Alta Journal Wins Three Society of Illustrators Prizes

Illustrations by Thomas Ehretsmann, Chris Sickels, and Mark Smith have been recognized in a national contest and exhibition.

society of illustrator award winners, thomas ehretsmann, chris sickels, red nose studio, mark smith
THOMAS EHRETSMANN; Chris Sickels/red nose studio; Mark Smith

The Society of Illustrators honored Alta Journal with three awards in its annual competition. Titled Illustrators 64, the contest included thousands of entries from illustrators and art directors from around the world. The entries were voted on by a distinguished panel of judges, and beginning today, March 9, the winning illustrations will be on exhibit at the society’s historic headquarters in New York City until May 7.

The following Alta contributing illustrators received this distinctive recognition:

Thomas Ehretsmann earned an award in the Editorial Single Image category for an oil painting he produced for an interview with the legendary art critic Dave Hickey. The work depicts Hickey standing in a picture frame and clutching a cigarette. Hickey died on November 12, 2021, and the painting is among the last made of him. “It took me about a week to paint David Hickey’s portrait in acrylics on paper. Once the idea of the picture frame was found, painting Hickey’s portrait was just fun,” said Ehretsmann. “Having your work seen by your peers in the Society of Illustrators is something every illustrator dreams of and a huge moral support to me when working by myself in my studio.”

Chris Sickels, of Red Nose Studio, received the top honor in the Editorial Series category for four images he designed for Alta’s The Next West issue. Using a type of polymer clay called Sculpey, Sickels created a sequence of unique models held up by armatures constructed from wiring, which he then photographed. “I am humbled to be recognized by the Society of Illustrators for my mixed-medium work,” said Sickels. “There’s nothing better than enjoying what you do and doing it with people you admire and respect. I am honored to work with Alta and the magazine’s creative director, John Goecke.”

Mark Smith won in the Editorial Series category for his drawings accompanying “The Uraniumaire,” a story about a prospector who struck a fortune by discovering huge deposits of radioactive uranium near Moab, Utah. “I enjoy working with Alta very much. Because the magazine’s articles are so narrative-driven, I can draw inspiration from film when illustrating scenes, which is always fun to do,” said Smith. “I had high hopes for this piece, so I am glad that it worked and honored to be recognized by the Society of Illustrators.”

At a time when illustration in publications may seem like a lost art, Illustrators 64 keeps the tradition of this storytelling technique alive by celebrating the finest work in the industry. “The work of the artists from Alta shows how great illustration can enhance and expand a publication,” said Goecke. “All three are regular contributors, and we are honored to showcase their work in our journal.”

The winners will also be recognized at an awards ceremony tentatively scheduled for May 6. The various works will then be reproduced in the society’s 64th Annual of Illustration, which will include information about the artists.•

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