PASADENA, Calif. — California-based illustrator Arpi Krikorian has dedicated her life to celebrating and spreading the joy, richness, and vibrancy of Armenian culture. Arpi is renowned for her beloved modern illustrations of Armenian-inspired characters which are adorned with intricately-drawn traditional Armenian costumes.
Arpi and her family emigrated from Beirut, Lebanon to Southern California in 1978 to flee the Lebanese Civil War. Her artistic journey began at Mesrobian Armenian School when her art teacher, Ms. Wagner, encouraged Arpi to apply for the ArtCenter College of Design’s high school program. After completing the program, she became certain that art was her calling, but when she explained to her father that she intended to study illustration and become a full-time artist, he was not convinced. He had the staunch belief that Arpi could only help the Armenian people by becoming a lawyer or doctor. Nevertheless, committed to her dream, she applied and was accepted to the same ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., on the university level.
After earning her BA in Illustration there, Arpi worked as a staff artist for “The Angry Beavers,” a Nickelodeon animated series from 1995-2000. She also worked on notable shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “CatDog,” “Dora the Explorer,” “Oswald the Octopus,” and “Hey Arnold!”. As “The Angry Beavers” series came to an end, her family was growing, and her father, a realtor of 40 years, was diagnosed with cancer.
Compelled to take over her father’s business, Arpi stepped away from illustration to earn her real estate license and worked as a realtor for the next ten years. Arpi shared, “I actually loved being a realtor. I met a lot of great people and learned a lot about business, but it got to a point where I really needed to get back to my art.”
Fortuitously, in 2008, her daughter’s school, Sahag-Mesrob Armenian Christian School in Altadena, Calif., was looking for a new art teacher. What was only supposed to be a few weeks of teaching turned into three years because Arpi enjoyed working with the students so greatly.
“That role got me really excited about creating art for myself again. So I started drawing for myself and then I posted a drawing I did of an Armenian dancer on Facebook. It was funny because people who had met me in the previous ten years didn’t know that I was an artist. They just knew me as a realtor. After I posted the drawing, people were asking me where can I get that and who made this, because at the time I posted it, I didn’t even say it was my own work,” Arpi explained.