Alta Journal’s cover model this issue was such a diva. Her body was built with little wired armatures, and her head and hands were made of Sculpey polymer clay. Her face was hand-painted with acrylics. Her clothes were hand-sewn. Then she was positioned, ever so delicately, on a similarly handcrafted butterfly. It took a while to get her lighting just right. “I pushed the warms and cools,” says her creator, Chris Sickels, of Red Nose Studio. “It was much more vibrant than what I normally do. I wanted to capture the light of the West.”

Chris Sickels sits down with Alta Live.

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chris sickels, red nose studio
CHRIS SICKELS/RED NOSE STUDIO

From his home office—a converted garage in Greenfield, Indiana—Sickels created our cover image and the art that opens the three main sections of this special issue. “I start drawing, and several pages of bad things come out,” he says, until the good ideas strike. Some of his best ones—like a condor swinging from a flying cable car, or a mountain lion seated at a bistro table in a parklet—now juxtapose topics you’ll find covered in those sections. Building the tableaux that Sickels employs as backgrounds to his figures sounds almost as fun as building the figures themselves. One downside? “I’ve got wood shavings in my socks right now,” he says.•