August 13, 2014

Peter Rush draws boxes of energy

Interview by Murray Dewhurst

Urban Sketchers are fixated by sketchbooks — we spend hours obsessively trialling expensive new sketchbooks and we each have our favorite brand. Introducing Peter Rush, an Australian architect who eats that stereotype for breakfast by capturing Sydney's urban spaces on the back of cereal boxes.

What initially attracted me to your work was your expressionistic style and energetic line. How did your style develop?

Like everything it continues to evolve. But I do admit it can be a battle to get away from the careful drafted lines of my architectural work. I constantly work at keeping a free hand.

Illawarra Rd, Marrickville

Why cereal boxes - you must devour an awful lot of cereal?!

No, not me!  It's my teenage boys. They save them for me now, they know the boxes I like. Drawing on boxes really came by accident. I was caught out once without paper and I fished out a box from a rubbish bin. Essentially I'm cheap; at university I got in trouble for not respecting conventions because I completed a design presentation using the back of posters that I pulled from the architecture school notice boards. I also used a novel as a sketch book during a time in Berlin because the novel was cheaper to buy than a sketch book.
Hunter St, Sydney

You seem to have quite a multimedia approach to your materials. What favourite materials do you take sketching with you and how do you work?

I have a very flexible approach to what I draw on but I am very comfortable with my coloured pencils. These days I go out sketching with my A2 sketch pad and a couple of boxes. You choose a material that gives the right expression, mood and texture. Cereal boxes are good quality card and they allow me to use the lighter colours more effectively. Sometimes my drawings are more ambitious and I take them home to finish. Mostly I think my sketches are better if I finish on the street; they have more energy and are less laboured.
London St, Enmore

You work as an architect. I equate architecture with accurate perspective drawing and being focused purely on a building, its form and function, yet your sketches are so full of loose energy. Tell us a little of your background as an architect and how it relates to your artwork?

Yes, drafting requires you to be accurate. Architectural drawings are instructions to others on how a building needs to be constructed. It can hardwire you to be careful, you cannot make mistakes.
Newtown Hotel
Over the years I have done many perspective drawings, I really enjoy them and continue to do it by hand even though the computer can do it for me. As a consequence, I am reasonably at ease when I am on the street finding my vanishing points. It does keep those loose lines under control. You mention 'Form and Function' – that is something I really believe but it is a misunderstood term, associated with detachment and the impersonal. I think Louis Sullivan, who coined the term, meant that architecture should be organic and come naturally from yourself by feeling and understanding the place. You know, it's the prairie school work like Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin.

Newtown Post Office
I take inspiration from the work of architect Marion Mahony, her drawings are so beautiful. Although I draw differently, I like to think, I try to follow her approach by allowing my spirit and character to show in my work. Whether it is architecture or drawing, I try not to look at objects in isolation.


How did you start sketching - as a student or is it something that you've developed later in life?

When I was a boy I loved drawing trees. My high school did not teach art but I remember being encouraged by my geography teacher Mr Frank O'Grady to draw freely with a soft pencil.
Hordern St, Newtown

What do you try to depict in your artwork?

My drawings are essentially architectural. Not in an analytical deductive way but to try and see the mood and energy of a space. That space can be an intersection of streets, the interior of a church, a clearing between trees, anything spatial.

What is it about Newtown and Sydney that inspires you?

Not much until recently. I was so familiar with these streets, I didn't feel the need to draw them. But these days I am constantly caught up spotting the spatial juxtapositions of these busy streets. I love the mess of signs, traffic lights, ornate facades, awnings, traffic filled streets and the people of course.

Sydney General Post Office

Do you have any advice for new sketchers?

Draw freely with a soft pencil! With my sketching I generally start slow, firstly mostly just looking, seeing the space in front of me, noticing the light, watching the people. Then I go for it.

Coogee Flats

What does the future hold for your sketches?

Bigger pieces of paper, larger boxes.

For more sketches, visit Peter at Flickr.


nelson paciencia said...

Absolutely unbelievable!

Mark Leibowitz said...

Wonderful interview Murray.

gabi campanario said...

This brings recycling into a new artistic dimension. Inspiring work!

VHein said...

I am a big fan of Peter's work on Flickr--great to see it featured here!

memi said...

These are just awesome! Thanks, Murray, for introducing me to Peter's wonderful work!

Suhita said...

Love this piece, and love his work.

kumi matsukawa said...


Isabelle Laliberté said...

WOW!!! LOVE THESE!! Absolutely brilliant, such movement and life in those drawings! thank you for the inspiration.

matthew_c said...

Great stuff!

Adrianne in Portland said...

Love these and I'm in love with the blues on these.

Marcia Milner-Brage said...

Until now I've been delighted to see Peter's drawings one at a time when posted to USK Flickr. What a treat to see them in a series! Even better. Thanks, Murray for a great interview. Who knew, Peter, you have an army of teenagers suppling you boxes?!

Liz Steel said...

thanks Murray for doing this... sharing Peter's work with the world!

rarez said...

This is so cool, this is absolutely fantastic... you have to be getting an immense pleasure just by working on this... thanks!

Cathy Gatland said...

Wonderful and inspiring, thanks Murray for bringing Peter's work here!

lain said...

This guy is amazing artist! It is interesting to see his Berlin sketches in a novel :-)))

Thanks for the interview. Very inspirational!!