6 minute read

Christopher Canyon (1966-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1966, in Newark, OH; Education: Attended Columbus College of Art & Design.


Office—753 South Third St., Columbus, OH 43206.


Illustrator. Exhibitions: Society of Illustrators National Scholarship Competition & Exhibition, New York, 1988; Mazza Collection, University of Findlay, Ohio; James Thurber Center, Columbus, OH, 1995; Riffe Gallery, Columbus, OH, 1997; Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, 1998.

Honors Awards

Benjamin Franklin Award for best illustrated book, Publishers Marketing Association, 1996, for The Tree in the Ancient Forest; Artist for the 1998 State Reading Program, State Library of Ohio, 1998.



Linda Vieira, The Ever-Living Tree: The Life and Times of a Coast Redwood, Walker (New York, NY), 1994.

Carol Reed-Jones, The Tree in the Ancient Forest, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 1995.

Sandra De Coteau Orie, Did You Hear the Wind Sing Your Name?: An Oneida Song of Spring, Walker (New York, NY), 1995.

Karin Ireland, Wonderful Nature, Wonderful You, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 1996.

Christopher Canyon

Linda Vieira, Grand Canyon: A Trail through Time, Walker (New York, NY), 1997.

Donnell Rubay (reteller of story by John Muir), Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 1998.

J. Patrick Lewis, Earth & Us, Continuous: Nature's Past and Future, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 2001.

J. Patrick Lewis, Earth & You, A Closer View: Nature's Features, Dawn Publicaitons (Nevada City, CA), 2001.

J. Patrick Lewis, Earth & Me, Our Family Tree: Nature's Creatures, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 2002.

(And adaptor) John Denver's Sunshine on My Shoulders, Dawn Publications (Nevada City, CA), 2003.


Christopher Canyon once told SATA: "As an illustrator of children's books, it is a thrill and a privilege for me to share my experiences, to work with children and educators and to help promote a continuing appreciation and enthusiasm for the arts and children's literature. The goal of my programs is to inspire and motivate the creativity of all people. My mission is to help children and educators recognize the value of the arts not only as a language of personal expression, but also as a language of gaining knowledge of our world, ourselves, and others."

Canyon's passion for drawing began during his early childhood. At the age of ten, his parents bought him a beginner's art kit and signed him up for lessons with a local artist. Canyon's talent at drawing and painting continued to blossom and eventually earned him a full scholarship to the Columbus College of Art & Design, where he studied illustration, painting, and design for four years.

Linda Vieira's The Ever-Living Tree: The Life and Times of a Coast Redwood was Canyon's first venture into picture-book illustration. The book traces the story of the 2000-year-long life of a redwood tree. Combining nature with history, Vieira dates the stages of the tree's growth by making references to events such as the building of the Great Wall of China, the birth of the United States, and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan praised Canyon's picture-book debut, saying: "From the complex but controlled page layout to the subtle shadings of color, Canyon shows promise in this, his first book."

Canyon stayed with the same theme when designing illustrations for Carol Reed-Jones's The Tree in the Ancient Forest. Another tree, this time a 300-year-old fir, is the main character in this book-length poem depicting the interdependence of living things in the ancient forests. In the words of Booklist reviewer Lauren Peterson, "Canyon's superb double-page illustrations can be appreciated both as fine works of art and as detailed studies of forest flora and fauna."

Continuing with the motif of nature, Canyon collaborated with Sandra De Coteau Orie to produce Did You Hear the Wind Sing Your Name?: An Oneida Song of Spring. The story reflects Oneida traditions and is structured as a series of questions evoking the imagery and exploring the sensations of spring. School Library Journal contributor Donna Scanlon remarked that "Canyon's lush, vibrant, double-page paintings spill out of their frames and are rich in detail." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly also praised Canyon's "dramatic, large-scale paintings, in which animals, insects, birds, and flowers are rendered in impressive detail."

Canyon teamed up with Vieira a second time for the aptly-titled Grand Canyon: A Trail through Time. In 1996, he spent a month in the Grand Canyon doing research for this exploration of the awesome landmark. Canyon's efforts are evident in the realism of his illustrations. Susan Dove Lempke declared in a Booklist review: "The pictures are especially striking, complete with the textures, colors, light, and perspective … all gloriously realized." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Canyon "is adept at defining not only the grand vistas but also the close-focus scenery." Canyon also did on-location research for Stickeen, the story of the famous naturalist John Muir's explorations of southern Alaskan glaciers. Canyon traveled part of Muir's route in his research for the illustrations for this book.

The themes of Nature's beauty and the necessity for ecology also echo through a trilogy of books by J. Patrick Lewis that Canyon has illustrated. Earth & Us, Continuous: Nature's Past and Future, Earth & You, A Closer View: Nature's Features, and Earth & Me, Our Family Tree: Nature's Creatures all celebrate the variety of plants and animals on Earth, while encouraging youngsters to take responsibility for maintaining and preserving that variety. Commending the "beautifully detailed, richly colored, and dramatic" paintings in Earth & Me, School Library Journal correspondent Patricia Pearl Dole concluded that the title "should inspire an interest in and respect for nature." John Peters in School Library Journal praised Earth & You for its landscapes of "monumental landforms and expertly rendered wildlife."

Canyon also adapted and illustrated John Denver's Sunshine on My Shoulders, a book based on the lyrics of

Adapted from the uplifting John Denver song "Sun-shine on My Shoulders," Canyon creates a colorfully illustrated children's picture book.

Denver's hit song of the 1970s. The illustrations of a girl enjoying a sunny day with her father and the family cat reflect Denver's message that sunshine can be a healing and invigorating force.

Canyon takes time out from his busy schedule to visit schools and libraries and speak at conferences. He also provides day-long in-service programs on illustration for children and educators. At these programs, Canyon shares how his own childhood experiences and interest in drawing led him to become a professional artist. Through slides and original artwork, he also shares the creative and technical processes involved in creating a picture book, leading audiences on a step-by-step journey through the creation of one of his illustrations.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, March 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Ever-Living Tree: The Life and Times of a Coast Redwood, p. 1266; July, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of The Tree in the Ancient Forest, p. 1881; February 1, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Grand Canyon: A Trail through Time, pp. 916-917.

Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH), November 6, 2003, Debra Gaskill, "Book Illustrator Visits Beverly Gardens Kids: Artist Invites Students to Explore Creativity," p. Z5.

Publishers Weekly, January 9, 1995, review of Did You Hear the Wind Sing Your Name?: An Oneida Song of Spring, p. 63; November 17, 1997, review of Grand Canyon: A Trail through Time, p. 62; September 15, 1993, review of John Denver's Sunshine on My Shoulders, p. 63.

School Library Journal, April, 1995, Donna Scanlon, review of Did You Hear the Wind Sing Your Name?: An Oneida Song of Spring, p. 128; April, 2001, John Peters, review of Earth & You, A Closer View: Nature's Features, p. 132; April, 2002, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of Earth & Me: Our Family Tree, p. 114.*

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