A computer software engineer by trade and a muralist by avocation, one of James Armenta’s impressionistic works now graces a wall in Liberty Station Arts District.
The untitled piece, in the walkway between Moniker General and The Presley restaurant, merges classic nautical iconography. It uses maritime signal flags flanked by dazzle camouflage to communicate a message to viewers.
“They (NTC Foundation) did not give me any strict guidelines,” said Armenta of his latest mural. “They just said, ‘Our slogan this year is anchored in hope.’ Let us know how your concept ties into this.”
The graphic artist took it from there.
“I developed some 100 variations in design and colors, different permutations, dozens of designs,” Armenta said. “Then I whittled it down to five and sent them the proposal. They allowed all the stakeholders to put in their opinions before choosing one design.”
For many years maritime signal flags have been used as a system of communication amongst vessels. Dazzle camouflage was a pattern used by ships in both world wars. The bold, staggered stripes conceal a ship’s direction and speed from enemies.
“James has as longtime history in Liberty Station having attended High Tech High through his middle and high school years,” said Lisa Johnson, president/CEO of NTC Foundation. “This mural serves as a symbol of hope to the arts community and we are thrilled to feature this mural alongside our many other public art installations located throughout Arts District Liberty Station.”
Artist Armenta, an employee with Intuit, created the mural as part of Intuit’s “We Care and Give Back” program, which encourages employees to donate up to 40 hours of community service per year. James generously donated his time and talent to Arts District Liberty Station.
Asked if painting the mural was a homecoming for him, Armenta replied, “Absolutely. I spent so much time at Liberty Station. I grew up there in a way. I felt such a direct connection.”
Armenta felt privileged to tackle doing a “message” mural in such a historic place, creating something both “meaningful” and “symbolic” on a blank wall.
“I wanted to do something that looked really nice,” he said. “There was a lot of historical context I could play with, not only with the formal Naval Training Center, but about Point Loma in general.”
Of how he articulated his nautical concept, Armenta noted: “It was old versus new. This old abandoned area that has now been revitalized with all these new businesses, people and a community.”
Armenta said the symbolism he came up with for his mural “used really bold, geometric kind of simplified forms.”
The artist took about four days to paint his mural, varying the color tones used in standard nautical design. “Nautical flags generally are red, blue, yellow, black and white,” Armenta said. “I didn’t want to do the traditional colors. So I adapted them, made them a little more modern. They’re a little bit richer, much more vibrant and energetic, updated for the times and the context.”
Added Armenta of his mural painting: “It’s a long, drawn-out process. I do my art digitally, then I translate it. It’s really gratifying to see something I made on a tiny little laptop screen, then see it blown up to the size of a building. It’s not often you get to do something so large in the real world.”
To learn more about the artist and see some of his work, visit JamesArmenta.com.