Zohrab is a professional marine painter who knew the sea and loved it at early age when he was a boy in Alexandria. The artist was born into an Armenian family in Egypt, the place of the pharaohs’ civilization, and settled in Los Angeles. He has had an affinity for drawing and painting since childhood. At the age of seven he participated in an art contest with watercolors, which was his ticket to a future life as an artist. His early works are influenced by the Nile River, old Cairo, the Alexandria coast, villages, crop fields, and ancient historical scenes. Zohrab followed his passion in art by attending English mission college at the “Leonardo da Vinci” Academy of arts in Cairo under the tutelage of professor M Hassan, who taught him many traditional techniques used by the old masters and that he still uses, practices, and enhances with his new methods.

Zohrab traveled to London and Paris to study the masters and their ways to further enhance his techniques in creating his artwork. He moved to Montreal where he pursued his profession as a Design Engineer & Plant Manager at Cinram Corp., while also continuing his artistic works. During this time hehad two successful solo exhibitions in 1973 & 1976 and presented Canadian scenes, maritime subjects and seascapes. Many works were acquired by collectors. In 1978 he moved to Vancouver, BC. In his studio on Hastings Street, he accepted many commissions from collectors and art patrons. In 1982 he moved to Los Angeles to be part of Baxter Medical, Ivax Corp. and B Braun Medical Corporation as a Sr. Eng. Specialist, designing many surgical devices. After an early retirement he now fully dedicates his time to his art.

Why do you do what you do?

Since I was a boy art was a second nature; also my parents encouraged me and saw my potential, therefore art materials were handy: paper, colored pencils, watercolors, brushes, etc. Artwork was in my blood as they say and I have continued to be involved in art ever since. It is important to love what you do and dedication and perseverance will pay off at the end.

How do you work?

It will be informative to mention that I have started in watercolors after using regular pencil and colored ones until the age of eight, when I exhibited in a 10-year-old range group show. For this opportunity I chose to submit two pieces, one landscape and a portrait of the American legend James Dean, which was chosen by the judges to take first place. Afterwards I did receive a set of oils as a gift and started to convert into this media, and after experiencing the strengths of expression of this media I did decide to continue with oils and since then oils have dominated my artwork.

What’s your background?

In the professional world I have been educated to become a Mechanical Engineer, I have worked in the medical device designs field, designing devices for the cardiovascular drug delivery systems for the major American firms.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

Initially: devotion and love toward art are the basic catalysts, education in the field to build a strong foundation on which the artist can build his artistic tower, without forgetting that an artist needs the space and materials to form and ever polish his artwork, dedicating and planting a part of himself always to outperform and exceed the previous presentation.

What is your role in society?

My role in society as an artist has been and will always be to communicate to the art-loving general public the sense of describing a story, feelings, emotions, strength, happiness, dilemma, situations, etc., via paintings.

What has been a seminal experience for you?

As a young boy my parents took steps for me to visit museums to appreciate and experience the métier of the masters of art world, old masters and new. It has given me the motivation and fuel to generate a strong hunger to accomplish and succeed in the art world. In my opinion it is important to establish an identifying signature; meaning that the style, colors, and approach of the artwork that will identify the artist even without reading his physical written signature.

Explain what you do.

The process is simple: initially a need is originated or developed to communicate a story, whether it is historical or not, real or imaginary, a scene is generated in my mind also a size for this artwork, this theme is portrayed and seen on the blank canvas with little difficulty, then the physical work starts and continues until completion. It is important to mention that in the past and to some extent now I do spend hours experiencing the outdoors to take in the nature and the colors and moods to use in some of my artwork.

How has your practice changed over time?

Time is a school and we are all constantly learning, enhancing and experiencing our understanding of the surroundings that we are exposed to and face every day. Therefore my approach and practice has been in motion by developing and experimenting with new techniques to enhance my communication via my artwork, and the learning curve will not stop till I depart from this world.

What art do you most identify with?

Since I was little I have enjoyed building model sailing ships and airplanes to the extent that I actually I have tried them out in bathtub, and Olympic-sized pools at the sporting clubs of which we were members, all to see and experience the accuracy of the sizes, shapes, and the way the models sailed and flew. With this tremendous passion for sailing ships and the waters and sea I have painted many scenes of sailing ships and the seas. I have been identified as a maritime and seascape artist. It is also important to mention that I have done many landscapes and well-known landmarks and scenes.

What type of work do you most enjoying doing?

When it comes to art and paintings, it is the process of the initial imagination and concept, research, design and execution of the chosen subject, the excitement and the adrenalin rush to start and complete the project at hand.

