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Greg Postle’s hyper-realistic paintings reflect the brilliance of the natural world.
STORY + PHOTOS NATHAN DYER | OUTBACK MAGAZINE
On a cool July morning in a small studio nestled among mango trees near Kununurra, WA, Greg Postle leans over a canvas bursting with life. As he works with a very fine brush, the yellow eye of a water monitor stares back at him, so vivid it could be mistaken for a photograph.
Although known predominantly for his hyper-realistic bird paintings, the water monitor on this canvas reflects Greg’s broad love of nature, something he traces back to growing up on the land around Monto and Biloela in central Queensland. “We used to do a lot of walking and I was always looking closely at things, looking at the details,” Greg says, leaning back to look at the canvas. “And I’d create, not so much paintings, but sketches and sculptures and things with my hands.”
The Kimberley-based painter is considered one of the country’s best bird artists. His exquisite pieces – which take months or even years to complete – often sell within minutes of being released to his mailing list and social media followers. The rarity and quality of the works have helped build his reputation across Australia and around the world, with originals fetching $10,000–$90,000.
With no formal training, Greg’s journey to full-time artist was far from direct. Although he continued to draw and create throughout his childhood, inspired by his mother who also painted, and by his love of Salvador Dali’s surrealism, Greg says pursuing an artistic career was not encouraged. “It wasn’t seen as something you could make a living from.”
At age 15, Greg left home and hitchhiked his way up and down the east coast chasing fruit-picking work and other odd jobs. Eventually, he ended up in the Ford factory in Geelong. While there, he picked up work with a local picture framer and his love of art resurfaced. “That’s where the spark sort of kicked off again, when I saw the art and thought, ‘Maybe I could do this,’” he says, pausing to change colours.
But it wasn’t until Greg moved back to Queensland in his late twenties to take up a job framing works for a Sunshine Coast art school that his life path took a drastic change. “I was framing art for the students and I did a few pieces myself and that’s when I started on birds.”
Greg out bush with his Land Rover; an artwork titled Kimberley Dawn
After entering an art award in Maroochydore, Greg was approached by a gallerist from Kenilworth. A year later his first exhibition sold out. It was a life-changing experience. After that, Greg began travelling across Australia, returning regularly to the central desert and Queensland’s Channel Country, creating artworks and holding exhibitions every few years.
In 1996, his travels took him to WA’s far north. “There’s just something about this place that keeps drawing you back,” he says. “It’s wild country and the subject material, the inspiration, is just off the scale.” He’s called Kununurra home since 2015.
“I’ve got a spot that I go to out here and I can sit there for 6 weeks and not see another person. I just sit and watch birds, take photos and make sketches,” Greg says. “Last year I watched the waterhole shrink from 8m long to a tiny sandy hole in the bottom of the creek bed and I just watched what happened there: the habits of birds and animals and insects. That was an immersive, surreal experience.”
Along with those hours in the bush, Greg traces his fascination with birds back to a traumatic experience when he was 7. “I had a little aviary on the farm that dad helped me build and I kept 6 or 7 birds in there,” he recalls. “One weekend we went away and I remember worrying as we drove away, ‘Did I give them enough water?’” When the family returned to the farm Greg ran to the aviary. “But I couldn’t see any birds. And then I looked down and there they were, all dead on the ground … When people ask me why I paint birds, I think it has something to do with that. I’m trying to resurrect those birds; I want to bring them back to life.”
Greg says it’s not uncommon to return home from a few days out bush in his beloved Land Rover with thousands of photos and dozens of ideas. Once home he slowly builds a picture in his mind of the work he wants to create, blending times and locations to create original artworks he hopes will inspire people to value the natural world. “It’s really about storytelling,” he says. “Every painting is a story and a memory from my time out bush. When I’m out there I’m absorbing everything, I’m taking photographs of the birds and the landscapes and I’m writing a story in my head,” he says. “I want to make people aware of what’s out there and appreciate the environment that’s all around them.”
Three decades on from that first Kenilworth exhibition Greg says he still loves what he does. “But for me, being in nature is the biggest thing. If I could have someone paint for me, I’d be out there in the bush the whole time.”