N.C.A.D. Certificate in Drawing & Visual Investigation

Project 1




The objective of the first drawing project was to continue the process began in the initial workshop classes – ie to develop and broaden your methods and approaches to drawing – thereby developing your skill level and confidence in the process of drawing and visual research.






It is important to start with a subject matter through drawing.  Define your subject matter and begin immediately to investigate and explore it through drawing.  The subject must be easily accessible to you.  For example, it could be:

- A collection of objects that you have amassed

- An environment within your home.  Eg. Cupboards / kitchen / the house itself / the garden / an aspect within the garden

- An environment that is adjacent to your home / work.  Eg. this could be organic or inorganic / architectural / mechanical

Remember that this is to be an exploration.  You shouldn’t revisit work that you have done before - it won’t be as interesting for you!  You will most likely be more innovative and respond better to new challenges.

Subject Matter

  • Have a starting point; consider things as basic as the periods of time that you will use for this drawing research and consider where and how you will go about it.


  • Don’t plan an end product – we are not working towards one – developing this project work through drawing is about allowing yourself to engage openly in a subject matter, explore it, generate work and reflect on the work done.  Some of the most interesting work may happen when you are not fully sure of what it is that you are doing!


Thus, beware of drawing conclusions, getting involved in design solutions or planning results / progressions ie. do not let procrastination set in (this is something that I tend to struggle with!).  All you need to do is define a beginning – the process of immersion in work and reflective evaluation of that work will itself carry you forward and provide clarity.  Do not get anxious about how it will all turn out or what other people may think of your subject; simple things are often disarmingly deep and rich subjects.  It is not how good it sounds in language but how well the process generates an interest and exploration for you.




Planning Your Work



You will need to research and find inspiration from other artists, movements, themes etc.  You may discover this inspiration yourself through your project research, or, artists may be suggested to you by your tutors / others in the class.  These artists should be relevant to your project subject and you should collect photocopies, images and make brief notes in your research diary on what you observe and learn throughout this research.  The purpose of this research is to use this knowledge in order to develop upon your own ideas and skill.




Structure of Project Modules



You are encouraged to be quite self-focused in your approaches and research throughout the Certificate course.  The tutors are there to provide ongoing support - such as helping with research, keeping you on a tight schedule and advising you when you have perhaps tired in one area and need a fresh approach - but ultimately they want you to find your own path within an area that interests you. 


You really do reap what you sow while studying in N.C.A.D. and so, the more time that you put into your research and work then the more ideas, discovery and success you will build from your large body of work.  Also, the benefit of working in a class environment is that there is a constant sharing of ideas and applications throughout the tutorials.  The class will work together in a studio setting thus providing ongoing interaction with each other in relation to ideas, tools, media and methods used. 



Each member of the class will present their work on an ongoing basis (throughout every project) and feedback will be sought in relation to this work.  The class is encouraged to critique each others work in a positive way.  This is a great way of seeing how an audience reacts to your work and allows you to discover if you are portraying the theme and ideas that you had hoped for.  It is also a great way of learning which style and areas are working for you and hence encourages you to grow within those areas.  During a project phase, classes will focus on library research / tutorials & studio time / continuous review, critique and feedback on your project work.




My Chosen Subject Matter


I was enough lucky to be living in the beautiful and peaceful setting of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow and thus decided that it would be an easily accessible subject and environment to concentrate my project on.  However, this subject actually proved quite challenging due to the fact that Glendalough, with its picturesque landscape and monastic ruins, is such a well known and documented area in Ireland.  This made it quite difficult for me (especially as a new student to contemporary and abstract art) to place my own personal stamp and originality onto the work.


My research started with a walk around the area and through taking photographs of any subject matter that I was drawn to.  The downfall in this chosen subject was the fact that I grew up inundated with images of Glendalough and so I found it hard to adjust and focus on how I could observe the area in a different way than to how it is usually captured.  It was difficult not to just copy and create a replica of what I was so use to seeing.  This was an important learning curve, in terms of choosing themes and subject matters, for me.  I found that an area so well known and embedded in your mind (especially for its landscape) may prove difficult to evolve into an abstract and contemporary format. 


