Charles van Sandwyk

Art, indeed life, should be a rich visual feast, restrained only by good taste.

To most people, Charles van Sandwyk’s work appears to be from another time. In fact, it is sometimes assumed that I am no longer among the living, he says. People have a hard time believing that someone born in 1966 could create such an old-world style, both in words and images, which Charles has done quite brilliantly.

Charles studied graphic design at the Capilano College art program in North Vancouver, and upon completion in 1986, set off to travel. He discovered the Fiji Islands and quite simply, fell in love. This is where he spends his winter creating the magical stories and images for his books, etchings and cards.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Charles’ early inspiration came from his childhood home and his parents. He drew birds and animals and developed a love for wide open spaces. In the evenings, there were the old children’s books from my grandparents - Peter Pan and the Grimm’s fairy stories, and Beatrix Potter too.

When his parents moved the family to Canada in 1977, Charles had quite an adjustment to make. He says: Books rescued me, and I discovered the worlds of Arthur Rackham and J.R.R. Tolkien. And when it came to high school geography, my mind wandered to other worlds.

Charles’ salvation came in the form of three high school art teachers. One taught him calligraphy and hand lettering; one showed him the skills of etching and printmaking; and the third gave him a-one-hundred-year old printing press.

By far my greatest source of inspiration is my lovely Fiji. I don’t mean the constant deriving of imagery from Fiji, but rather the joy of being there, and taking the time to develop ideas for paintings and stories  – the freedom to be alone with one’s self.

I love to embellish with borders and decorations. I am often, and quite accurately, accused of over-romanticizing my subjects.

In all of my work I have tried to create a gentle world in which to escape.