SAN DIEGO -- If you’ve never ventured east towards the desert because you think it’s just blowing sand and cactus scrub, well then you’re missing out.
This time of year the Borrego Desert comes alive with spring wildflowers, but that’s not the only reason to road trip there. People from all over the world visit Borrego Springs to see the amazing sculptures created by the man many call the Accidental Artist.
“It’s amazing. It is amazing,” says Karen Jennings standing in front of a giant dragon so long it’s split on two sides of Borrego Springs Road.
Amazing is a bit of an understatement for Borrego Springs considering some think it’s just a barren desert.
“Usually their words are like, ‘Holy crap that’s big!’” adds Jennings, whose visiting from Canada.
“It just adds so much and it’s just a pop of interest where you wouldn’t expect it.”
The Borrego Desert sculptures were a five-year project for Ricardo Breceda. He got the idea after watching Jurassic Park III. His daughter, Lianna, was fascinated with dinosaurs and asked him to make one.
“I started with dinosaurs. My first one was a T-Rex. I made for my daughter when she was six,” says Breceda smiling thinking back to his first attempt at metal art.
This one time cowboy boot salesman decided to trade a pair of boots for a welding machine, and an artist was born. Better yet an Accidental Artist was born. His philosophy was go big or go home.
“My first T-Rex was 20 feet by 45 feet long, and it got a lot of attention,” said Breceda before breaking into laughter. “I became a celebrity overnight. Yee Ha!”
Breceda recently purchased land in Temecula off Highway 79 to house hundreds of his metal sculptures. He envisions a park with hilltop gazebos where elementary school children can take field trips to learn about art and the many themes of his work. What he needs is a new warehouse, so everything on his current lot is for sale.
“All this is available, half price, everything must go!” says the always smiling Breceda.
He’s become so popular he now has factories in Perris just north of Temecula and another in Baja. His meticulous attention to detail is in every custom piece of his metal sculptures.
“The best piece I have right here will probably be the stagecoach,” says Breceda pointing to the front of his lot where a life sized stagecoach complete with horses, drivers, and passengers sits. “There are a lot of details in there. It took four months to do it.”
Beceda’s western theme is inescapable, and his dinosaurs are the favorite of children. But his most prized piece?
“The dragon,” Breceda says after a long pause, thinking about his many creations. “It’s got to be the dragon. It’s big; it has thousands and thousands of little parts and scales. I made it; it’s not a copy of any dragon. It’s my own dragon, my own design.”
The Dragon is one of 133 sculptures Breceda was commissioned to make by philanthropist Dennis Avery in Borrego Springs. It took seven months to complete, and by far is his most popular. So much so it has become a mecca for photographers looking for a compelling subject.
“I’ve always been mesmerized by his work, these metal sculptures are beautiful,” San Diego photographer Evgeny Yorobe said. “The first time I saw them I had to capture them someway in a photograph.”
Breceda’s work has given life to other artists like Yorobe. The metal sculptures are the perfect experiment with nature and natural light. Borrego Springs in one of the few cities in the entire world considered a “dark sky” community because it limits light pollution. That said, if you think Breceda’s sculptures look great in the day you should see how the photograph at night.
“They’re very unique, it’s a unique foreground,” adds Yorobe, now standing in front of two of Breceda’s fighting raptors. “And when you come at a very specific time of the year, you catch the Milky Way right in the south and you can catch it right in between these raptors and it almost gives it like a back in time feel. Like you’ve gone back in time.”
All this from a man who used to sell boots for a living before he accidentally fell into his passion.
What does Breceda think of his moniker?
“It’s all right. It’s fine actually. It truly was by accident. If I never had done that first one for my daughter, I would still be selling boots. Sometimes life gives you a path.”