Hugh Sawrey was no stranger to the hardship of the Australian outback. He became an expert horseman and all-round bushman when working as a head drover, rabbiter, axeman and shearer. Sawrey travelled extensively throughout the interior of Queensland and the Northern Territory, often befriending Aborigines and occasionally being rewarded with access to remote tribal sacred places. Many of his paintings of aboriginal stock boys and cattle mustering were inspired by his travels from Alexandria Downs in the Northern Territory to Tiberoo Station, out from Eulo. His droving experiences took him mustering out past the Cooper and Diamantina, and as far west as Western Australia.
Unfortunately his cattle were wiped out in a drought in 1947 and Sawrey moved back to work in the interior. During this time he scribbled sketches and painted on anything he could find. In the earlier days he would take a piece of charcoal from the campfire and draw on the camp shovel. In this arid environment he began to develop his talent for painting bush scenes and his subject matter was drawn directly from his own personal experiences and observations of the outback. His work is evocative and foremost it presents an honest representation of the way the bush is, as Hugh simply said: "I paint what I see."