Emma FitzGerald used drawing to cope with anxiety and feelings of loneliness when she was a teenager. Now she is the author and illustrator of numerous books.
In her adult life she found herself unemployed with a degree in architecture, she said in an interview this week. She decided to combine her love for drawing and buildings, and start a career in drawing house portraits while she lived in the north end of Halifax.
“I began drawing every day in my neighbourhood to develop my style … from that I was able to pitch a book idea.”
That book idea became Hand Drawn Halifax, which was published in 2015.
Hand Drawn Victoria
FitzGerald’s upcoming book Hand Drawn Victoria has been in the works for the past four years and will be available this spring. The book is a series of illustrations of buildings and iconic locations in British Columbia’s capital city.
“It’s my most ongoing, longest project and in a way it’s my newest,” she said.
She moved to British Columbia before the pandemic to be closer to her father, who was sick. While in B.C., she was inspired to publish Hand Drawn Vancouver and her upcoming book.
She’s back in Nova Scotia now, living in Lunenburg.
FitzGerald’s work is inspired by places and people. It’s important to highlight “neighbourhoods that maybe don’t make it on the tourist map,” she said.
This spring she will begin working on a new children’s book about Rick Hansen, who is an advocate for disabled Canadians. He travelled across the world in a wheelchair in the 1980s as part of his Man in Motion tour. The book is set in 1985 and readers will travel the world with Hansen as he advocates for accessibility and disability rights.
She says those who are away from home can pick up one of her books and feel connected.
“Sometimes folks who may have memory issues or have dementia or Alzheimer’s, they’ll look at one of my books … and they can connect to their memories,” she said. FitzGerald said there is a large element of “nostalgia” to her work.
Andrea Rahal, owner of Halifax’s Inkwell Boutique, said, “Emma’s work has always been a favourite of many customers.” Her work stands out because customers can collect “images of their neighbourhood, places they used to visit, or images that simply speak to them.”
“Local, colourful, unique and modern. It’s wonderful work and I personally own many pieces,” Rahal said.
FitzGerald said she finds inspiration from traveling and going on long walks.
Deeply caring about people and places, she said her work is also rooted in “goals of helping the environment.”
One of her most recent projects is When the Ocean Came to Town. She illustrated a book written by Sal Sawler about the impacts of climate change and adapting to sustainable solutions.
Hesitant to add another project to her list, the events following hurricane Fiona reinforced her commitment to the project.
“That weekend that I began working on it was the weekend of Fiona, the big hurricane last year. That’s when it clicked that this is close to home, and it is relevant and should be addressed,” FitzGerald said.
About the author
Hope Edmond is a master's of journalism student from Enfield, Nova Scotia. She enjoys sharing the stories of others.