Hi Leonardo, please tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a Filipino-American artist and designer living in Los Angeles, CA. I want a dog but our landlord doesn't let us have pets so I have houseplants instead.
How did you first get started as an illustrator?
I attended ArtCenter College of Design to work towards a BFA in Illustration, and through school saw the beginning of opportunities. After that, the work has slowly started coming through direct and indirect promotion.
What tools do you use for your work?
My paintings are done on BFK Rives printmaking paper. From there, I use graphite for the drawing and seal it in with soft-body Nova Color Acrylics diluted to a viscosity that resembles watercolor. And after that I'll tweak things a bit with Photoshop to get the piece to the most ideal point.
You have done a lot of exhibitions over the years, how do you normally get your work shown at exhibitions?
One exhibition leads to another! When you make pieces for gallery exhibitions, you never know who's going to see it. Sure, one person can buy the original painting, but that one painting can leave an impact on the several people who see it.
How is the illustration scene in Los Angeles? Do you collaborate with other illustrators?
It exists, but I've never really considered it as something I actively participated in. Going to art school, naturally, a lot of my friends are illustrators. But I think here in LA, I pay a lot more attention to the contemporary fine art gallery scene. And as far as collaborations go, lately I've been more of a lone-wolf.
What or who inspires you the most?
My favorite photographer is Ren Hang, but sadly he just died last month. Other artists I like are Kei Imazu, Dana Schutz, Ruprecht Von Kaufmann, and Nobuyoshi Araki. And funny enough, there's also the anime and emo music I listened to in high school that have continually influenced my work.
What do you like to do besides illustrating? Any hobbies?
I like travelling! I was just in Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines a few months ago. My friends and I also just recently started a Dungeons and Dragons campaign and it's a blast!
What do you like to listen to when you work?
I like watching music videos while I work. It's kind of distracting but I can't stop. Sometimes I'll Netflix shows I can listen to. Right now, my favorite musicians to listen to while working are Warpaint and Tricot.
What would you say to newcomers to the world of illustration?
We all have to remind ourselves that perseverence is key. Being persistent in making work, getting the work out there, and to keep on going when the pace slows down a little. Everybody who's made it never gave up. I'm still learning this now.
Any websites or publications you would recommend reading?
Subscribe to The New York Times and pay attention to politics. As creatives, we have a voice that carries with it the power to influence. What you do with that is up to you.
A big thanks to Leonardo Santamaria for taking the time to do the interview!
For more information and amazing works from Leonardo Santamaria, please visit: http://www.leonardosantamaria.com/All artwork featured in this interview is copyrighted and owned by Leonardo Santamaria. Please do not use any of the images without written permission from the artist.