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Travel Western Provinces

Hand Drawn Victoria

An Illustrated Tour in and around BC's Capital City

by (author) Emma FitzGerald

Random House Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2024
Western Provinces, Drawing, Essays & Travelogues
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2024
    List Price

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For locals and visitors alike, these sketches and stories highlight both the historic monuments and everyday moments that make Victoria shine.

You never know quite what you’ll come across in British Columbia’s capital city. With its unmissable landmarks that attract people from around the world, Victoria is also rich in forested beauty, charming houses, and curious people, and is steeped in local history.

Following the charm of her previous book, Hand Drawn Vancouver, in this memorable book, Emma FitzGerald captures the coastal city of Victoria and its surrounding communities in over 100 sketches of:

  • Iconic Landmarks: It wouldn’t be a visit to Victoria without stopping by the Empress, Munro’s, or Butchart Gardens.
  • Local Favourites: The longstanding Beacon Drive In and James Bay’s Birdcage Confectionary are some beloved spots honoured within these pages.
  • Beautiful Architecture: Journey back in time by admiring historic buildings, like Queen Anne–style homes and the spiraling Belfry Theatre.
  • Stunning West Coast Landscape: Explore natural wonders, from culturally significant fields of camas flowers to Mystic Beach’s stunning shoreline.
  • Overheard Conversations: What really makes a city are the people who live there—Emma documents snippets of passersby’s conversations as she sketches.

Structured by neighbourhood, Hand Drawn Victoria is a beautiful keepsake for both locals and visitors, and a lovely way to celebrate the city—its buildings, its people, and its essence.

About the author

EMMA FITZGERALD was born in Lesotho, a small mountainous kingdom in Southern Africa. Her early travels have given her a large appetite for adventure. Combining her interest in people and places, Emma followed a career path that was part architecture, part art. She received her BFA in Visual Art at the University of British Columbia, spending her third year at Lâ??Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where she honed her drawing skills. She then completed her undergraduate and masterâ??s degrees in Architecture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She has worked in architecture offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, and across Canada.

While working in Gambia, Emma took students onto the streets of their own communities, using sketching as their primary learning tool. When she returned to Halifax, drawing became an act of connecting with the many stories and unofficial histories of the area, a custom during her travels, but never before in Halifax. This laid the groundwork for her new book.

Emma FitzGerald's profile page

Excerpt: Hand Drawn Victoria: An Illustrated Tour in and around BC's Capital City (by (author) Emma FitzGerald)

Excerpt from the Introduction

In March 2020, when I left my home at the time in Halifax, temporarily relocating to Victoria to work on this next book in my Hand Drawn series, I couldn’t have known just how much the world was about to change. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, I had already chosen British Columbia’s vibrant capital as the next subject for my collection of sketches and stories. New to the city, after two weeks of careful self-isolation I walked and biked its streets, sketching on location, and began to notice the quirks and special characteristics of each neighbourhood. I started where I lived in the verdant and stately Rockland neighbourhood just east of downtown. Gradually I increased the circumference of my daily jaunts, until, after my fourteen months in the city, I felt the satisfaction one feels upon completing a puzzle, all the pieces fitting together in my mind’s eye.

My only other significant time in Victoria was a two-week summer dance intensive when I was eleven. It was an adventure: travelling by ferry from the mainland and living away from my childhood home in West Vancouver; however, my days were spent learning choreography in a windowless school gymnasium. The only lasting impression of the city itself was a British-style sweet shop that sold candies tasting of perfume. Many people have the impression that this is all Victoria is: a candied facsimile of olde England. However, returning as an adult, I found it to be so much more. Not only does its downtown core boast the oldest Chinatown in Canada, a testament to the contributions of new settlers from that country, but the city is also host to independent Mexican, Filipino, and Korean grocers.

Victoria is filled with notable architecture, from the impressive Empress Hotel to charming beach cottages. But the city’s flora and fauna became an equal focus for me. Each day held a new discovery: a serpentine spine surfacing on the water (was it a seal, or an otter, or maybe a porpoise?) or the jagged, heavy breathing of a sea lion swimming off Clover Point as early risers jogged by on Dallas Road, en route to Beacon Hill Park.

To truly understand Victoria, I went farther afield; the places that rub shoulders with the city are part of its psyche too. Most obvious from a tourist perspective is the Butchart Gardens, where typically over a million visitors each year wander its garden paths. By bike, I could easily reach the neighbouring municipalities of Esquimalt and Oak Bay. I joined the local car sharing co-operative and made day trips to North Saanich, Sidney, and the Juan de Fuca Trail. I’ve collected and organized these sketches and stories in clusters that radiate out from downtown Victoria. They may be out of seasonal order, but are still true to the flavour of each neighbourhood in the way I understand them.

In a year like no other, I had less opportunity to interact directly with people. In some ways, it actually made my job of stopping, observing, and appreciating through the act of drawing feel all the more vital. This book does not seek to focus on the pandemic but rather on the life pulse of the city of Victoria that kept on going in spite of it. The city’s ever-improving active transportation, fragrant gardens, beach walks accompanied by friendly head nods, combined with progressive and creative residents ensured there was always something interesting around the corner.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Hand Drawn Vancouver
"From the majestic seawall to the everyday buzz of city life, [FitzGerald] captures the essence of Vancouver and its neighbourhoods with colour and humour."
"The book, a combination sketchbook/journal, is a smile-inducing record of neighbourhoods in Vancouver and the North Shore."
Vancouver Sun

Praise for Sketch by Sketch
“FitzGerald has carved out her own niche as an artist who draws cities and buildings and special places, as a chronicler of the history of communities, a teller of stories of lives spent in particular places.”
—Lisa Cochrane, The Chronicle Herald

Praise for Hand Drawn Halifax
“Fun and intimate portraits celebrate the city’s buildings, neighbourhoods, and residents.”
—East Coast Living

“Emma’s lively illustrations and words capture the essence of Halifax.”
—Atlantic Books Today

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