September 14, 2015: Under Construction


Over the next week or so I am going to be updating and changing this website around a bit. For the time being, if links and content are in disorder, please bear with the end of September things should be in their right place.

September 14, 2015: McQuesten Urban Farm Signs


One of the inspiring projects in my community is the urban farms that have been set up the Hamilton Victory Gardens. Through sheer force of will and volunteer effort it seems, formidably-sized and highly productive farms have been set up (in newly-built raised beds) on vacant or brown-field land in Hamilton's lower city.

In the very East end, near the Red Hill Valley, is the McQuesten neighbourhood, who have their own Victory Garden location. Kelly McKinney who has been working in the McQuesten community to run a kids camp and help manage the farm project asked me to come help her class make some signs for the garden.



Located near several convenience stores and a walkway, the farm, which has no fences and is open to the surrounding community, has suffered somewhat by dumping, littering, vandalism and theft. While these issues are delicate ones to handle, especially with a project that is supposed to be there for the community's ultimate benefit, Kelly's idea was to create some signs with the kids to help motivate respect for the garden and the beneficial thing it can be.


The first step was to have the kids draw out their ideas about what they love about the farm, farm rules, why the farm rules! Etc. Some of these drawings I used to translate fairly directly into sign designs. Other signs were inspired by what the kids drew and wrote although not literal copies of the kids' work.


I brought back to the camp a few days later, several signs that were prepared for customizing and colouring in. The kids then had another morning of activity to produce the finished product.


After the signs were coloured we sealed them with varathane, to weather proof them. We also sealed them with a kiss!

Best of luck McQuesten Urban Farm!



July 13, 2015: Epigenetic Landscape


The image reveals an "epigenetic landscape", essentially it is a visualization representing gene expression. Pen and ink with digital enhancement. The illustration is for a book by philosophy of biology professor Denis Walsh at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto.

Client: Denis Walsh, Cambridge University Press.

July 1, 2015: Canada Day Mural, City of Hamilton


For their Canada Day celebrations the City of Hamilton hired me to create a mural (really, a giant colouring page), that could be run as a communal art activity at the Hamilton waterfront.

I based the mural off of ideas I had proposed a year earlier for the Cartrer Park mural project. However, I expanded, revised and added to the original Hamilton panorama quite a bit. The drawing was done in ink on paper and stitched together digitally, so it could be printed onto a 3'x32' roll of paper.

Recognizable aspects of Hamilton in the image included the bay front, skyway bridge, old Stelco lands and industry, grapples in the metal recycling yards, James Street, downtown city skyline, notable historic buildings from the Stinson neighbourhood, Around the Bay road race, the escarpment and Wentworth staircase, Flamborough farm land and orchards, Ward 3 including the new stadium with a soccer game taking place, and Toronto's skyline in the distance.


We ran the activity, where kids or adults would invited to contribute, colour, customize or add to the image, for about three hours from 6pm until 9pm. Thanks to Jackson Darby, Katie McDonald, Aimee Burnett, Juanita White and Crystal Humphry who helped run the activity and who contributed to the mural themselves.


Apparently the City's plan is to display the 3'x32' coloured in piece at the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology, eventually. Below you can see sections of the completed mural. Thanks also to Jeff Tessier, whose photos here document the project.




February 13, 2015: Science and Religion project


I created the logo and visual identity for the research project Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum. We structured the design of their print advertising, website, and social media around the theme of evolution and religion refracted through a prism.


Client: Centre for Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society, Newman University.

November 27, 2014: Ebola crisis, The Boston Globe


This illustration appeared in The Boston Globe accompanying an article by Bina Venkataraman discussing why experimental vaccines for Ebola were not available for use in human subjects.

Client: Heather Hopp-Bruce, The Boston Globe

June 10, 2014: Carter Park mural proposal


When the City of Hamilton put out a call for artists to propose a mural to improve Carter Park, a small park in the downtown Stinson neighbourhood, I knew I had to submit something. I love this little park. It feels a bit like a forgotten place, and is definitely at a disadvantage as an urban green space being located underneath a busy onramp for a road connecting the lower city to the mountain (the Clairmont access).

This project lead me to some history of the Stinson neighbourhood. The area was built up in the nineteenth century, and in 1896 the Hamilton Collegiate Institute (HCI) was built, a magnificent building that housed what had been a model school for secondary education in the province. Several famous Hamiltonians when to HCI, including former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson, and the mathematician J. C. Fields. Unfortunately this building was destroyed by fire in 1946.

