A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and an award-winning podcast

A national LGBTQI+ storytelling project curated by Maeve Marsden
featuring a book, event series and award-winning podcast

320 Dylan Mooney – Still Thriving

Dylan reflects on the steps he took to make it as a professional artist.

Dylan Mooney is a proud Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander man from Mackay in North Queensland working across painting, printmaking, digital illustration and drawing. Legally blind, the digital medium’s backlit display allows the artist to produce a high-impact illustrative style with bright, saturated colour that reflects his experiences with keen political energy and insight. This blending of digital technology and social commentary is a uniting of the artist’s sense of optimism – pride within the works exude with profoundness and substance. Interested in the ways in which we can reframe the conversation around some of the voices that have been left out, the artist has made an important body of work that embodies a shift in representation of queer love among people of colour. Dylan’s work is inspired by history, culture and community. He is a leader in the medium of digital illustration and creates characters that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community, while always referencing the strength and continuation of culture.


Hello, my name is Dylan Mooney I am a Yuwi man, so North Mackay,  Queensland. Torres Strait Islander my family come from Darnley Island and I’m also South Sea Islander. 26 years old I moved down to Brisbane to do my schooling, I went to ‘Wello’, Wellington Point State High, in the Redlands. And I am still currently living there. I studied a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art at the Queensland College of Art in South Bank and I’ve been practicing art for about seven years now. Yeah, so I didn’t know what to talk to you all about… my life’s pretty boring. So I thought I’d tell you the story about how I actually became an artist. 

So, I guess it all began in high school, so I chose to do art because it was the only thing I was good at. So like yeah, I’ll just fuck around in there. So like, when I went to class you know, all my friends, you. Know they were all straight guys, would all go to Manual Arts so like woodwork and metal work, so I’d be with all the girls in art class. And then like after class, I would come out, you know and my friends would meet up with me and they’d all be like ‘oh Mooney, you’re with all the chickies, ey?’ But little did they know… you know. I did enjoy art in high school, you know, it was a way for me to just escape, I guess just the stressful times of being a teenager and the horrors of my life. I actually failed art in school, so that’s pretty… terrible isn’t it? But you know, my mum put me in art lessons outside of school. So every Wednesday afternoon I would go to Wynnum to this old ladies house, her name was Cheryl. Bless her soul. And that’s where she actually taught me how to use charcoal, graphite, clay and you know, we would draw portraits of people and animals as well. She would give us you know, photos to choose from and you know, we would go from there and she would show up step by step how to actually start, you know, our art our drawings and all of that, and yeah, I think that’s where my love of portraiture came from and you know, just drawing people in general. 

So, after high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I just went to TAFE and studied at Southbank, a cert III in business. Did that for six months, I don’t know why, cos I still don’t know anything. It was my first time actually paying tax this year… and I still don’t know. So after the six months I was like, ok I’ll just keep studying, more debt. So I did a Cert III in Cultural Arts. So I did that for six months, and you know, I found out more about, I guess, art and you know, the meanings and the stories behind that. So that really, I guess, pushed me more on the themes and the concepts and the styles that I wanted to use and, tell to my audience. So I was still 17 at the time, and I would turn 18 at the end of the year. And I can remember it clearly, because the night before, I had my, like an early birthday at my best friends house at the time. You know I just, I waited til midnight and I was like let’s download Grindr. Let’s see what all the fuss is about hey. So I downloaded it, found a guy, left my friends house while he was sleeping. You know, he picked me up and went into the valley, did the deed, then the next morning I did the walk of shame to the train station. Yeah, had to walk back to my best friends house. He still doesn’t know I did that, he was still sleeping at the time I got home.  Sorry just going off on a tangent there, let’s get back to the story haha!

I still didn’t know what I wanted to do after I finished TAFE, you know I still felt lost in a way, but I kept doing my art this was just for fun though at this point of my life. I was on Centrelink, you know so that was my main income at the time. I would get some art opportunities here and there, but in between all of that I was, pretty much just travelling, my mum worked for one of the airlines at the airport here in Brisbane. So you know, cheap flights! So I’d go home, back to Mackay to see my friends and my family. You know, go out and party, drink… No good things. Well it was actually high school I did start to smoke weed, so you know, there wasn’t a day where I was sober in high school. I guess it was just a way for me to deal with all the stress in my life, and I was really concerned about  what I wanted to, I guess, be when I grew up and do I want to be a ‘somebody’. You know, the turning point in my life was actually my mother. She was worried that I wasn’t doing anything with my life. She would sit down and you know, just tell me like, you know ‘you need to cut that shit out’.  ‘You know, you can’t be doing all this… just for your life. You know, you need to go out there and do something.’ Yeah, so I did. I applied for university, went and had an interview and you know, next thing I got accepted. Yeah, that was a pretty big moment for me. You know, the first one out of my family to actually go to university, and I’ve actually graduated this year. So yeah… haha. 

