Silo, water tower mural artist Joel Fergie known as Banksy of the bush


Known as the Banksy of the bush, Zookeeper is an artist who travels the Australian outback painting giant murals, but unlike Banksy, the Zookeeper doesn’t hide his identity.

Joel Fergie aka “Zookeeper” is a Sunshine Coast-based artist whose large-scale artwork spans from inner city lanes to remote silos and water towers in central Australia.

Some of his greatest works can be seen on painted tanks and silos in Cloncurry, Mackay, Hughenden, Thallon as well as on the highway.

Joel says he got the name Zookeeper from his childhood love of wildlife.

“As a child I was obsessed with animals and was a huge fan of David Attenborough. As I learned to paint, animals became a big part of it,” he said.

The 32-year-old artist, who studied fine art at QUT and graduated in 2011, said art was a big part of her life growing up.

Zookeeper aka Joel Fergie has painted over 1,000 murals across Australia.(Provided)

“I was always drawn to drawing when I was a kid. It was my release as a teenager,” he said.

“I was not born good at painting; it’s something I had to put a lot of time and practice into and over time I got better at it.

“I started by doing the wall of my bedroom then under our house, then some friends asked me to make their coffee and then I did a football club and the more I did the more opportunities presented themselves. “

seven large painted silos
Zookeeper and Drapl’s biggest job was those seven silos at Sea Lake in Victoria.(Provided: Zookeeper)

The biggest job Joel did was seven silos at Sea Lake in northwest Victoria, which took him over three weeks.

When tackling the big jobs, Zookeeper collaborates with his companion and fellow artist Drapl aka Travis Vinson.

“We met in 2010 and we had heard of each other and since then, when there is a big job that requires several hands, we collaborate,” he said.

“Big jobs can take weeks and weeks of planning and we can use over 500 liters of paint.”

Most of Zookeeper and Drapl’s work comes from community grants or community-raised funds, and over the past decade he is believed to have painted over 1,000 murals.

Two artists in high visibility clothing in front of a half painted silo
(LR) Zookeeper and Drapl work on the Monto silos in Queensland(Provided: Zookeeper)

“My favorite part of painting in the backcountry is the openness of people. There are fewer people, so they have more time for you,” he said.

“I love painting local people, because they tell the most beautiful stories and I always make sure the background also fits into the environment.”

Joel’s last major mural was a water tower in Middlemount which he completed in December and last week he completed a retaining wall in the Pioneer Valley community at Marian State School which was just 20 feet tall. meters by 2 meters.

“My favorite little detail of the last wall I painted at Marian is my old troop crossing Finch Hatton Gorge,” he said.

A green mural depicting a four wheel drive vehicle driving through a rainforest
Zookeeper’s latest job is a small mural at Marian State School which he completed last month.(Provided: Zookeeper)

Now he is about to start painting a water tower at Point Cartwright on the Sunshine Coast which has been commissioned by the Sunshine Coast Council and Unitywater.

“When you do a big job in a rural area, you stay where someone will put you up,” he said.

“Staying with locals is the most authentic way to get to know the place and hear its stories.

“I become part of the place and the place becomes part of me.”

While Joel has painted backcountry silos and downtown alleys, he says he prefers his paintings in the countryside rather than the big cities.

“Whereas in the countryside the paintings stand out and become part of the landscape because there is nothing around them.”

Although he’s been called the Banksy of the bush, it’s not a comparison Joel understands.

“My work has nothing to do with Banksy’s, but I will take the compliment because Banksy is an amazing artist,” he said.

There’s also one big item left on Joel’s wishlist: “I want to paint a big dam wall.”

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