Art in a cereal box

“I love cereal boxes, and I think they are great to sketch on”, said artist Peter Rush when we accidentally met him at the Leo Kelly Arts Centre in Blacktown. It was a long day for him, having hosted an art workshop, and met and greeted visitors at the exhibition pavilion, still his enthusiasm was infectious. He was answering my clueless question as to why he was using cereal boxes to draw and paint on.

“It is different from the straight lines and the perfect rectangle canvases that we are used to, which makes it interesting.”

Going through what best to do this week was when we noticed this exhibition listed on Sydney Morning Herald, in the arts centre close to where we live. His exhibits were sketches of the central business district of our council, all completed between November 2019 to February 2020. Just to see how the city would be illustrated from an artist’s perspective, we paid a visit. And to our surprise, there was the artist himself at the Arts Centre, all ears to whatever we wanted to ask him.

Blacktown illustrated

He said that he likes to do urban sketches, wherever he goes. And the imageries that appear in these sketches are very believable too. Besides the architectural precision of the buildings, the shopping trolleys around shopping centres, traffic signals, signages – all these make regular appearances in his sketches. Living in Newtown, he has sketched the urban spaces across Sydney, from Bankstown to Cogee to Blacktown, and lots more. “Wherever you go, you see a commonality in these Australian streets – though crowded, they have a similar yet lovely feel”.

An artwork on BLM

The moment I asked him about whether he has sketches of other cities on him, he recollected his experiences while sketching the North Indian streets; some of which he showed us on his social media page. He then carefully opened his plastic sleeve that contains a collection of art work of various cities including those in US, on boxes that were once used to store cereals, biscuits and what not! 

“But, why cereal boxes?” Before I could stop myself, I realised that they have been uttered! To which, he responded with a smile, “I am an architect by profession. I do design sketches, but I have a keen interest in doing artistic sketching too. Artists spend a lot of money buying resources; hence I was determined not to waste money on resources but to focus on the art that I do. Slowly, this became a habit, and now there is an expectation that I draw on cereal boxes.” He continued “also, it is a tad different from the straight lines and the perfect rectangle canvases that we are used to, which makes it interesting”.

Indeed.

And then he showed us his tools, which lighted up our kids’ eyes – a medium sized cardboard box full of pencils, colour pencils and pens, with an old-fashioned manual pencil sharpener, which his dad had gifted to him ages ago! He obtained a residency last year to do this project with Blacktown arts centre, and he has been roaming around the streets of Blacktown with his paper boxes and pencils to capture the life there.

Coogee through his eyes

As he kept talking about his sketch of Cogee, and how he had to really try and blend the people and birds and beach with the buildings behind to give them ample depth, I was still sinking in the fact that how he was telling the story of urban lives in a real fascinating manner with a cardboard box and a few pencils; that we tend to disregard as commonplace stuff!

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