Without that course I, I don’t think I’d be where I am today, you know? It really has shaped me and I guess moulded me in a way to you know, tell my stories and get them out there to everyone. I did print making, I majored in print making, where I did lithography. So lithography is pretty much just, drawing on an aluminium plate or a stone. So I took that on. So with the course, the first year we learn about our origins, so where we come from. Our identities is the next part of the course, so that was about who we are as indigenous people, and who we are as an artist. And the last part of our degree was visions, so where do we see ourselves in the future. And it got us ready for our art careers, if we wanted to be artists after we finished uni. We also got to go off and learn about photography, drawing, sculpture, jewellery making. Yeah, so that was yeah, pretty amazing to I guess, learn all these different techniques, yeah but I chose just to keep drawing. I don’t want to learn other new things. 

You know, I’ve always done art for fun, but uni really showed me I was able to make an art career, you know, out of this degree. So I’m very thankful for the people that’ve, I guess mentored me through my studies. And, you know, just developing my skills through the years, trying to find a style that, I guess, suits me and you know, just developing it more. So, I’m you know, still learning and all of that so. And we also got to have other established indigenous artists come in and I guess, speak to us and show us who they are and what they do. You know, people like Tony Albert, Richard Bell, Vernon Ah Kee, Gordon Hookey. Yeah, so you know, just seeing them, you know, in the flesh. Learn about these, you know, amazing artists, and you know, just being able to talk to them was very inspiring.

Yeah and I also met my best friend at university. It was our first day of our lecture and we both sat next to each other the lecturer was like ‘ok, we all have to stand up and do an activity together.’ And her, her first word was ‘aw fuck.’ So I thought to myself, ‘ah yup, she’s a keeper.’ So and you know, still best friends to this day, so you know, without going to uni I feel like I would not know the things I know now, the people that I’ve met so yeah. So now, you know, I’m practicing artist. Creating works about my identity, my sexuality, my history and the environment. And stories about my community as well you know, through my drawings and my digital art. I started sharing works on my instagram and I think that’s where I was recognised, I think back in 2018. I started doing, I started doing my digital illustrations for me it was a way to just I guess, boost my confidence and talk about my sexuality in ways that I couldn’t say in words. So art has really helped me, I guess, come out of my shell and tell the stories that I’ve always wanted to tell you know. I believe without art I wouldn’t have, wouldn’t have had the confidence, especially to be up here as well talking to all you lovely people. 

People always ask me ‘did you ever think you would be an artist?’ And no, I never thought I would be at this point. You know, I’m 26 and I am doing something I love, it’s almost like a dream you know, making art as a career and sharing that with everyone. Sometimes I wake up and think ‘shit, haha. I’m actually doing this!’ It has its ups and downs, you know I wake up some days and think ‘oh, I should’ve just fucking worked at Woolworths.’ But you know, it’s been an amazing journey. Just to see my mum and my family proud of you know, what I’m doing. You know, just travelling to places that I’ve never been before, meeting people that I’ve never met before you know. I’ve got to work with Google, I designed the front cover for the Rolling Stone magazine, I designed the new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tub as well so haha! Yeah, and just having my work exhibited in galleries across Australia. The National Gallery of Victoria was a big moment for me, to have my works collected at the recent queer exhibition.

Yeah, so I hope this story has inspired some of you who are in the audience who want to be an artist, or know people that want to be within the arts. You know, I started off not knowing anything, but I just kept going through, taking it day by day and you know, hoping one day I’ll get there. And I think I have. But I, better not speak too soon, it might be downhill from here haha. You might see me out the front busking, haha! But it does give me pride and joy to be able to tell my stories to other queer indigenous people that are in my community and all across Australia and also the world. It gives me very… it gives me, yeah, a lot of hope. I guess for the future of our people and our community, and we have come so far and we have done so much. All the hurdles we have had to overcome. So I hope that, I guess, my art can keep inspiring everyone that are, yeah that are all here. But yeah, thank you, thank you for all coming out and listening. It’s been great to be able to speak about who I am and what I do haha. 

Subscribe to Queerstories


Queerstories is produced by Maeve Marsden and recorded by wonderful technicians at events around the country. Editors and support crew have included Beth McMullen, Bryce Halliday, Ali Graham and Nikki Stevens.