Neighbourhood: Drawing Abu Dhabi and the Power of Reportage Illustration


Catherine Donaldson

Neighbourhood Abu Dhabi, is a record of almost a year spent drawing in Abu Dhabi city, and is the practical research for the final of a Masters degree in Illustration in the UK. ‘Neighbourhood’ can be defined as a place made through experience, and so Catherine set out to record places, which reflect the close communities that live there. Abu Dhabi is a multi-cultural, multi -national city, where change is rapid and constant, so there is value in recording the everyday life, before it is consigned to memory. This project investigates and clarifies how drawing can operate in a way that photography can’t, and examines the values of reportage illustration as an anthropological tool. It was prompted by a realization that, particularly for Western audiences, the Emirate can be a place of stereotype and misconception. The reality is of course rich and complex. Reportage drawing is transformational in many ways; not least in it’s ability to ‘draw’ people together.

Cath Donaldson is an international award-winning illustrator and educator living in Abu Dhabi. She won the Benson and Hedges Illustrators Gold awards following her graduation with first class honours, and has worked since in various fields of illustration. This includes advertising, editorial, exhibition design and specialist painting. Her prestigious client list includes major museums, leading publishing and television companies, and national newspapers and magazines, predominantly in the U.K.

She is a passionate teacher of Graphic Design and Illustration at college and university level and has recently completed a Masters degree, with high distinction.

Cath’s current research interests are in documentary and reportage Illustration. This is reflected in her ongoing book project, ‘Neighbourhood’, which documents eight months spent on-site, drawing some of the changing communities of Abu Dhabi.

Catherine is also an active member of Abu Dhabi community arts groups, working on public art projects for the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and leads an urban drawing group in the city.

She was recently shortlisted for the Cheltenham Illustration awards for her work on ‘Memory and place’ and is currently exhibiting at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.