Muralist finds inspiration in Mexican heritage
With the shake of a can and push of a button, Paul Jimenez creates magic in lifelike murals. Every image has at least 40 colors of spray paint and not one brush touches the artwork.
Jimenez is half of the team that makes up Ground Floor Murals. On Thursday, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, he and his partner Signe Ditona were painting a mural for the Chula Vista Animal Care Facility.
Their work can be seen throughout San Diego and feature the city’s sports legends.
It all started with a mural of Tony Gwynn, painted on a gym in City Heights at the height of the pandemic.
"Everyone was really pretty upset and down and there was a lot of tension in the air in San Diego," Jimenez said. "And I put out there, 'Hey I want to paint Tony Gwynn somewhere, if anybody has a wall I’ll do it for the cost of supplies.'"
Halfway through the project, the big leagues called.
"The Padres contacted us. All of San Diego was starting to post it, it was all over the news and that was just kind of how we introduced ourselves to San Diego," he said.
Jimenez said what made that mural special for him is what it brought to the community during a dark time. "That was really important to me, to really bring the city together when we felt, I felt like we were all torn apart and down in the dumps," he said.
And community, he said, is what always fuels his passion.
"For me, one of the greatest things is being tagged by our fans, by our supporters, and it’s always the image in front of the whole family that’s in front of the mural... the image of the kids that are looking up at it, because I remember being the little kid and being that mural and being so inspired," he said.
Jimenez said it’s important for everyone to find themselves reflected in the art they see around them. He said feels blessed he found inspiration in his diverse community and will never forget visiting one of his community's landmarks for the first time.
"The influence of Chicano Park was huge for me," he said. "That was the first time that I ever really felt very proud to be this skin color, very proud to be Mexican, very proud to be from San Diego, knowing this whole park is dedicated to my people."
And his people are always close by. His Nana Paola Chavez happened to stop by with his aunt while he was painting on Thursday. Chavez beamed when she saw him and they embraced.
"I am so proud of him, I visit every mural he paints," she said in Spanish. "I even visited some in Los Angeles. I am so impressed to see that God gave him this intelligence to paint like this. I can't even imagine how he does it."
Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas also stopped by to check on the progress of the mural. She too was impressed by the son of Chula Vista who has grown to incredible heights.
"We are so proud of him," she said. "They can produce some marvelous things that can uplift the community. I mean look at this beautiful work. It's also inspiring and emotional. These kinds of things speak to the heart."
While professional athletes give him shout-outs and the mayor of his city sings his praises, Jimenez said he just wants little kids that look like him to dream big.
"Anything is possible," he said. "I truly, truly believe it. If you believe it, it truly is."