Christopher Sickels


Written by Jessica Allan
13 Thursday 13th December 2007

Christopher Sickels creates 3D illustrations which have appeared in numerous magazines, books, newspapers and adverts, making him a very popular multi-tasker within the arts. He has conjured up a world full of endearing, intricately made puppets. Red Nose Studio is where his characters come alive.

What came first, the desire to illustrate, or the desire to make models? And how did you fuse the two together?

The desire to illustrate was what I pursued in college, but even as a kid I always enjoyed taking things apart and making toys from things we had around the house. The interest in puppets and models really grew after college and it was then when I wanted to find a way to combine my love of building puppets with my passion for illustration.

Where did you develop your model making skills, and how is each model structured?

My 3D skills are mostly self-taught. I met and spoke with several puppet makers and from them i learned that there is not really a right way to construct puppets. I studied stop-motion films and read every puppet fabrication book I could find. One book, which is very good, is Creating 3-D Animation / The Aardman Book of Filmmaking. My figures are constructed with a simple wire armature, foam, hand-sewn fabric clothing, and polymer clay for the heads.

You seem to have created a whole world in which your characters permanently live. How did you achieve that?

I think that world mostly stems from my sketches and just the way I draw things. I try to make a world that is seen though a Red Nose filter, so things aren't necessarily miniatures of the real world but made like I think they should be made.

Do you think your success as an illustrator is due to the originality of your work, and in particular its 3D quality?

I don't know for sure if it's a 'success' but I have fun doing what I do and i think that's important. I was once told by the designer Lori Siebert that I shouldn't question why it works. So, with that in mind I try to not think too much about it and just keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to the illustrators/designers out there who are at the beginning of their careers?

The great CF Payne once told me, when I was still in school, that if I could illustrate every day for five years I might have a chance at making it as an illustrator. I have found that there is a tremendous amount of truth in that statement.

The first freelance jobs I got were pretty much by begging and working for free. Show your work to every art director and publication you can think of and when you do get to meet with them, ask them who they think you can show work to. This way you are always showing work. I would spend days on end going through the entire magazine rack at newsstands and bookstores, gleaning every name I could in magazines that I thought my work would fit in.

I worked many odd and part time jobs to support my illustration career. When I didn't have illustration work, I made up my own assignments so that my portfolio was constantly growing and improving. It takes time, a tremendous amount of self-determination, the random luck of being in the right place at the right time and all that stuff...

More from Christopher at and

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