist art can be.
Segura’s art stirs a feeling of being a part of another person’s dream, someone else’s experience of the world. Through this lens, Segura has found an outlet to express not only his love of art, but also used the craft as a way to speak to his own concerns about the ecological and environmental threats facing our world today.
Segura joined Rooster Magazine via Zoom from his home in Valencia to give us an inside look at the ephemeral world of Dulk — and why Rocky Mountain National Park played a key role in one of his latest exhibitions.
You’ve been to Colorado at least once, to participate in the Colorado Crush mural festival in 2016. Can you talk about your memories of Colorado?
Colorado was really cool. I really liked that part of the United States because I'd never been there. I met very nice people and got to see the Rocky Mountains after the festival.
Speaking of murals, your early work existed in the graffiti space. Can you talk about how that shaped your current artistic style?
I started when I was 18 years old with graffiti. I painted in the streets with friends and I've been drawing all my life. But once I started doing graffiti, something special came alive in me. I remember it being very emotional. It was a big jump because at the time I was studying economics at a university.
I left school after a year and started to study illustration, and at that point everything changed. I I was already painting a lot during that time. But my first solo graffiti wall was in 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Spain has a strong artist community within the graffiti and street art space, from Valencia to Madrid to Barcelona. How has the idea of street art and graffiti changed in Spain since you started participating in it?
Graffiti and street art are different things, but the street art was like a progression of the graffiti. It came together because I never felt that I was a graffiti artist, but I was painting with graffiti artists. But I think that both disciplines have some things in common.
Street art has grown a lot. Ten years ago, it wasn’t so common. But now, many artists that came from the fine art world are doing it. And now it's a passion thing, it's worldwide and there are a lot of young people doing it now. It’s in all the cities, they all have street art festivals, jams, celebrations … I don’t know, it’s very in fashion right now.
You exist in the mural, studio, and sculpture space. Can you describe the difference between working in a studio versus working on a wall outside?
Working on a wall is totally different from the art in the studio, because in the studio you have everything under control. With the walls, you never know what can happen. But, whenever I’m in the studio, I wish I was doing walls. Whenever I’m doing walls, I wish I was in the studio. My work is very detailed and has a lot of things going on, like a lot of characters and small things. Being that detailed on a wall is very difficult.
How do you feel like your art reflects or represents Spanish culture?
Many people from Valencia think that I am from the United States or Europe based on what my art looks like. So, I don't think that my work and culture are related. Maybe in some parts or some details, but not so much. I try to pull my inspiration from my personal experience, so it is not reflecting Spanish culture, it’s just a product of me trying to do something unique.
Each one of your pieces contains a different world that you've created. Can you talk about the role that imagination plays in your work?
I think it's one of the most important points. Each time I create, the work becomes more visually realistic, but the imagination keeps the aspect of a dream world. I really enjoyed when I was younger, when I was happy, looking at all the illustrations that were full of details and where you can create different stories each time you looked at it. I liked seeing many different characters and then you try to imagine what is happening in that scene.
With some of my characters, I’m inspired by a specific place. So if I’m representing a character from a certain place, I try to look for cultural things or stories from that place to help me create the characters.
The environment and eco-consciousness is heavily represented in your work. Why do you feel like art is an important piece of the environmental conversation? Why do you feel it's important to make art that represents nature?
Art is for everybody, especially when it’s in the street and anyone can look at it and feel something because of it. Public art is a really cool way of showing what’s happening in the world. With an imaginary style, it helps to transport people into a different world and allow them to feel something. They can go inside the world of a bee and create their own story inside that world. And when it happens, when someone can feel something because of art, I think that means something good is happening. So, I think art is a very cool place to showcase this problem.
Animals are my other passion. One is the Earth and another is the animals. I think over the last few years, the world is realizing that we are acting and behaving very badly toward the Earth. We are losing many, many species. So, I thought that working with animals right now would be really, really interesting. Showing the problem in a different way, more imaginative. You see the painting, it’s very colorful and has a fantasy world. But I think this game I play with people is very interesting because everyone tells me, “this work captures me, but then I feel sad.” So it’s very interesting.
You’ve been quoted in the past talking about your love of travel. When did that love for travel begin? Was it a product of becoming an artist or did you always love to travel?
Travel is very special because it keeps you open to new cultures, new people, new places. And especially when you are traveling to places where you can experience nature, the animals, everything, it’s just so special. I was in Africa one time, then after that I painted two or three paintings inspired by that trip. Travel makes the pieces very, very special because I'm trying to translate what I experienced there through the artistic process and mixing it with some imaginary things.
I’m working on an exhibition that is inspired by my travels in the United States, where nature is very strong and memorable. Some of those places include national parks. It's very cool because before I start the painting, I have a look at all the pictures that I took there and it's very cool to remember everything I saw. The first place that inspired this was Rocky Mountain National Park. And then I visited many other national parks. Travel is very necessary for an artist, I think.
How do you navigate the many different elements of your pieces? How would you describe that creative process?
I was in my creative process right before doing this interview! Right now, I’m sketching some things that I hope to paint. Sketching is the first thing, usually that’s when I also choose an animal to focus on. I also choose the place, and I look up photos that I have of that place if I’ve been there. If I haven’t, I look through photos on the internet or in books that I have. I also ask friends of mine who are photographers.
So from there, I choose the pictures of the place that I like. And then I will start to draw the different characters, along with the story that I want to tell. And then after that, when I have the final collage or sketch, I go to the canvas and I start to paint the piece. But the piece is already under control because of the sketch. I always have a sketch or a color palette chosen before, to sell the painting.
You make so many colors work together in a cohesive way in your work. Did it take some time to find a good rhythm with color?
That's something that all the people tell me, "You have a lot of colors!" But what I say to that is the colors are totally automatic. I may choose the color of the background and that might take some more time to find the right fit, but everything after that comes very easily. I don't know why, but I think I'm good with the colors. Drawing is more complicated, but the colors come totally naturally and I’m happy about that.
When you look back at some of your older work, do you see a big difference between what you're making now? Can you see the growth that has happened?
Yes, yes, yes. The essence is the same, but you can feel the difference because now the work is more realistic. And years ago, it was more like a cartoon. The color is softer, where years ago there was a stronger contrast. But my style is changing all the time. Maybe in 10 years I’ll do another thing, you never know, but it's important to keep growing. In my opinion, if you are always doing the same thing with art, you are not evolving. You just have to keep growing.