Behind the Scenes with Isaac Pelayo

24-year-old Isaac Pelayo has been making quite the stir on social media, but the truth is the artist and LA native has been making waves on the LA art scene long before the days of Instagram fame. His unique style of art has caught the attention of celebrities and media alike, but despite all the accolades, he maintains a humble and introspective disposition about his art. In this exclusive interview, we sat down with the artist and Playboy aficionado to discuss his life, his newest work, and how Playboy’s inspired him and his predecessors throughout the decades. 

Isaac, can you tell me about some of the projects you’re working on at the moment? Currently, I’m developing a new body of work that takes a few steps away from what I’m normally used to, however, the process has been wildly fun and greatly rewarding. I’m describing this new work as “Pop Baroque” or “Classical Expressionism”. Taking two forms of art and inner personalities into an unlikely marriage that coalesce as one. I’m also working on several collaborations and upcoming projects hopefully which will take effect in 2021. One of which being a collab with a vodka company to customize a bottle that features my work so stay tuned. 

How often do you get that stereotypical question, “you’re so young, how do you do this when you’re so young?” I feel like sometimes people might think that. More often than what people may assume. I’m 24 and that tends to stun people who aren’t familiar. I don’t feel young so it is always a laugh when people think of me otherwise. I grew up quite quickly and have dedicated much of my time to art. I’ve been blessed to have seen my art make some success and find their way into collections all over the world. That too makes me feel like I’ve given a lifetime to achieve. It’s been a long run and still, I sprint with no intention of stopping and little expectation. 

What themes do you see in your work right now? Currently, I see a lot of the parts of me that reflect my appreciation for nudity, vulnerability, sophistication, and classical works. Contrary I see the parts of me that are defiant, angry, confused, and my love for street art and culture. 

Can you share some of your most notable collectors and collabs at the moment? My collectors up to date include Sean “Diddy” Combs, Shepard Fairey, Westside Gunn, Hopsin, Benny The butcher, Armani Caesar, Jeff Hamilton, Dane Vaughn, Sarah Temima, even UNLV just to name a few. My clients as far as tattooing goes include many like almost all of Hype House, Sway House, Abby Rao, Jaden Hossler, Chase “Lil Huddy’ Hudson, etc.

Were there any significant points or really memorable periods of time in your life that you now see reflected in your work? I would probably have to say I see a lot of the tension that has been built up over time even the events that took place as a kid. My breakup also almost always appears now but I suppose that comes with the territory. Right now I think I’m just learning to let go and run without direction but with the intention of taking steady strides. Like a workout with no timer. The muscles I’m building are the ones I’ve never used. A new sore that’s becoming a high and the only price is letting go. 

What about love? Were there any periods in time where you were going through anything that affected your work, not even with just romantic love but even with family? The events that have taken place in my life involving my family and ex-partner have greatly taken a toll on my work and how I work. I don’t like to talk about those past experiences but I most certainly will never forget them for they are the building blocks that make up who I am today. The love that I bare for my parents and the backward bends I do for them including my siblings run vast distances. The amount of energy I invested in my last relationship almost even stunned my art career. The loss of my grandmother just before my fourteenth birthday pushed me to the edge of no return. All those love factors play a large role in my work today and how I create. They complete everything I do. 

You’re also a model and musician and very much involved in other creative fronts, can you tell me how your art has fused with the other avenues of your life? As an artist and a Gemini, I think it’s just second nature to take on other projects and try new things where I can expand my mind and let go. I’ve done and loved music my whole life but took it seriously when I was about thirteen and even more so when I broke up with my ex some few years ago. Modeling and acting was one of those things my mother really pushed. I suppose she saw something I didn’t. I love to model and act though. It reminds me of being a kid. A sort of playtime and moment to exit my own body and reality to enter another. I love playing dress-up and trying on clothes which I’m new to. I grew up having a great appreciation for fashion and how it could represent a person or what it could say about someone. I think the way I dress says I’m spontaneous. I think it also says I don’t give a fuck but I’m aware what’s going on and I make it look good. 

You just completed the “BIRDS&BEES” show with Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles that received a lot of positive feedback, can you tell me how that came to be? BIRDS&BEES was and is a body of work that will continue to grow and expand. That work was simply a quest for me to capture nudity in such a way that becomes poetic and meaningful all while being comedic and witty. A play on how sex is taught to a child and the adult reality for what sex and nudity actually is. I was exposed to sex and nudity very early on but I suppose I perceived it as something more than just. Like looking at a fleshy Rubens that screams vulnerability and what it means to be really human in a society that takes something beautiful but makes it ugly. 

