Retiree continues creating art

Cannon Connections photo: Argen Duncan Armenta paints in his Base Exchange studio. Armenta creates custom designs and has other original artwork for sale.

By Argen Duncan: Cannon Connections

Military aircraft fly, a cow’s skull rests against a fence post in the snow and a child’s eyes gaze at the world, all on the walls of a retired airman’s art studio.

Ranchvale artist Ruben Armenta has worked as an independent vendor from his temporary studio at the Cannon Air Force Base Exchange for about a month, and has been an artist much longer. His business, Art by Armenta, offers original artwork, personalized or unpersonalized prints, limited graphics work and custom art.

In 2006, Armenta retired as a tech sergeant from a 20-year Air Force career in graphic art, including six years running the Cannon Public Affairs graphics shop. He has since continued with his art, working with a variety of media and subjects, and his pieces can be found around the base.

“If you’re doing something you love, it’s not work,” Armenta said. “Every piece I do, whether it’s the design of a mural or a coin or a painting, it’s the challenge of watching it all come together.”

The artist said it’s fantastic and challenging to capture his vision on canvas, masonite or paper. He also finds a thrill in figuring out and creating what a customer wants.

Armenta paints and draws aircraft and other military subjects, abandoned windows, scenes from the Southwest and rural America, and, for the Eyes of Clovis project, portraits of Clovis residents’ eyes. Customers can commission special original projects, or have Armenta combine digitally scanned images of his art with photos, text and logos to create going-away presents, souvenirs or squadron posters.

All of the work in Armenta’s studio is his creation, either something he thought of or ideas from customers. Prints are available for $21, and prices go up from there based on the size of the piece.

Cannon commissary Project Manager Dave Lindon, a retired Air Force senior master sergeant, said Armenta’s work was awesome and the base needed something like his studio.

“I really enjoy his place,” Lindon said. “I come in every day to see what else he’s done.”

Trudy Farr, the wife of a retired airman, stopped by Armenta’s Cannon studio while visiting from Brownfield, Texas. She said the art brought back memories of 25 years in the Air Force.

Armenta has worked as a freelance illustrator for more than 30 years. His artistic life began in high school in California.

As a winner of the State of California Bank of America art award and the son of an airman stationed overseas, Armenta had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study art in Europe, he said.

The young artist became an exchange student at the University of Maryland campus in Munich, Germany, and studied in Czechoslovakia; Paris, France; and Florence, Italy.

“It was just awesome,” Armenta said. “You couldn’t ask for more.”

After studying in Europe, he enlisted in the Air Force because he learned the service at the time had careers for active duty illustrators in graphic arts. Armenta’s military career included 12 years in the advertising and promotion field as art director for Headquarters Air Force recruiting.

From that assignment, he came to Cannon and then retired in 2006. After retirement, Armenta continued the freelance art he’d been doing since 2001.

With nothing else to do, he painted a picture of several military aircraft that ended up in the Cannon bank. Although a number of people pointed out the AC-130 U model gunship wasn’t coming to the base, the painting opened a door to much more work at Cannon.

Armenta said he appreciated not only being able to create art but to provide it to the people at the base.

The artist has a permanent studio in Ranchvale and can be reached at 575-985-0225.