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He found art in a hospital. In art, he found self-motivation and respect

The first time art captured Bryant Santamaria's interest, he was a boy undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

The lifelong Glendale resident had been diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old, and he would endure treatment until he was 8, the age he went into remission.

He recalled this week that while undergoing treatment, he spent time in an arts-and-crafts room at the hospital and participated in his first art contest.

"I started to develop an artistic sense of making art," he said in a phone interview.

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While attending Toll Middle School, Santamaria was diagnosed with alopecia, started losing his hair and grew used to students bullying him.

Creating art again became a powerful outlet the way it was when he was younger, and it remained so when he attended Hoover High School.

"More than anything, it was self-motivating," Santamaria said.

As a sophomore, Santamaria participated in intensive art classes through the Los Angeles-based Ryman Arts program, a foundation that provides free art instruction and supplies to youth.

The classes he took through Ryman Arts were unlike any courses he had taken before, and he began to focus on certain aspects of art, such as line work or concept with in-depth focus, working on a single piece for longer than he had before.

"It prepared me for college and [taught me] to be respectful about other people's artwork," he said.

Now, the 22-year-old is expecting to finish his studies at the ArtCenter College of Design.

One of his lithographic prints titled "Black Armor," a rendering he created of a leather jacket, is currently on display at Saltfineart Gallery in Laguna Beach.

He said he finds renderings therapeutic.

"Once I have this visual of what I want to portray or depict, I go with it," he said.

Santamaria often relies on vibrant colors and consistently works with green, blue, red and yellow, no matter whether he's creating abstract paintings or digital illustrations.

"In the art world, everybody says [artists] have to have a defined style. Why can't one person do a lot of different things?" he asked.

As he's planning to pursue a career in illustration, he's also eager to share his work with the public.

"Art is its own language. Art is public. Art should be viewed. I want people to see my work," he said.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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