Emma FitzGer­ald hand draws the south shore

Emma FitzGer­ald fol­lows up the pop­u­lar Hand Drawn Hal­i­fax with Sketch by Sketch: Along Nova Sco­tia’s South Shore.


Emma FitzGer­ald struck a chord with Hand Drawn Hal­i­fax, her 2015 col­lec­tion of por­traits of build­ings, peo­ple and land­marks from around town. Last year’s com­pan­ion colour­ing book pushed lo­cal pride even fur­ther, even as FitzGer­ald her­self was al­ready look­ing down the shore­line to the next book.

Sketch by Sketch: Along Nova Sco­tia’s South Shore was drawn and as­sem­bled over one year and launched on Novem­ber 22 at the Cen­tral Li­brary. De­spite the tome’s idyl­lic scenes—FitzGer­ald’s in­ti­mate, de­tailled lines re­main packed full of sharp ob­ser­va­tion and ca­sual charm—it wasn’t al­ways easy for the artist to get to the sites.

“I don’t drive, so ob­vi­ously I don’t own a car, and there’s not great tran­sit down there,” says FitzGer­ald. “I had to reach out and say, ‘Is any­one go­ing to Liver­pool, by chance?’ And then I would only have one day.” Th­ese one-day ex­cur­sions pro­duced three to four draw­ings per trip. “My sketch­ing is quite quick.”

The area has ob­vi­ous at­trac­tions, from the rocky seascapes to the well-known tourist trap­pings and its more re­cent hip­ster lean­ings as artists have made a com­mu­nity there— “they try to recre­ate some of those city plea­sures like good cof­fee and good food”—and FitzGer­ald has tried to cap­ture the gamut.

“The south shore has so many tra­di­tions and well-kept se­crets but at the same time it’s loved by so many peo­ple,” she says. “I’m not from Nova Sco­tia so the fine line was ‘What do I re­veal of th­ese se­crets?’ The over­all strat­egy was the fa­mil­iar and un­fa­mil­iar, side by side.”

Sketch by Sketch is ar­ranged by sea­son. “We tried to do it chrono­log­i­cally, from Peg­gys Cove to Yar­mouth,” FitzGer­ald says, “but with that it was Christ­mas in Ma­hone Bay on one page and the sum­mer in Lunen­burg on the next. The idea to put it in sea­sons—that has a more nar­ra­tive el­e­ment. The sum­mer chap­ter feels like the most full and lush and has the most il­lus­tra­tions, maybe be­cause that feels the most full for us.”

FitzGer­ald is liv­ing in Van­cou­ver un­til May, work­ing on a hand-drawn book about that much big­ger, much more di­verse-in-all-ways city—“they have a very good tran­sit sys­tem there,” she notes—but is cur­rently back home on a book tour. She’ll be sign­ing books and sell­ing cards and prints the Hal­i­fax Crafters’ Mar­ket this week­end. It’s early, but she’s pleased with the re­cep­tion for Sketch by Sketch.

“It’s go­ing to mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple,” she says. “There’s so many more peo­ple on the shore in the sum­mer.” She’s try­ing to stop com­par­ing this book to her ex­pe­ri­ence with Hand Drawn Hal­i­fax. “They’re two ba­bies and each one’s go­ing to be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent,” she says. “Each is a thing I can be proud of.”


FitzGer­ald made Sketch By Sketch by tak­ing day trips to the south shore over one year.

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