Have you ever been to Australia before? If not, when are you coming and what’s the first thing you’re doing? I have never been to Australia, however, I have several Australian friends and they all encourage me to go. I absolutely love animals and greenery which Australia is a forefront for such life and display. I also know that Australia is a hub for creativity and free-minded people so that alone just becomes greatly enticing. I think the first thing I would do is take a jeep ride along the Australian outback and soak up the scenery that’s flourished with life. 

What is your personal take on Playboy and how do you feel about it? How has it affected you growing up? Playboy is a lifestyle, Period. Playboy is art, fashion, sex, wealth, beauty, pop culture, and sophistication all in one. When I think of Playboy I don’t think of trivial sex, money, and drugs which many people may think of it as such. One of my first experiences with Playboy was the troubles I would get into as a five-year-old sneaking into my uncle’s Playboy collection. I remember being enamored with the artwork and nudity. Though at that age it felt a bit sacred and wrong I knew it was something I found much interest in. I never really bought physical magazines just because I moved around a lot and tend to lose things so my relationship with Playboy really existed through the internet and the series The Girls Next Door on E! I was fascinated with Hugh Hefner and his love for women. I’ve always felt like I had this “Hughnergy” even as a kid. 

What are some iconic Playboy covers you loved or iconic moments you remember from the brand? I can’t recall a cover in particular in the far past but recently the work Playboy has done with Kylie and Bad Bunny are really dope. 

What role do you think Playboy has had with artists like yourself over time? I think Playboy has inspired artists like me who appreciate sex and nudity in a way that isn’t what society makes it. I think it allows us to be more open and free. I think it welcomes us to expand our minds, appreciate, and love all colors and fleshiness. It has definitely brought out more in me in an honest way especially how I interact with women and how I reciprocate feelings and other opinions and/or perspectives. I think Playboy just inspires us to be us. 

Playboy is often synonymous with sex, do you feel like your work has similar undertones or comparisons? Definitely, there are a lot of similar undertones of sex in my work. I mean the whole BIRDS&BEES series was a direct reflection of how Playboy unveils and converses the topic. I do my best to paint nudity in a way that shows my passion for sex, women, and the human body in general as a whole. I think the real vulnerability in people lies within the bare skin and openness of oneself. For some and many people that doesn’t apply. It’s just how I personally feel about it. I give thanks to my early experiences as a child.

What people have been influential to you throughout your career? That list is an endless ocean. I have been inspired and influenced but the likes of so many different kinds of people I can go on for eons. I think the people that are cornerstones of my influence are my family. My parents, my grandmother, my uncles, my aunts, my brother. Those people serve as the very essence of who I am today. Creatively, spiritually, financially, and emotionally. They are me and I am them. All the good and worst parts perhaps. 

What is your dream project? Again that list is endless but I would love to collaborate with Playboy and introduce art and sex in a new classical form. I think it would highlight the early visuals of nudity and sex with how we perceive nakedness and love today. I think we could do something to grab audiences of old and young as Playboy has always done. That would certainly be a dream goal coming from a young Playboy myself.

What do you love most about being an artist in 2020? Being an artist in the year 2020 has been a wild experience. Not being able to go to and exhibit in galleries is almost torture. On the contrary, It has also been a great year for collectors to purchase new work through social media. The series I’m currently developing is growing a large demand for collectors worldwide. I’ve had collectors from Ireland, Germany, and all over the states arise amidst this pandemic. Collaborations with musicians and companies have come to be and having all this free time allows me to create new pieces very quickly and efficiently. I probably would have never done so otherwise. I think this year was and is a turning point for many people in many different industries. It certainly was a test for me. I could have either bowed down and surrendered or stepped up and grabbed the bull by the horns. I won’t forget this year. 

What are you currently most excited about? Right now I’m most excited about just being alive. It’s incredible to be witnessing such a dramatic shift in all aspects of life and culture. I almost feel like I evolved due to the circumstances. What’s to come is also thrilling and suspenseful. I’m just taking the ride for what it is and making the best of it. I look forward to what the future brings and I along with others will continue to build and grow.

Where do we follow you and reach you? Social media accounts would be best. First and foremost Instagram where people can stay in touch at @isaacpelayo, everything I do will be available there including other accounts, future projects, and purchasing of work or booking.