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Q&A: Danielle Leedie Gray

27 MAY 2021

Danielle Leedie Gray is a descendant of the Bidjara and Wakka Wakka people of South West and East Queensland. Danielle creates bold, contemporary pieces guided by a deep sense of empathy towards her cultural heritage and family history. We caught up with Danielle to learn more about the stories behind her artwork, and her recent collaboration with Moe Moe Design.

Explore our exclusive range of Danielle Leedie Gray at MoB Shop.

There are rich stories behind your artwork, tell us about the symbols you use and why they are important in your work?

The symbols tell a story. They replace verbal language and are an important part of Indigenous cultures. Without them (symbols) I would not be able to connect with others through my Indigenous heritage.

How did you end up working with digital illustration as your primary medium and how is it significant for you as an artist?

It has been a journey. There have been many factors which have influenced me to choose digital over any other medium when it came to art. I had briefly experienced working in positions which required me to work digitally which sparked my interest and from there I began doing it in my own free time.

How does living in Brisbane influence your creative practice?

I think you are exposed to more culturally. There are so many opportunities to experience in Brisbane which influences me creatively.

You recently collaborated with local jewellery label, Moe Moe on an exclusive range for MoB Shop. What was it like to work with Moe Moe on the range?

Moe Moe were great to work with. They were very good at creating something that I would never have thought of myself. They really inspired me apply my work in different ways.

One of the works featured in this range is titled Yumba, can you tell us the story behind this piece?

I will forever cherish the stories my Grandmother tells me about growing up in Augathella in her Yumba, meaning home and/or hometown. Her demeanour changes as she speaks of her father and my great-grandfather Victor Johnson, building the biggest Yumba for their family. She tells me this story with such excitement, and I can tell how proud she is. In researching Brisbane’s indigenous history, I discovered a significant Yumba was located at Musgrave Park. This piece is an illustrated representation or map of that traditional camp featuring the pregnancy camp, the menstruation camp, the families camp, young men’s camp and young women’s camp, the dance circle, drinking spot, cleaning spot and the male and female toilet spots.

What does a day in the life of Danielle look like? Tell us about your creative process.

It really depends on what I am working on. when I first read a brief, I always sketch or brainstorm as I go, this gives me first impressions without over thinking.

Next step is research, which is a big component in what I do, this normally consists of looking online, visiting the local library, visiting different locations or going through my own collection of inspiration.

Career highlight to date?

My first mural. It was 21m long and the most challenging job I had done. But I am glad I got to experience it and gave me a newfound respect for artists that work at that scale.

SHOP DANIELLE LEEDIE GRAY.

Explore the stories behind Danielle's work
Sisters

Danielle Leedie Gray, Sisters, 2020, Digital.

Sisters

This piece illustrates the journey of three half-sisters who all have the same father. Danielle and one of her sisters both started their lives in Redcliffe, Brisbane and much later in life they were reunited with their younger sister who had been living far away from them. This is a story of beautiful discoveries and the unity between family.

Exploring Brisbane

Danielle Leedie Gray, Exploring Brisbane, 2020, Digital.

Exploring Brisbane

Danielle grew up and went to school in the areas of Mt Coot-tha, Toowong and Paddington in Brisbane. This illustration portrays the walking tracks in these areas of Brisbane that hold many memories of Danielle’s childhood and school years.

Fruit Flowers

Danielle Leedie Gray, Fruit Flower, 2020, Digital.

Fruit Flowers

Using one of her favourite Australian Aboriginal symbols, the native Australian Fruit Flower, Danielle has created a beautiful repeat pattern. This brings back memories for her of time spent on the same walking tracks in National Parks around Brisbane.

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