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 the Armenian culture!
After years of working as a staff artist for Nickelodeon Animation Studios, I was yearning to draw my own characters and happy representations of my heritage. I wanted to do this simply to create joyful artwork to decorate my daughters’ rooms. The marketability did not even cross my mind because I thought it was so personal to me.
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, the influence of one amazing art teacher helped me realize my potential and clarified to me that I wanted to become an artist.
Trying to get my family to come around to the idea was another story!
From over-achiever to artist
My family had immigrated from Lebanon in 1978 to escape the war. My father was a very loving yet serious and formal man. When I was starting my senior year in high school, he asked me what my future plans were. When I told him I wanted to study illustration and become a full-time artist, he was very upset. He sternly told me he did not approve and that my choices were to become either a lawyer or doctor so that I can become a benefit to my people.
I was defiant and applied to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena without his knowledge. On my 18th birthday, I received my acceptance letter! I was terrified to tell my Dad that at 18 years old, I was admitted to the best art school in the country!
Can you believe that?!!
Fast-forward 25 years…
I was one of the winners of an art competition run by LA city council member, Paul Krikorian about the Armenian genocide and was featured on tv. Many of my parents’ friends started calling my dad to congratulate him on my achievements. He was on cloud 9. When I went to visit them that week, my father was beaming and said, “I’m so proud of you.” I said, “Can I ask you something? When I was a senior in high school you said that I had to become a doctor or lawyer to be a benefit to my people.
Do you think I’m being a benefit to my people now?”
He paused and sat back. He was in his mid 80’s at this point. He said, “I had no idea. How was I to know you would make drawings, put them on products that would help people connect to our heritage and homeland. I had no idea something like this existed or was even possible. I gave you advice to the best of my limited knowledge at the time.” It was also a really touching moment for me 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 to create and grasp.
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!
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!”
Sell-out success for three months
My family and I flew out for the opening day. When I saw my products in the Met for the first time, it was the most amazing moment of my life.
Everything came full circle. My whole life flashed before my eyes. So many questions were rushing through my head. What’s next? What does it mean for me? For all Armenians? For Artists? For the solo-entrepreneurs? I lost it and was bawling!
The exhibit opened on Friday, September 21st, 2018. 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 exhibit stores they had ever had. So on Monday, still in NY, I was on the phone calling all my vendors begging them to rush more products. “I need more mugs…more journals…more espresso cups!” It was a 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 have happened in my career.
This experience taught me ANYTHING is possible, so DREAM BIG and never give up. The response I received from the Met as well as from the people buying my work helped me understand my priorities. My personal project to decorate my daughters’ rooms, became my “niche” — art celebrating my Armenian heritage— and got me into one of the best museums in the world! I realized I was not only fulfilling a need for me but that it was a need I shared with my community, all over the world: images that connected us to our culture and homeland. I finally learned to embrace my uniqueness because that’s what made my art stand out. I’m happy that my audience now also includes art lovers from all different nationalities. I believe no matter where you’re from or what your racial background is, supporting and exposing your children to art from other cultures and celebrating diversity makes the world a brighter, more welcoming and compassionate place!
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!!
Sosse and the Daredevils of Sassoun is about a young Armenian girl who goes through a hero’s journey in medieval Armenia, encounters enchanted forests, mythical creatures, tests of bravery, and eventually becomes a part of history.
Watch the Trailer! >
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!
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