Artists Gather to Sketch and Draw at Zorthian Ranch

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Zorthian Ranch –

Jirayr Zorthian, the namesake of Zorthian Ranch, was an artist with a flair for the Bohemian lifestyle. After graduating from the Yale School of fine arts, he traveled for a bit then settled in the foothills of Altadena California. This is where he spent more than 50 years plying his unique taste for immersive environmental design until his death at the age of 92.

Zorthian RanchToday, the ranch is used for many different events including jazz concerts and movie shoots. My wife and I first came to the ranch over ten years ago for a cookout anc concert. This day was a day for visual artists. I joined with a group of sketchers and artists, about 15 of us, to do art at Zorthian Ranch.

We met at bottom of the ranch and carpooled over two rickety bridges up to the site. The narrow winding road was a mix of dirt and crumbly asphalt. However, the view (however perilous) into the San Gabriel Valley was spectacular. When we arrived at the top, we were greeted by a caretaker, a giant of a dog and a mule. We were given the liberty to roam the property, so I quickly took off to find a place to paint.

As usual, I was drawn to some architecture at Zorthian Ranch. Others picked nature scenes and some, vehicles. The painting seen on this page is the back ‘yard’ of the main house. I began with a quick pen & ink sketch, then worked over it with watercolor. As I worked, I began to see that Zorthian was a person possessed; reminding me of Simon Rodia, the builder of the Watts Towers. I think one can be possessed in a good way, even though it might be viewed as odd, overzealous, or eccentric by others.

As a relatively new member of the group of artists, I made no mention of Jesus. Some might read this and accuse me of selling out.  However, as I hope to paint with these talented people again, I’m working on developing a relationships first.

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