Illustrators choose to call Halifax home

Fitzgerald signing copies of Hand Drawn Halifax at her book launch at the Halifax Central Library.
Fitzgerald signing copies of Hand Drawn Halifax at her book launch at the Halifax Central Library.   Haley MacLean

Artists have to be careful about where they want to begin their careers, because choosing a city will ultimately affect their income.

So, is Halifax a good place for aspiring artists to call home?

Two local illustrators think so. Both Emma Fitzgerald and Bee Stanton call Halifax their home base for all things creative.

Fitzgerald moved to Halifax 11 years ago, but was born in the country of Lesotho in southern Africa. She grew up in Vancouver and obtained her BFA in Visual Art at the University of British Columbia.  What brought her to Halifax was Dalhousie’s School of Architecture, from which she graduated with her masters in 2008.

Her resume includes work for newspapers, events, books, small businesses and more. However, she also offers a service that she calls the “bread and butter” of her career in illustration. She combines her knowledge of structures with her skills as an artist to create beautiful portraits of client’s houses or businesses that she completes on commission.

Stanton working on some lettering at the Smiling Goat on the Halifax waterfront.
Stanton working on some lettering at the Smiling Goat on the Halifax waterfront.   Haley MacLean

Fitzgerald has also recently released a book entitled Hand Drawn Halifax, which includes portraits of places throughout the peninsula. She hosted a packed book launch at the Halifax Central Library on Oct. 27, where she signed copies and shared her experiences in writing and illustrating the book.

Fellow illustrator Stanton is originally from Digby, N.S. She has been a professional illustrator and graphic designer for the last five years, and moved to Halifax two years ago. She attended the NSCC graphic design program, from which she graduated in 2009.

In the past, Stanton has worked for major companies including Estée Lauder and Teen Vogue. Stanton has also most recently been working with local clothing company East Coast Lifestyle to provide them with illustrations and typography for their products. Her work can be seen on stickers and T-shirts from the company, and Stanton says soon they will be printed onto hats and hoodies as well.

Emma Fitzgerald sketching in her apartment in North End, Halifax.
Emma Fitzgerald sketching in her apartment in North End, Halifax.   Haley MacLean

Both artists feel Halifax is a creative place that has allowed them to pursue illustration.

Fitzgerald says, “Even for someone doing high-profile work in a bigger city like New York, I don’t think there is still a great amount of pay … in Halifax, I’m actually being paid the same amount of money, but I have more avenues and it’s easier to access those possibilities.”

Stanton’s feels Halifax has been essential in her growth, as it has a feel that complements her art style that often invokes nautical and maritime themes.

“I’m so passionate about people living on this side of the country and it makes me so sad when people just up and leave to work in Alberta. So, I’d really like to be a part of movement back, I hope to see that in my lifetime,” she says. “I’d like to see the Maritimes become prosperous and I’d like to say I’d been a part of it.”

If more talented artists opt to stick around, opportunities for the creative should continue to present themselves in Halifax.

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