Illustrator Leonardo Santamaria has built a career visualizing sensitive topics — the difficulty in discussing mental health with family, living with a disability, racial issues in jury choosing, white privilege, and families dealing with ICE. Each article Santamaria illustrates bring to light internal issues, those struggles that have no practical signature. For NPR, Santamaria illustrated an article focusing on the author’s frustration as she attempted to discuss her mental illness with her 1st generation Filipino-American mother. It is a topic with no clear marker to visualize. Santamaria’s solution shows the mother and daughter as well as the feeling that both are experiencing.
Santamaria tackles pop culture with the same sophisticated touch he brings to his work for The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, and NPR. In his piece ‘The Rightful Heir’ done for Spoke Art SF‘s Game of Thrones exhibit, the Queen is rendered in blood, surrounded by the weaponry of the dead. Santamaria gives Daenerys Targaryen a tender respite from the violence and drama. His work shows a thoughtful and skilled illustrator in search of the clearest path to the story being told.