Illustrators' Night--GG Nominee Sydney Smith

Friday, October 16, 2015 1:22 PM | Lena Coakley

Minutes for Oct 14th, 2015 CANSCAIP Meeting
Notes by: Anne Laurel Carter 

Our new vice- president, Lena Coakely, chaired the meeting and began by welcoming visitors and new members.

Lena announced our delight that Eric Walters has been honoured for his many contributions to children’s literature by his recent admission to the Order of Canada. She also congratulated the nominees for the 2015 Governor General Awards and The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards


Ann Dublin: 44 Hours or Strike!, historical fiction for ages 12+ from Second Story Press.

Nadia L Hohn: Music and Media, non-fiction for Grades 5 and 6, in the Sankofa series from Rubicon Publishing. 

Barbara Reid: Sing A Song of Bedtime,  Illustrated Mother Goose rhymes for ages 3+ from Scholastic Canada.

Helena Aalto announced that illustrators should email her immediately if they wish to submit their work for the artists’ show at Humber College Nov 10 - 20 and at PYI. There is still time to register for PYI Nov 14th at Humber College. Call or email Helena at the office for more information.


Patricia Storms introduced our speaker Sydney Smith who hails from Nova Scotia and recently moved to Toronto. Sydney has received numerous awards and has just been nominated for a Governor General Award for the picture book, Sidewalk Flowers, from Groundwood Books. 

Sydney began his presentation by showing us some of his childhood favourite books that made lasting impressions on him, in particular: the illustrations of Edward Gorey; those of Juan Wijngaard in Jelly Belly (very scary); Where the Wild Things Are; and The Church Mice by Graham Oakley. Sydney loved that darkness was allowed in these books.

Sydney also loved the panelled art of comics. Astrix and Tintin and Calvin and Hobbs are probably responsible for his career interest in illustrating for kids. These comics gave him permission to go crazy with his imagination. He was in Gr 7 when he moved to a small town where he was the “left-out outsider” and filled the void of friendship with drawing and painting. He drew lots of bullies and super-heroes. 

After high school he attended NSCAD in Halifax and focused his work in his sketchbook where he didn’t have to worry about making mistakes. The sketchbook was a forgiving place and fun to show friends and family. Being in Halifax there were plenty of musicians/bands around and he began to do the underpaid artwork for covers and posters around town. He even taught himself how to do stop-motion animation. 

After trying editorial illustrations for the Globe & Mail he landed his first book illustration contract for Mabel Murple, which lead to There Were Monkeys in my Kitchen and then Toes in My Nose, all written by Sheree Fitch. With each book he felt his style become looser and he realized he could give up on his artistic “darkness” for something more whimsical. He illustrated Pit Pony by Joyce Barkhouse using his nephew as a model  which, happily, made drawing much easier. He started illustrating children's books for Maritime publisher Nimbus, and now does work for Groundwood Books. This move, like those of his childhood, gave him a chance to reinvent himself again: he left behind his careful cross-hatching and let things bleed in his sketches for a much freer style. 

Grant and Tillie Go Walking is an homage to the artist Grant Wood done in splattered water colour and stencil. Sydney has just completed a book with Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrating her short text that follows a cat through a cathedral. He’s currently working on a Canadian history book for kids called Canada Year By Year and a chapter book by Esta Spalding called Looking Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts.

Sidewalk Flowers Trailer
Sydney Smith and Jason Levangie's Stop Motion Video for "Horska" by Gypsophila