Good mail!

I like getting good things in the mail, so I was pretty happy when Luís Ançã's Desenhos do Alentejo came in last week. I had recently been checking out Luís' excellent sketches on his blog and eventually left a comment on an Estremoz sketch - a historic hill town I remember vividly from a cycle tour through the Alentejo region back in 1991. That part of Portugal was one of the highlights of 3 or so months cycling through Spain, Portugal and France. Thanks Luís your sketches really capture the region well!


Cold, wet sketchers, find a dry spot to sketch

This months sketch meet on yet another miserable Auckland day - it's hard to believe spring is just 2 days away! Unitec, Waterview, Auckland.


Peter Rush draws boxes of energy

A copy of my original interview undertaken for Urban Sketchers.

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.

Not so trusty sucker draws final breath

My 8 year old's eyes lit up when I announced that we would fix the vacuum ourselves this time.

The bloody thing has broken down many times before, simply pull the cable a little too hard, and you're off to the repair shop. In fact, on our very first cleaning mission together - both wheels fell off - not once but repeatedly! On return to the dealer they gave me new wheels - thanks guys, but how many falling-off wheels did you think we really need?

So we couldn't believe our luck when we discovered we had the correct 'torx' head that would allow the 8 year old to unscrew the engine from the chassis, gain access to the retractable power cord and hopefully reconnect it again. He was loving it, everything went just great; remove the filter, engine out, retractable wheel clipped out, unclip the wheel, and bang, just like that time I tried to 'fix' a wind-up alarm clock when I was little myself - springs and cables everywhere!

Sadly, there will be no more stealing Lego parts for this sucker, no more terrifying the cat either, just a lengthy visit to that great cleaning facility we like to call the dump.


Thank you James Naismith for early Saturday mornings

A Canadian bloke called James Naismith invented basketball in 1891. Something to do with providing an "athletic distraction" for wintertime sportsmen in Springfield, Massachusetts.

He sent a copy of his basketball rules to a sports teacher in New Orleans who in turn sent an interpretation of those rules to a school in England.

Somehow by the time basketball was first played in England a year or so later it had only a passing resemblance to Naismith's rules.

Somehow it had turned into a passing game - no dribblers thank you very much! (Naismith's rules at this stage allowed for 'ball rolling' only). Basketball was played outside, in all weather (today an exception is made for lightning storms) and played almost exclusively by women.

The sport of basketball initially spread through the British Empire and is now played worldwide by over 20 million people according to Wikipedia. Naismith had inadvertently created what is today called Netball.

The first international netball match was played in 1938 when a New Zealand team toured Australia – helping to fuel a sports rivalry that continues to this day and inspiring thousands of Kiwi kids to drag their parents out of bed early on cold, wet winter mornings for the netball run.


The OD WC!

A quick visit to the toilet while visiting the OD (Owen Dippie) gallery
in Mount Maunganui reveals this unexpected scene!

If you haven't come across his spectacular graffiti works, check out his work here.