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Antonio Pelayo: a life etched in canvas

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It was the great poet Oscar Wilde who once said that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. While this thought has been greatly disputed time and again, no one can deny that life and art have a truly unbreakable connection. Antonio Pelayo is one testament to this connection, as life and his art come together in the beautiful work that he creates.

Antonio Pelayo is a multi-awarded artist, illustrator, and event producer currently based in Los Angeles, California. He is best known for his work as an inker with Walt Disney Animation Studios, as well as his exhibits and pieces that are heavily inspired by his Latino heritage.

At a young age, Pelayo experienced quite a journey to discovering his artistic talents. Antonio Pelayo was born in 1973 in Glendale, California. The early days of his childhood were spent in a comfortable, quintessentially American suburb, complete with picket fences, friendly neighbors, movie theatres, and malls, and everything was comfortable and convenient.

However, life drastically changed for him at age 9, as he was sent back to his father’s village back in Mexico. Gone were the white picket fences and the shopping malls, being replaced by old broken down adobe churches and houses with outdoor plumbing. Not only that, but Antonio also experienced being teased by his peers due to him not being fluent in the Native language. 

Without someone who understood him, Antonio looked for places where he can find peace and comfort amidst the chaos, eventually finding solace in the village church. There, he had his first major epiphany with art, as he stared up at the murals that covered the church’s walls. He then sought out the work of other Mexican artists and took inspiration from it. To communicate with the people of the village, he also started to learn Spanish. Eventually, he became well-versed in three languages: English, Spanish, and his art. 

While his childhood in Mexico was not the easiest, it helped Antonio reconnect with his roots. Living there has forever changed him, and has truly made an impact in his vision as an artist.

In 1994, Pelayo’s life changed when he got into Walt Disney Animation Studios, now the biggest animation company in the world. Starting out as a temp, he eventually joined the studio as part of their Ink & Paint Department. Thanks to his undeniable talent, Antonio Pelayo was able to endure through the age of digital animation and has made his mark in the company as one of its last remaining inker/painters.

Antonio then branched out and expanded his work through personal exhibits, as he became inspired by the exhibitions that Walt Disney Animation Studios does to showcase its employees’ works. Starting in 2005, he has created over 100 exhibitions and has received multiple awards and recognitions, including “Artist of the Year” from the Glendale Arts Association in 2013. 

Most recently, Antonio Pelayo collaborated with his son, Isaac, in an exhibition named “American Dream”, which depicts the realities of the Latinx people as they try to live out the eponymous dream that has become the pathos of the United States. Through his exhibitions like these, he hopes that his works leave a mark to those whoever sees it, as he continues to showcase the connection between art and life.

To know more about Antonio Pelayo and his work, you may send him an email at antonio@antoniopelayo.com, visit his website, or check out his Instagram account.

CEO of Penske Media Group. Experienced Content Editor with a demonstrated history of working in the newspapers industry. Spoken on stages around the globe - NYU, US Embassy, P&G Toronto and much more.

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