Charles Noel van Sandwyk was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1966. In 1977, he emigrated with his family to Vancouver, Canada. By the early 1980's, he was selling his drawings and watercolours in a style reminiscent of the old prints and paintings which hung in the family home.
He studied graphic design at Capilano University in North Vancouver. Upon completion in 1986, the wanderlust of younger years sent him travelling to the South Pacific. He discovered the Fiji Islands, and fell in love with a remote island and its inhabitants.
In that same year, he won an Alcan award for his limited edition book A Selection of Neighbourly Birds, illustrated with etchings and printed on an antique intaglio press. This first attempt at publishing prompted a passionate venture into the world of hand-made and private press books and prints.
His watercolours, etchings and books are now collected across North America and Europe. The National Library of Canada has maintained an archive on his work since 1986, and in 1992 purchased the original drawings and paintings for his children's book The Parade to Paradise. The book Wee Folk won Juror's Choice award at the 1994 Seattle Book Fair.
In 1995, he was involved in a motorcar accident in Fiji. In the recovery ward of the Lautoka Hospital he had a wonderous dream about an island sanctuary populated by strange creatures. It was a very gentle and healing dream with a depth he had never before experienced. Immediately upon waking, he set to work sketching the visions while they were fresh in his mind's eye. This dream became Sketches from the Dream Island of Birds.
Charles illustrated two books for the Folio Society in London, England: Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book in 2002 and Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows in 2005 which was the winner of the Grand Prix in the Printing World Awards 2006 for the finest achievement in British Printing.
Charles' own books are designed, written, and illustrated by himself, and he oversees every step of their publication. In 2012, the University of Alberta in Edmonton is publishing book about Charles' work.