However, I persevered forward and from the photos that I took (see below) I could see that I was drawn to the darker side of the area.  Especially at dusk the monastic ruins and graveyard within Glendalough can be quite eerie and ghostly.  The countryside falls silent and the dark silhouettes of trees gently shake in the wind.   In this historical setting, where there lies the remains of an Early Medieval monastic settlement, I felt a connection to the past.  The presence of the graveyard and church ruins allow us to observe how the monks lived many years prior and reflect upon those who had gone before us.  Also, it was interesting to note how this setting lay within such a natural environment which, to the most part, is free from the technology driven world that I usually live in.  The silence on a quiet winter evening, with just the sound of the river flowing and the nature surrounding you, helps you to disconnect from modern life and take a step back and reflect - similar to how the monks came here to find solace in prayer and to create some beautiful manuscript in this peaceful environment.  This haunting setting also provides you with a sense of your own mortality.



The tutors recommended the following books as resources for researching drawing and contemporary art; Vitamin D’, ‘Art Now!’, 'The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' and ‘The Drawing Book’.



As I embarked upon the process of viewing this picturesque / scenic area of Glendalough in a darker way, I started to understand the importance of researching other artists, art movements and works of contemporary art in order to draw inspiration for my work.  I discovered the artist Elizabeth Magill and learnt how she successfully used landscape in an eerie and haunting fashion.  

I was surprised by how beneficial I found logging all of my research and ideas into a visual diary in order to keep a record of my progress and flow of thoughts.  Although it can be difficult to become accustomed to keeping a visual diary if you are not use to doing so, it honestly does help you in developing upon ideas and to visually keep track of your themes and the direction that you are heading in.  When I start to lose motivation, I find that a flick back through my diary helps me to become inspired once again.  This diary can assist in taking me back into the same head space that I was in when I first documented these ideas and it triggers the motivation that I felt at the time.





Even though I felt that I had not produced any outstanding pieces during this project, it was still a successful dissection of myself in terms of my creative interests and some underlying themes that I could grow and develop upon.  I discovered my strong interest in nature (especially trees), darkness and connections; all of which would feature again in my later work.


While researching this project, another artist who inspired me was William Kentridge.  Kentridge is a South African artist who deals with many political themes throughout his work.  I was especially drawn to his work of landscape, birds and the resounding darkness found in a number of his pieces; this is greatly achieved through his use of shadows.



William Kentridge inspired me in the above piece, 'Glendalough Church', (his influence is especially apparent through my use of black, white and blue in this piece as Kentridge uses these colors in many of his charcoal and pastel pieces).  



I also drew inspiration from Edvard Munch who often uses wavy lines to disrupt the landscape and create an almost dream like affect to his work; such as in his work ‘The Scream’.  I attempted to use these blurred and wavy lines in order to create a dream like and eerie affect to the above piece ('Glendalough Church').




The above pen drawing of a spiderweb is a piece that would influence me for many years.  The spiderweb acts as a reminder of life in the natural world (spiders) and yet its purpose is death (through the suffocation of insects).  A web can also be a symbol to that which is old, faded and abandoned.  There is a constant overlapping of lines connecting the web together and this subject of connections and a sense of suffocation would prove to be an underlying theme to much of my later work.

Lessons Learnt


Some of the below points were key lessons that I learnt from the review of this project:

  • Don’t put borders on your drawings, they should be unfinished work. 

  • Creating an atmosphere to your work is more important in contemporary art than to just creating a picture perfect replica of a piece (if you wanted this then you could just take a photograph!).  Originality is of the utmost importance.

  • The importance of looking to other artists to derive inspiration from.

© 2016 by Anita Kenna / Proudly created with Wix.com