As seen in
Hi I’m Arpi Krikorian
I’m a proud Armenian artist living in California, who has dedicated my life to celebrating the joy, color and beauty of Armenia!
After years of having a ball illustrating for Nickelodeon I was yearning to create my own characters which represented my loved ones, heritage and heart. I knew Armenians around the world were searching for joyful representations of their culture. I also believe no matter where you’re from or what culture you belong in, supporting and exposing your children to art from other cultures and celebrating diversity makes the world a brighter, more welcoming and compassionate place!
I didn’t always know I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t even pick up a paintbrush until high school!
After a gymnastics injury ended my athletic career and with the influence of one amazing art teacher who helped me realize my potential, I had made up my mind: I was going to become an artist!
Trying to get my family to come around to the idea was another story!
From over-achiever to artist
I was an over-achiever and the class valedictorian. My Armenian Dad had very high hopes for me and wanted me to become either a doctor or a lawyer. Those were professions he understood. He always told me “do something to benefit your people.” My becoming a commercial artist was not on his agenda! He didn’t know what it was, let alone how it could benefit Armenian people.
On my 18th birthday, I was thrilled to discover I had been accepted to a bachelor’s degree in Illustration at one of the most prestigious art schools in the world, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. My Dad dug his heels in and refused to pay for my art school but eventually came around and helped me get a loan. So with a combination of scholarships, grants, and loans I was able to complete my degree, always hoping I could one day make my Dad proud.
Fast forward 25 years…
I was one of the winners of an art competition run by our city council member Paul Cucorian about the Armenian genocide and was featured on tv. All these people started calling my dad. He was on cloud 9. I go to visit and he said “I’m so proud of you.” I said “Can I ask you something? When I was a senior in high school you said either be a doctor or lawyer to be a benefit to your people. Do you think I’m being a benefit to my people now?”
He stopped – he was in mid 80’s at this point. He said “I had no idea. How was I to know you would do drawings, put them on pillows and have them in their homes. I had no idea this was going to happen. I gave you advice to the best of my knowledge at the time. I’m very proud of you.” It’s as a really touching moment too as a parent. We really don’t know what our children are capable of. We’re basing what we know on our own experiences but the world is different now. There are so many more opportunities and possibilities.
My message to all young artists would be: don’t stop believing in your dreams, even if not everyone understands at first. Your creative work has the power to make a difference!
Featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
I still get goosebumps when I think back to my journey getting my products featured in the Met in 2018–2019!
In late 2017 while visiting an Armenian History and cultural museum in LA called Eskijian Museum and was introduced to the curator of the upcoming ARMENIA! exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, Dr Evans. She agreed to show my work to the Met’s merchandising department and I gave her some products I had in my car!
The next day on, I literally called and emailed different departments at the MET EACH WEEK for over 7 months to try to make contact with the decision makers with no luck. FINALLY, in May 2018, nearly seven months later and four months before the exhibition was to open, I reached someone who gave me the name of the person I needed to speak to, the Head of Merchandising! I called and SHE PICKED UP! When I told her that I was calling about the upcoming Armenia! exhibition, she told me she was sorry but they already had the merchandise they needed! My heart sank but I had come too far to give up and nervously asked, “If you’re in front of your computer, would you mind just taking a look at my website?” She was nice enough and said, “Sure!”
“OMG, this is the answer we’ve been looking for!”
Within a few hours, I became a vendor for the Metropolitan Museum of Art!
Sell-out success for three months
When I saw my products in the Met it was the most amazing moment of my life.
Everything came full circle. My whole life flashed before my eyes. I was like am I in a dream? What’s next? What does it mean for me? For Armenians? I lost it and was balling!
The show started on Friday. By Monday I had an email saying “We’re almost sold out. We’ve never seen anything like this. When can we restock?” I was told it was one of the best selling special exhibits they had ever had. So on Monday, I was on the phone calling all my vendors asking them to make it happen “I need like 500 mugs…!” It was whirlwind and it went on for the next three months needing more and more stock. It’s been one of the most amazing things that’s happened in my career.
This experience taught me ANYTHING is possible, so DREAM BIG and never give up. It was an absolutely amazing experience. The response I received from the Met as well as from the people buying my work helped me understand my priorities. My “niche” — art celebrating my Armenian heritage— got me into one of the best museums in the world! I realized I was fulfilling a need my community was desperately seeking: images that connected us to our culture and homeland. I learned finally to embrace my uniqueness because that’s what made my art stand out. IS: Amazing Arpi.
My cancer journey
On June 30, 2020, a colonoscopy revealed rectal cancer.
My treatment included surgery to remove the tumor, followed by 6 rounds of chemo and six weeks of every day radiation with chemo pills, taking my last chemo pill on June 10, 2021.
On August 20, 2021, I underwent the last surgery to complete my treatment, the reversal of my ileostomy.
I am grateful to God for getting me through this very challenging time. I am thankfully in the clear at this point and continuing my diligent screenings. Please get your colonoscopy!
To read more about this initiative, please visit www.arpipublishing.com.
Fun Facts ABOUT ME
I am married to my high school sweetheart Joe!
We have been together since my sophomore year of high school and married for over 25 years! We have two beautiful girls together Sosse and Sevan.
I was a staff Artist for Nickelodeon for 5 years!
I was a storyboard revisionist for the “Angry Beavers” and I also freelanced for “Hey Arnold”, “CatDog”, “Oswald” and “Dora the Explorer.” I have always LOVED creating characters!!
Meet the Characters
Each of my characters are hand-illustrated in rich, ornate and beautifully authentic Armenian costumes. The traditional female dress is called “Daraz” and they are stunning. Imagine being adorned in jewels, with glorious headdresses and intricate embroidery. These garments did more than look pretty, they told a story.
Learn more about the characters I draw which celebrate the beauty of this rich culture I’m proud to be a part of!