This year’s Artist in Residence program welcomed award-winning artist, illustrator, and stop motion animator Chris Sickels. The residency generated student and faculty enthusiasm, as well as fostered interest in the art department’s programs, including a forthcoming one in stop motion animation.

Frank Guthrie, art department faculty, is spearheading the effort to add stop motion animation classes to the art department. The classes are currently going through the approval process, with classes expected to begin in Fall 2023.

“My goal is to create a two-year program for students who have zero knowledge of animation,” said Guthrie.

Fullerton College student Ingrid Medina asks 2022 Artist in Residence Chris Sickels questions after his live demo.

Fullerton College student Ingrid Medina asks 2022 Artist in Residence Chris Sickels questions after his live demo. Photo credit: Ryan Billings

Mike Sheehan, art department faculty, nominated Sickels for the Artist in Residence.

“I’m always talking about crossover and I like all the overlap with different things like fine art, sculpting, animating, and illustration. And Chris is kind of a prime example of that,” said Sheehan.

Sickels’ weeklong residency included several live demonstrations, a lecture, and a reception at the Fullerton College Art Gallery, where an exhibition featuring his work is currently running. The artist’s work ranges from short films, magazine illustrations, and book covers, including the popular fantasy novel “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune.

Miguel Chacon, former Fullerton College student, admires Chris Sickels' work for the cover of The House in the Cerulean Sea.

Miguel Chacon, former Fullerton College student, admires Chris Sickels’ work for the cover of “The House in the Cerulean Sea.” Photo credit: Ryan Billings

At the demos, which spanned several days, Sickels worked in front of an audience where he fabricated and animated a puppet while also answering questions on his process and career. The audience laughed when he said he enjoyed the experience though he found working in front of people surreal.

Sickels said that he was interested in a residency at Fullerton College because he wanted the new experience of demonstrating in front of people because he works alone at his home studio in Indiana. He also hoped to make stop motion animation more accessible and was excited for the courses in the works at the college.

Chris Sickels, Fullerton College 2022 Artist in Residence, works on a puppet during a live demonstration.

Chris Sickels, Fullerton College 2022 Artist in Residence, works on a puppet during a live demonstration. Photo credit: Ryan Billings

Many students said they had attended other demos earlier in the week and went to the lecture.

“I’m just so fortunate that Chris Sickels, of all people, decided to come here because stop motion animation is one of the things that interests me,” said Ingrid Medina, a student currently enrolled in art classes.

A puppet from Uncertainty, 2019, by Chris Sickels, featured in Scientific American, currently on display at the Fullerton College Art Gallery.

A puppet from “Truth, Lies, & Uncertainty,” 2019, by Chris Sickels, featured in Scientific American magazine currently on display at the Fullerton College Art Gallery. Photo credit: Ryan Billings

At Wednesday night’s lecture, Sickels discussed his career, from his youth as a “farmboy in Indiana” encouraged by his teachers to apply to art school to his current work as a successful freelance artist. He presented several of his short films and detailed his career path. Sickels gave advice for artists to step out of their comfort zones.

“Take that as an encouragement to not only do what you love but push what you love to new ground,” said Sickels.

The exhibition opened on Feb. 16, showcasing Sickels’ work, including puppets and sets, prints, short films, and sketches. Work featured in Scientific American magazine, and several book covers are also on display.

Fullerton College's 2022 Artist in Residence Chris Sickels works on an original puppet during a live demonstration.

Fullerton College’s 2022 Artist in Residence Chris Sickels works on an original puppet during a live demonstration. Photo credit: Ryan Billings

The exhibition will run until Mar. 28 at the Fullerton College Art Gallery. The gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Admission is free.

“I’m really excited to be able to return to campus so that we can have these live exhibitions because it’s thrilling to see the artwork up close and see the detail of it in real life,” said Nicola Dedmon, interim Dean of Fine Arts.

Fullerton College Students Brice Flores and Leia Jiana admire Fullerton College's 2022 Artist in Residence Chris Sickels' puppet made during his live demo.

Fullerton College Students Brice Flores and Leia Jiang admire Fullerton College’s 2022 Artist in Residence Chris Sickels’ puppet made during his live demo. Photo credit: Ryan Billings

“I’ve been a stop motion animator since I was 9 years old. Listening to his stories of how he became an animator and how he’s also self-taught is very admirable. And watching his process of creating is very awe-inspiring,” said Brice Flores, who attended the demos.

“Setting your limits and building on top of those. I think it just goes back to the whole mentality of using what you have at hand and making the most of it. You use the tools that you have to get the job done. So I think I infuse a little bit of that into the work I do every day because the budget’s never going to be perfect, the timing’s never going to be perfect and the subject matter is never going to be perfect. You just try to make the best of what you have on the table that day,” Sickels said during his demo.

EDIT: This article was edited to correct an incorrect name.

Author profile

Eulalia Saucedo (she/her) is an art history major from Whittier, CA. She enjoys contemporary art, screenwriting and watching bad movies with her friends.