Isa, Street Artist

Just along from Cambridge Heath Overground Station there’s a rather unassuming looking cornershop. Aside from selling the usual fruit and veg, scratch cards and discount booze, it seems odd to think that this shop holds great significance for someone who hails from as far afield as Miami.

On a rather miserable day this past September a masked woman was seen sizing up the wall of Corner Super Market before she offloaded her rucksack and started spray painting. The result? Not some graffiti tag of a wayward youth, but a strikingly eerie and punchy image of a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) inspired woman, skull and all. What makes this piece significant, however, is that it marked the first piece of urban art created by Mexican-American artist Isa, and this marks her first interview!

Tell me a bit about your background

I am of Mayan descent and grew up in the small farm town of Homestead just south of Miami in a large family; I have seven sisters and two brothers! I came to London to study at the University of the Arts, although I left after two years as I felt my creativity was being stifled. So I have a traditional artistic background with quite a contemporary style, and although I grew up near the Wynwood Urban Arts District – a haven for urban artists in Miami – the thought of painting with an aerosol intimidated me. It was only when I moved to Bethnal Green that a chance meeting with the incredible street artist Loretto led me to pick up my first spray can. I saw this masked man creating a mural of the Queen. We got talking and he eventually offered me a mural space in Hackney and taught me the techniques. I picked it up instantly, it just came so natural to me.

It was a moment that changed my life forever, it was a new path in my career as an artist and I am so grateful for that experience with him.

How would you describe your style now that you’ve changed medium?

My style is still quite traditional, but with contemporary aspects. Culture is very important to me, as are the traditions from my heritage, our roots, our land, the joy and the pain. The contemporary aspects of my painting represent social issues that I show through my bold choices in colour palette and expressionist style. Really, my style is influenced by how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my world.

What inspires you?

Nature inspires me. My experiences as a woman inspires me, all the challenges I face, my extensive travels experiencing new cultures, creating, using my hands, knowing my creations will stir emotions within the people who view them and the fact that they will last a lifetime and be treasured by others is the biggest inspiration of them all.

Does that influence your subject matter then and what you enjoy painting?

I love to paint women and nature, coming from a coastal land and a family of primarily females, I have seen so many wonders of nature as well as the beauty and struggles of being a woman. I have seen too much domestic violence in my upbringing and I want to bring light to this too. Women need to speak about these very serious issues and teach others, to leave when situations have become violent. Women are the creators of life and are so connected to mother earth. I love expressing the beauty of nature, flowers, animals, lush greenery, and the challenges and blessings of being a woman.

When it comes to street art, how do you decide where you want to showcase your work?

Well first off, asking for permission! Finding somewhere that I am permitted to create. The wall also needs to be away from obstacles and disruptive telephone lines. It needs to be somewhere where it will be seen and appreciated by the masses.

And since your first piece in London, what have you been up to?

I returned to Miami and immediately began creating murals all over South Florida, going back to the Wynwood Arts District, the most diverse arts district in Florida. I felt it was imperative to get my foot in the door. It was a huge challenge, but one I took with grace and gratitude. Leaving my artistic footprint in one of the biggest city canvases on this planet was a big deal for me, alongside some of the most talented Urban artists from all over the globe. It was an incredible experience, I was also part of Art Basel Miami 2018, which was a dream come true. It’s important to leave a piece of me in my city before I take off into the unknown, I’m very grateful.

Where can we see more of your work?

You can see most of my work on my website and social media, but hopefully soon, all over London! I plan on creating murals for the rest of my life. London is my home now and I plan on leaving my artistic footprint everywhere, from Brighton to Devon, and of course, London.

Can you give us some tips for producing urban art?

Can control! Can control is training your hand and arm to move swiftly and precisely with certain pressure. It’s complicated but achievable, layering with certain colour tones to achieve depth, highlights and shadows. Stencils are easy to use for spray paint as a guide. But it’s better to master it freely and not rely on stencilling to create works of art. And lastly have loads of fun and be safe!

What does 2019 have in store for you?

2019 is going to be wonderful and I am looking forward to many projects and travels. To kick off the year I have an exhibition with Raw Artists in January, here in my current hometown Fort Lauderdale, FL. Then I am headed back to the UK and Europe for collaborations and murals. I am also applying for Naas Festival and Upfest for a weekend of Art and Music. I will collaborate with Loretto as well as he is a wonderful human being, a very well known artist, a friend and mentor. Hell, even Banksy come give me a holler! What a 2019 gift that would be! For sure expanding my craft and technique there is always room for growth and improvement. That’s what 2019 will be for me, growing and creating!