What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

One of the strongest memories is the hours spent with my aunt, may she rest in peace, when I was a boy in Alexandria, sitting on the rocks and watching the Mediterranean incoming sea waves crashing against the rocks surrendering their might; also observing the ever-changing mood and colors of the sky, sea, and of course the setting sun, and the beginning of the night sky. The reflection of the lights on the waves, s the sun or the moon in her different shapes that lit the skies, or was sometimes shadowed by the clouds. Watching the sea waves has been educational. Learning shapes and distances of the waves was an essential study, colors of the waves and the light, their behaviors as they approached the rocks and shallow waters, the ever-changing crashing shapes of each individual wave with its distinguished signature.

What themes do you pursue?

Most of the time they are historical naval or military battles, maritime or sea-related themes but not limited to this; I have also created imaginary mythical sea-related additions, including a few sketches for future works that are planned for large paintings.

What’s your scariest experience?

I am glad to say that to this day I have not encountered that degree of experience or phenomena and I do hope that the day will not come.

What’s your favorite work of art?

If I have to choose from the old masters’ work, then it will be many pieces by various masters due to their brilliant pieces and accomplishments. To name a few by historical dates: Caravaggio would be in my assessment the master of light and shadow; Boucher for his lovely figurative and pastoral scenes; Diego Velazquez for the Las Meninas, hanging in the Prado; Rembrandt’s portraits, of which one of my favorite is the Flora portrait of his wife; William Turner for the use of the yellow color and his interpretations of scenes with minimal brush strokes; and Ivan Aivazovsky, the all-time master of the waves and sea. (Many other well-known artists have existed that have painted great paintings that I have not mentioned due to the long list of them.) If I have to choose from my own work,, then I I have to take a different approach. All artists like all their work and to choose only one piece would be very difficult. I would say the following: I do have many favorite works, “but the greatest is yet to come”.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I am delighted to say that to this day I have not been introduced to Mr. Embarrassment; however, only time can determine when this introduction will come.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

In my professional life, I have been a Mechanical Engineer.

Why art?

Art is a way to communicate with others, whether they are close or far, to present them with feelings, energize their imaginations, remind them of places and times that we might never or can never experience, and tell them a story from the past or future.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

To be creative and honest in what you believe and do.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I am happy to indicate the following: I have been called the new Aivazovsky by many people at an exhibition where my works were exhibited; also two separate poets have written poetry on my work and me.

What food, drink, song inspires you?

I am sorry to say that food and drink do not inspire me; food and drink are essential to live; however, music is different; it creates emotions, opens avenues for the imagination to see and feel places, scenes and time, and transforms you to a different world where all can be possible and real.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

It is true that the artistic life can be lonely sometimes, due to the amount of time needed to create without distraction; execution of the work is a labor of love that needs to be done, and therefore some sacrifices are essential. To counter this loneliness, time has to be allocated toward a social life, and I therefore spend quality time with family and friends.

What do you dislike about the art world?

I have to confirm that time has never stopped and has been changing from the beginning; therefore the art world has been changing also, in new approaches, ways, interpretations, explanations, styles, so on and so on; therefore in my opinion the art world cannot please all people all the time.

What do you dislike about your work?

Only sometimes and very rarely after completion I wish I had painted on a larger scale.

What do you like about your work?

When the public like it.

What makes you angry?

To some, anger is when they cannot control their emotions, and I prefer to stay calm and thoughtful when issues arise, because being logical can solve situations. If there is one issue that displeases me, it is when people do not keep appointments and waste my time.

What superpower would you like to have and why?

Superpower is a word that I am not capable of measuring, but I could use ‘gifted’ instead. (Some people have it, some people don’t, I have too much of it. It is a joke.)

What is your dream project?

I do have several projects that I do intend to do in the future; to specify or prioritize the dream project, it would be one that I can say would be a large canvas with a title like “THE TRAVEL” or “THE ARRIVAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF POSIODON”. It will be a large seascape with many figures in a turbulent sea. I am hoping to finish it within a couple of years if possible.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

In consideration of my unique artistic style and technique, I would not wish be compared with others.

Favorite or most inspirational

My most inspirational time would be visiting museums and having the chance andopportunity to see famous artwork.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice I have been given by my dear mentor and professor is, “to do what pleases me and to give it my best all the time”.

Professionally, what’s your goal?

To be remembered in time, and the opportunity to display and exhibit my works in different museums or distinguished galleries, public places for the world to see and enjoy. Also, obtaining larger commissions to paint.

What wouldn’t you do without?


Who has called you the Master of the Sea?

A couple of the people that I remember: poet Sylva Porotian, Vahe Hakimian, Ruzan Murdyan, Levon Sharafyan, Nune Soureny, Ani Tadesvosyan, and others who I do not remember.

Zohrab Kemkemian paintings are available at:
Anzoh Art Gallery
1125 s, Central Ave Glendale CA 91204