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.


Anonymous said…
All these places are about five minutes walk from where I live. I also love Peter's drawings. And he is so modest about them..
Murray Dewhurst said…
Thanks Wendy, looks like you live in an interesting area to sketch too, I must try and get there for some drawing some time.