Gavin Playfair

Gavin Playfair

Gavin Playfair creates exquisite illustrations and paintings that embrace the aesthetic quality of scientific illustration and the imagination Australia’s distinctive wildlife inspires.

The interest in the natural world began early in Playfair’s life, as he grew up exploring the African bushland. Especially influential was an expedition to Mount Malangi in Malawi with noted herpetologist Dr Donald Broadly. This firsthand experience of the “patience and skills needed to observe animals in their natural habitat” is reflected in Playfair’s painstaking attention to detail in his practice, with paintings such as ‘Black Cockatoos’ astonishing in their tactile nature.

Having graduated from the Macquarie School of Art in Bathurst, as well as majoring in painting and lithography at the Australian National University School of Art, Playfair is self-described as an “observer” of the world around him. He is a documenter with an extraordinary eye for the beauty in detail. Exploring the infinite and intricate details of the natural world, a new appreciation is garnered for “… the way feathers sit in a birds plumage, the intricacies of a piece of bark, moss growing on a tree trunk”.

Miniscule brushstrokes lovingly render each detail, from furry moss to waxy feather. This time-consuming technique captures wildlife at play, the vibrant birds caught in a fleeting moment. The unposed moments shown in paintings from ‘Gang-gang preening’ to ‘Wedge-tailed Eagle worried’ reveal personalities observed. What is unseen in Playfair’s work has just as significant a role as the details that are seen. While the whole body of a bird may not be visible, or perhaps the edges of a branch merely suggested in pencil line, imagination is left for the viewer to continue the scene.

Gavin Playfair currently practices in his studio in Milton on the south coast of Australia, with frequent excursions into the bush to continue his observation and love of nature.