Waiting for the Ink to Dry

Los Angeles-based illustrator Antonio Pelayo explores how his upbringing, time with Disney, and the city have influenced the art he makes today.
Tainted Magazine Antonio Pelayo Lucha A

Los Angeles-based illustrator Antonio Pelayo explores how his upbringing, time with Disney, and the city have influenced the art he makes today.

Antonio Pelayo was born in the suburbia of Glendale, California but went on to spend most of his childhood being raised in rural Mexico. Struggling to find solid ground in a place where language, culture, and day-to-day life had just undergone a seismic shift, he found solace in art. From religious iconography to the greats of Mexican art history, he found a new way to express himself, pencil in hand. Later in his youth, his family returned to Southern California; however, his sense of home and belonging had been irrevocably altered. 

Coming to understand identity, culture, and heritage from a liminal transitory space, he began to blend his Mexican artistic foundation with a new set of American inspirations. Taking from the diverse experiences of his life, he became determined to pursue a career as a professional artist. Pelayo sat down and discussed the way his journey to becoming an artist has influenced his practice with Tainted Magazine.

Tainted magazine Antonio pelayo Castro Frank 5 1
Photograph of Antonio Pelayo, by Castro Frank

Sketching in Solitude

Between the fine lines of Pelayo’s illustrations, we are enticed by his bright pops of color, plays of negative space, and the way he exposes the hidden vulnerabilities of people in his portraits.

These deceivingly simple works of art offer a look at the everyday with an uplifting and often humorous twist. His style, however, seems to constantly evolve. He finds new ways to use his skills to spur feelings of kinship and connection, especially for those, like him, that often feel like outsiders between two worlds.

Tainted Magazine Antonio Pelayo Chapulinjpg
“Chapulin” Pencil on Paper & Acrylic Ink & Paint on Animation cel 15″x20″

TM: Artist, illustrator, and event producer are among the descriptors used when discussing your career as an artist. When thinking about your personal artistic practice, how do you describe yourself and your process?

AP: I’m always thinking about how I can create better works, how can I improve, and how can I create works that make an impact.

TM: In your artistic journey, how did you discover these mediums and what was it about them that enticed you?

AP: Pencils are my passion. I was too young to remember, “How I discovered the pencil”, but the photorealistic style was discovered when I was in my early twenties. It was when I saw a pencil portrait that was so detailed, it looked like a photo. It hit me like a ton of bricks and that’s what inspired me to draw in that style

TM: When reading your story, you have spent much of your life back and forth between Mexico and the United States. How has inhabiting this transitory liminal space impacted the work you create?

AP: Living in Mexico was huge for me because I spent a ton of time alone, drawing. The art in the local church was a huge influence as well as the art in the Jehovah’s Witness books. 

TM: Within your career as an artist there is an emphasis on working with the Latino community, especially within the Southern California region. How does the work you create relate to your relationship with this community?

AP: I think it relates because my work is about Mexicans that migrated to the United States, and Los Angeles is largely composed of immigrants from Mexico.

Tainted Magazine Antonio Pelayo El Fud
“El Fud” Pencil on Paper & Acrylic Ink & Paint on Animation cel 15″x20″
Tainted Magazine Antonio Pelayo Conejo
“Conejo” Pencil on Paper & Acrylic Ink & Paint on Animation cel 15″x20″

Handcrafted Magic

While Pelayo’s career as a professional artist has roots in his transnational upbringing, there is another major inspirational force behind his work. In an unforeseen turn of events, in 1994 Pelayo joined the famous Ink & Paint department at the one and only Walt Disney Company. Here, at the heart of this creative institution, he learned the techniques and traditions from the Golden Era of animation. Amidst the exponential rise of the digital, CGI, and new technologies on the horizon, Pelayo embraces the talent and imagination that remains at the heart of these analog art forms. In this role, he not only discovers new avenues for his personal projects but is protecting an artistic lineage slowly dying in the modern world.

Tainted Magazine Antonio Pelayo La Mujer
“La Mujer Pencil on Paper & Acrylic Ink & Paint on Animation Cel 15″x20″

TM: One of your professional accomplishments is working for Walt Disney. How did you end up there?

AP: It’s a long story, but I was picked up through a Temp Agency. I did a test on inking some Winnie the Pooh animation cels. I passed it and that’s how I ended up in the most prestigious and oldest department in the entire company.

TM: Can you share a few more details about the intricacies of your role? What does this position entail as an artist?

AP: I am working with Ink and Paint animation cells, using the original method that was used when Snow White was made. Disney is the only company that still creates this type of art.

TM: Working with an organization that has a pretty prestigious lineage of animation and drawing, how have you seen this professional experience impacting your personal style outside of Disney?

AP: Now I am incorporating inking and painting into my pencil art, merging the pencil art with that of animation.

TM: Have you found ways to translate your style, practice, and distinctive perspective as a Latino artist into your time with Disney? 

AP: No, what I do at Disney is just Disney art.

TM: Overall, how has working for Walt Disney impacted your life and your journey?

AP: It’s because of Disney that I became a fine artist, and it’s because of becoming a fine artist that I became an event producer. So it’s been a huge impact for sure.

TM: Thinking about what is next for you, are there any new directions you are looking to take your personal practice or any exciting projects that we should be on the lookout for?

AP: I plan on taking animation art to places where it has never been before, and by the looks of it, I’ll be the only one doing it.

Ready to tackle these new frontiers, Antonio Pelayo infuses the art of painting and drawing with his unique blend of animation. In a one-of-a-kind style, he invites us into a realm of both his own and a collective sense of nostalgia, reenvisioning the lineage of the pencil and pen despite our growing reliance on new digital forms.


q & a

Antonio Pelayo

Waiting for the Ink to Dry


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Photograph by Castro Frank
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