We talk with Daisy in Dots

We talk with Daisy in Dots

Posted by Michelle Simm on

You're a descendant of the Muruwari people. Could you tell us about your cultural background?  
I am a proud Muruwari woman living on Yugambeh Country (Gold Coast). My Aboriginality comes from my biological father's side. My great-grandfather, William 'Deucem' Smith, was a Muruwari man who married my great-grandmother, Daisy, from London, England and had five children (including my grandmother, Valerie). Deucem was rated one of the greatest shearers in the world, he was inducted into the Shearer's Hall of Fame in 2005. Nine shearers were inducted, Deucem being the sole Aboriginal. Muruwari mob have links to North West NSW and Central Desert with a rich history of dot painting, emu egg carving, boomerang, woganurra (battle axe), lil lil (throwing stick) and nulla nulla (fighting club) carving.

How important is your place and environment, and how do you express this through your art?
My paintings are a way for me to express my gratitude and to acknowledge the Country I am walking, living and breathing. My art is a way for me to convey the beauty I see in all things and feel connected to the Motherland - the trees, the water, the sand, the sun, the earth and the animals. I paint intuitively, the same way my ancestors did. I am completely self-taught, the stories come to me and I am guided by the spirits.

Your career as an artist really took off in your 30s. What were you working on prior and how has this influenced your work now?
I have always been the visually creative type, having worked as a Visual Merchandiser and Fashion Stylist for many years. I studied Business Marketing and Visual Merchandising and spent twenty years in the Fashion Retail industry. My passion has always been about bringing stories to life - whether it be the story of a new clothing collection in a store window display or the story of Country I paint onto a canvas. Colour, texture, detail, mood and theme are some of the elements I have taken from my previous work experience into my career as an Artist. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you've encountered in being an artist?
There has been more than I ever anticipated, that's for sure! Working as part of a team in Fashion Retail meant I shared the responsibilities and accountabilities of the job with other people. As an Artist, it's all YOU! At times it can be challenging working on your own when you just want to bounce some ideas off someone else. It's also really easy to become too critical of yourself and there's been a lot of self-doubt throughout my journey. My style is very unique, contemporary, innovative and quite feminine and I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I take comfort in the fact that it's 100 percent ME!

What are some common misconceptions about your work?  
The misconceptions are never really directed at my work, they are often directed at me personally. I am a fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde-haired woman who doesn't fit the "stereotypical mould" of what an Aboriginal woman should look like. I often get asked why I'm doing Aboriginal dot painting and "are you even Aboriginal?" One of my favourite sayings goes like this, "Aboriginality is like tea, no matter how much milk you put in the tea, it's still tea!"

What role does art play in helping you make sense of the world, especially in times of hardship and challenge?
Art reminds me there's beauty in the simplest things, if we choose to see it. When we strip everything back and see it for what it is there is so much comfort and happiness in that. Art is a form of therapy for me, a way of expressing my thoughts, feelings and spirit. It's self-care, a creative outlet for me to connect in and let myself go. Art is everywhere - how you dress, your make up, your garden, how you make your sandwich, the sky - I believe it to be a source of healing, you just need to stop and take it in!

What does your day-to-day routine look like? 
I'm a busy mother-of-two small children so my day starts early with making breakfast and packing school lunches for the kids. My daughter is still home with me part-time but I'm lucky I have the wonderful support of my parents and in-laws. I've found I'm most productive with my painting at night time when my family is asleep and I have no interruptions. I will often paint for five or six hours straight in my home studio at night. Aside from painting and parenting, my day might include things like visiting you guys at Leftbank to check artist proofs, buying paints and supplies, delivering commissioned artworks to clients, posting content on social media and the not-so-fun stuff like book-keeping and housework!
What does your creation process look like? Can you tell us about any special methods or techniques you use, and how long each work takes to create?
Before I begin painting, I run my hands all over the blank canvas and ask the story to come to me. I mostly paint freehand and let the dots flow organically. Very rarely will I sketch out a painting first. I usually always have the colour palette chosen prior to starting however sometimes depending on my mood at the time, that may change. I use a combination of tools for my paintings which include a variety of sticks, brushes, sponges and paint brush ends. My paintings are meticulously detailed and every dot is placed with love and intention. Most of my artworks take around 25 hours on average but some of my bigger, more detailed pieces have taken up to 40 or 50 hours!

Which piece has been your favourite to create? Is it also the piece which outcome you are most proud of, why or why not?
My most favourite piece is titled 'Walkabout Girl', the original hangs in my studio and I look at it every single day. It holds so much spiritual meaning and beauty. The symbols on the painting represent hope and rebirth and the dot work is all white which is so calming and refreshing. I painted this piece at the beginning of Covid, during a time of great uncertainty, unrest and change. I painted it as a reminder to myself that no matter what happens in life, we must trust and have faith that the universe has a greater plan for us! 

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