Sydney Smith was born in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and began drawing as a very young child. He studied drawing and printmaking at the NSCAD University in Halifax and has illustrated numerous children’s books since then, working for the publishing houses Nimbus Publishing and Groundwood Books.
»Sidewalk Flowers« (2015), for children ages four and up, is a wordless but poetic story about a small girl in a red coat walking with her father through a grey city. Her father does not pay any special attention to their path, but the girl sees delicate flowers poking through the gaps in the concrete and stone walls everywhere along the street. She plucks the flowers and gives them away as gifts as the grey day is gradually taken over by colors. At the beginning, Smith’s illustrations are almost entirely in black and white, but as the story unfolds. the color spectrum begins to expand until the story ends with a lush burst of colors and flowers. »Town Is by the Sea« (2017), written by Joanne Schwartz for children ages five and up, is also a story of contrasts. One boy, after being woken up by the sun’s rays and the sounds of the sea, frolics through fields and meadows all day long, does the shopping for his mother or visits the grave of his grandfather, and only goes home for dinner when the sun goes down, while the other boy’s father works in darkness in a coal mine. The story reaches a dramatic point when a tunnel collapses and the terrified boy waits for his father to return from work – until he finally discovers him through the window. Smith created the illustrations for this book about a mining family in the 1950s after the text had been completed. To complement the simplicity of the book’s prose, he chose to use a style reminiscent of sketches to enable the reader to feel both the tight confinement of the mine as well as the expansiveness of the world experienced by the boy at the sea. Panoramas that stretch across both pages alternate with small images that appear on a page in sets of six. With their book, Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith, both hailing from a former mining region that closed its mines in 2001, shine a light on the not so distant past.
In addition to illustrating children’s books, Smith has also created designs for Canadian musical acts such as »Hey Rosetta!« and »Old Man Luedecke«. He has received several prizes for his work, including the Governor General’s (GG) Award for Illustration for »Sidewalk Flowers«, which was also named by the New York Times as Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year and as a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly (both in 2015). Smith lives in Toronto, Canada.