In a fairly typical turn of bad urbanism, the city used the land formerly occupied by HCI to build a mega road funnelling cars from the growing urban sprawl on the mountain to the steel mills, major employers for many inhabitants in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. While the steel industry has died, the civic infrastructure remains. Built to move thousands of steelworkers to and from work each day, now most of these roads are overbuilt and under capacity.

My proposal for this mural was a bit of a rush job, but I did have fun making this panorama of Hamilton, that included the bay, the steel mill, the escarpment, "Around the Bay" race, recreational features (such as cycling, baseball), and several prominent buildings that either were or are part of Stinson or prominent features of Hamilton's skyline.

The proposed scale of the mural was long and narrow, 21 meters long and 3 meters high. Its hard to represent that here but below is an attempt to capture a bit of what the draft mural was all about, above in full, and below in sections. At the top of this post is a except from the mural in colour.


There were many interesting submissions. I hugely congratulate Bryce Huffman, who's proposal was selected by the jury. Congrats Bryce!

Now from a distance, I think my proposal reflects how interested I have become in representing Hamilton in sequential art, or comic/graphic novel form. Maybe my proposal for the Carter Park mural will have a second life as part of my Hamilton graphic novel. Still in the drawer at present, but coming soon to a location near you, I hope.

May 11, 2014: Hamilton Arts Awards


I was nominated for a Hamilton Arts Award in the Community Arts category. Thanks friends Amanda Jernigan and John Haney, for nominating me!

January 29, 2014: Walmart Live Better magazine

Some of my work appeared in the January 2014 Fresh Start issue of Walmart's "Live Better" in-store magazine. The project about home organization was to draw empty rooms in which photographs of Walmart products would be placed. I could imagine whatever spaces I wanted, as long as they would fit the items given. Below I've pictured the illustrations of the empty rooms beside how they appeared with the text and products in the magazine. Although a bathroom image was commissioned, it didn't run in the magazine in the end. Thanks to Art Director Daniel DeSouza!






November 20, 2013: Community Supported Art, work in progress

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I'm getting twenty-five paintings/illustrations ready for Hamilton's Community Supported Art project. It's a great way to get your foot in the door if you're looking to start an art collection. And an original work by me will be a part of it! As background for the project, Cobalt Connects recently posted an interview with me, which you can read here

Below are some of the works that will be for sale through this project. Each painting of mine will focus on Hamilton, the themes, people, places and impressions of the place. All twenty-five pieces will be the same size (11"x8.5") and use the same materials (acrylic, ink, watercolour on paper) and colour palette.

You can purchase one through the CSA website. The illustrator box, including one of my original works (and the work of two other artists), is $350. Check out


(1) Strip club, King Street


(2) Steel City, Claremont Access Underpass


(3) Hamilton City Centre, York and James Street


(4) Fall tree, Market Street


(5) Second Floor Mural, Hamilton City Hall


(6) Stelco Retiree


(7) Hamilton Bulldogs, Copps Coliseum


(8) Stroll on James Street


(9) Haunted


(10) Sioux Lookout Park


(11) Gage Park Rose Garden


(12) Flamborough Livestock


(13) Barton Street Detention Centre


(14) Beautiful Downtown Hamilton (King William Street demolition)


(15) Copetown farm


(!6) Sprout Campers, Escarpment Trail


(17) Cannon Street Cycle Track


(18) Hamilton Beach


(19) Discarded needles, Beasley Park


(20) Hamilton Collegiate Institute Fire, 1946


(21) Snow Storm, Stinson


(22) Stelco, Fog


(23) Newborn, St. Joseph's Hospital


(24) Burlington Bay Panorama


(25) Food Bank, Cannon and Mary Street


Sylvia Nickerson
Art & Illustration
e: sylvianickerson [at]
h: (+1) 905-522-5604
c: (+1) 905-730-3288
t: @sylvianickerson

A short biography can be found here.

City of Hamilton
The Washington Post
The Globe and Mail
The Boston Globe
The National Post
The Dominion
Dogs in Canada
Hamilton Magazine
DRIVEN magazine
Biz Magazine
The Utne Reader
Briarpatch magazine
THIS Magazine
Atlantic Books Today
The Literary Review of Canada
The Coast
H Magazine
The New Quarterly
Book and Periodical Council
The Local Cafe
The Aeolian Singers
Brott Music Festival
Sustainable Solutions Group
University of Toronto
Rogers Media
Catherine Manoukian Violin
Palgrave Macmillan
MORE Magazine
Cambridge University Press