Sketching Nova Scotia’s South Shore

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED IMAGE</p><p>The cover image of Sketch by Sketch Along Nova Scotia&#8217;s South Shore features the Town of Lunenburg.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED IMAGE</p><p>A drawing of a home in Liverpool from Sketch by Sketch Along Nova Scotia&#8217;s South Shore, which debuts in September.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED IMAGE</p><p>A map of the many places FitzGerald visited during her travels in creating her South Shore-based book.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Emma FitzGerald, the artist, drawing in Kingsburg, Lunenburg County.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED IMAGE</p><p>A fishing boat sketched by FitzGerald.</p>

After her award winning book Hand Drawn Halifax became a hit, Emma FitzGerald sketched her way down the South Shore for an upcoming illustrated book.

FitzGerald's popular and colourful sketches of Halifax offer a different perspective of the city, capturing not just places, but scenes. The artist makes observations on her surroundings like prom-going teens lined up for photos at the Public Gardens or about conversations she's had or architecture.

Now, some familiar spots from Blandford, right down to Yarmouth are getting a similar treatment, but this time FitzGerald captured them from a bit of a different perspective.

When it came to sketching the South Shore, FitzGerald says she was somewhat nervous as she has never lived in the area but had to trust that her methods in her home city would work just as well for her a visitor as they had when she was a resident.

Because she doesn't own a car, FitzGerald's friends - or sometimes just happy coincidence - took her to many of the locations she visited.

"Things had a way of just unfolding that was just really special and I think unique because of what Nova Scotia is like and how things are both geographically close and people know a lot about their own communities," she said.

Lunenburg features most prominently in the upcoming book. FitzGerald was teaching in the town when she started to sketch the area, taking in things like the Blue Dream Project where she saw a traditional schooner being built. A lot of her time was spent on Second Peninsula and in the Blue Rocks area, but she also sketched the township itself, Kingsburg, and islands like Big Tancook.

"I felt a real sense of discovery when I was on Second Peninsula," she said, adding she had been driven down to the area by a friend working at Michele Stevens Sailloft and subsequently spent the day there. "I think it's something not a lot of people get to see so I'm excited for things like that to make people realize how unique the South Shore is and what still goes on there."

She also made her way down the coast as far as Yarmouth, stopping at Birchtown's Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, visiting small fishing villages like East Berlin, taking in Kejimkujik Seaside, and spending some time exploring the Sipuke'l Gallery in Liverpool.

"It does follow a geographic sequence along the shore but it also follows the seasons so you return to certain places a few times but in different seasons," said Fitzgerald.

FitzGerald doesn't work from a photograph when it comes to her art. She goes to the location she's drawing and sketches out a scene, capturing small details of life in the area. For example when she sketched a large house on Main Street in Liverpool, a young father walked by with a baby in a stroller, which she drew into the picture. Signs pointing to destinations on the Lighthouse Route are present as are power lines and a Canadian flag.

"For me, the important part about the book is that I'm learning as I'm drawing and in order for that to happen I usually have to be in the place and that's when I hear things or see things and it's pretty special how many people just stop and talk to me, I learn something entirely new," said FitzGerald.

The images are often coloured at home where she then relies on field notes or on her memory of a place.

FitzGerald was born in the tiny country of Lesotho in Southern Africa, spent most of her life in Vancouver. She attended the University of British Columbia and studied art in Paris. She moved to Halifax to get her undergraduate and masters degrees in Architecture at Dalhousie University.

The South Shore won't be the last place to get FitzGerald's hand drawn treatment. She's currently living back in Vancouver for family reasons for the next few months and has sketched at least 50 images since arriving, with the goal of making a book on her former hometown. When asked if she wanted to do more locations, FitzGerald said it was hard to say.

"It's almost like asking a pregnant woman if she's going to have another baby," she laughed. "It will just have to make sense with whatever direction my life is taking."

The book

Sketch by Sketch Along Nova Scotia's South Shore is available for pre-order now and will be available in stores on September 22.

Artist Emma FitzGerald will hold a launch event in Lunenburg on November 23, 2017 from 7 - 9 p.m. at the Lunenburg School of the Arts.

Books as well as light refreshments will be available and the public will have a chance to meet the author.

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