Could you please introduce yourself and share any hidden talents or something most people wouldn’t know about you?
My name is Ellen Porteus, and I’m an artist whose work spans digital illustration, animation and installation. Most people wouldn’t know I once went on (and bombed out of) Millionaire Hot Seat. Pretty cooooool!
Where do you see yourself and your art headed in the next few years?
I’m putting a stronger focus on my own personal artistic development and want to explore way more mediums in the digital and physical realms! I’m excited to see where that will take me.
What are you working on at the moment? Any big plans coming up?
I have a big exhibition coming up in Melbourne later this year. I’m going to be trying lots of new things and I’m really pumped about it! And freaking out a little.
Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way? (Personally or professionally)
Of course! Being an artist sounds romantic, but the reality is that your productivity/success/progress is tied to your creativity, and your ability to be creative can be hard to harness if you’re having a shit day. It’s easy to spiral.
What does body confidence mean to you? Is it something you’ve ever struggled with and why?
To me, body confidence is about accepting your body and treating yourself with kindness. When I struggle with any kind of confidence, I start by acknowledging that the negative voice in my head is there, and then try to counter any negative thought with a more logical and positive one. This is the inspiration for my piece: slaying negative and toxic thoughts!
Can you please share a little about how you go into creating artwork and how you’d describe your style?
I would describe my style as bold, cheeky and colourful. I often explore themes of self-reflection and femininity. I like to communicate something honest and sometimes a little bit dark with super poppy, super happy visuals. My process for a typical digital illustration is ideation and thumbnail sketching on paper or iPad, and I work up the final using Illustrator and my Wacom tablet.
Do you tend to create from personal experience or from observing the experiences of others?
My work always stems from a moment of self reflection. I use my artwork to express myself and my experiences in a way that I can’t with words!
What’s it like being a woman in the creative industry? Do you find that it has its challenges at times?
It’s hard for me to say as my career is so unique to me. However, I do notice that I get lumped into a “female artist” category rather than just “artist” which I find a bit frustrating.
What’s your favourite part about your body and why?
I just cringed at this question, isn’t that a bad sign! I’d say eyes- they’re blue but one of them has a wedge of brown in it. Some people notice straight away and some people take months to say anything.
What’s your idea of empowerment?
Being free and able to be completely yourself.
What message do you have for those who are struggling with body confidence/self-love/weight or appearance issues? – What’s helped you in the past?
Whatever makes you feel good, do that! For me it’s pushing my body to do things that I didn’t think it could do - like samba or a particularly tricky yoga pose.
Praise You isn’t just about raising awareness for eating disorders and celebrating body positivity – it’s also shining the light on female support in the creative community, in saying that, what does inclusivity and its importance mean to you?
My female support network is incredibly important to me. When I moved down to Melbourne, I didn’t know anyone in the creative community. The women I’ve met and become friends with here have helped me grow in so many ways, it’s been the best thing that has happened to me. For me, I try to give back by doing talks, having coffees and answering questions from emerging artists.
What inspires your style of art? What are the best ways you've found that have refined your practice?
My style is a bit of a mash of what I absorbed as a kid- bright 90s cartoons, music videos on Rage, pop art. I’ve refined my practice just by doing it everyday, it just naturally evolves! Getting really diverse briefs help too, as I’ll often be drawing things I never would have, and that expands my skills.
Since Praise You started in 2017 we’ve started to see a shift in the conversation with creative women, being more open about their journey and eliminating competition - Have you noticed this yourself and have you ever dealt with competition? How do you deal with the dreaded comparison bug?
Any commercial artist deals with competition- I’ll often be put up for a job alongside a handful of other artists. Sometimes I don’t get the job, and that’s fine! Another one will always be on the way. I’ve always had a pretty good handle on competition/ comparison/ jealousy as I can look at it logically and objectively and know that my work isn’t for everyone, but it is unique to me and that’s a really good thing.
Do you have any mantras or words to live by?
“Life’s too short” as in “Life’s too short for lining up for brunch” or “Life’s too short for cheap wine”. It’s a great mantra as it can justify a lot of bad behavior.
What advice what you give your 18-year-old self if you could?
Don’t stress so much!
Your dream job/project/collaboration – tell us about it?
I would love to collaborate with a musician to do everything for them- album artwork, set design, music videos. That would be a dream.
What the biggest risk you’ve taken to date? What were the pressure points and was it worth it?
My biggest risk was quitting my job to become an illustrator, after only having one paid job! It was extremely early on in my career and I could have completely tanked. But I figured going broke was the worst thing that could happen, and I knew how to be pretty thrifty. It all worked out great.
What’s been one of your most memorable jobs?
Four years ago, my first ever job with an ad agency was a collaboration with Bonds, where they selected emerging artists to design a mural. This was where I met Eliza Svikulis, Kate Pullen, (both on the Praise You lineup!) Bianca Cash, Lachlan Philp and Nathan Nankervis, who are all killing it now!
How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?
The honest answer is it’s really hard! But I find once I have an idea I’m really excited about, that’s where the drive comes from.
How has your work and practice developed over time?
I’d say my work from when I started to now is still very distinctly me, but I’ve become one million times more confident in my drawing ability. For example, I used to be super scared of drawing faces, but now I love doing it!
Who’s work are you currently loving right now and why?
CJ Hendry. I think she’s so ballsy and I love the big exhibitions she’s been putting on in America.
Social media has been on a pretty interesting journey over the past few years - where do you see it now as opposed to two years ago?
I think it’s just seen as a way to make money now. A few years ago, brands weren’t even on the platform- remember that?! I’d love to see a new platform emerge that’s for artists and creative people to share their ideas and work without all the other bullshit. That being said, I am pretty dependent on social media for work so, you know, my feelings are complicated. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a different answer.