'The Smoke Artist' honors 9/11 firefighters with oil painting

Known as "The Smoke Artist," New Jersey-based artist Mher Khachatryan paints with his emotions.

"The idea is that everything that is alive, it's in a movement," Khachatryan said. "It does not die it's a fire, then it becomes a smoke, the smoke dissipates, it turns into water, so everything is in a beautiful and perfect movement. That's why I believe that we are all connected."

On September 11, 2001, Khachatryan was 17-years-old. Like many, he remembers everything about that terrible day.

"I think being a teenager at the time, there was a lot of anger," he said.

But over the years his perspective changed. Especially now that he is a husband and father. 

"I grew to understand that compassion is a much better answer to things than anger and I think, by changing that, by educating my kids and other kids around that love, I think, is a better answer to anything they want to do."

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Khachatryan had always wanted to paint 9/11 but he had always felt like there was something missing. That is, until he visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. That experience immediately inspired him.

"The video recordings, the audio recordings, the kids you know, leaving messages to their parents, husbands and wives they're leaving messages… I couldn't actually stay to see the whole thing it was just very overwhelming," he said. "I didn't have that spark in me until I visited."

It took Khachatryan one year to complete this enormous oil on canvas painting. It is filled with lots of emotion and symbolism. It shows the attack, the aftermath and "the rebirth."

"Think inspiration is when the idea, not you taking over the idea, but the idea is taking over you. And then you have no choice but to go with it," Khachatryan said.

The firefighters are the main heroes in his piece. The exact times the two planes hit the Twin Towers are subtly shown in smoke. And perhaps most importantly and most moving is how each victim is represented by 2,977 candles.

"I actually had to double-check the candles three times, just to make sure is the exact amount by first painting. Each candle the body of the candle, double-checking with the wick of it, and then the third time was adding glow-in-the-dark paint on top of each candle so they charge light and if all the lights go down instantly those candles light up for for a few seconds," he said.

He hopes their stories and legacies will live on and those who see this piece are reminded of the importance of being united.

"Unfortunately sometimes a tragedy like this will bring people together. We’re all connected, we're together, and I think my message would be to try to choose love over fear. My message would be not dwell on the tragedy so much, but the rebirth," Khachatryan said.

You can follow more of Khachatryan's work by clicking here.