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Elena follows in mom’s artistic footsteps

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Two of a kind: Cristina Douglas and her daughter, Elena Portius, are both talented artists (Photograph supplied)

Artistic talent runs in the family for Bermudian artist and educator Cristina Douglas, who remembers her mother painting vivid sunflowers.

After seeing her happily give up painting to focus on her family, the art teacher was wary of doing the same.

“She always had it. She was a really good mom, and she put her children first,” she said. “Most mothers do. We try to.”

The artistic gift was also inherited by Ms Douglas’s daughter, Elena Portius, and the pair has teamed up with Muse Restaurant and Skybar, on Front Street, for a Mother’s Day exhibition.

The opening tomorrow night will allow the pair to showcase their portfolio of paintings — from fluid and abstracts to landscapes, flowers and trees — while guests enjoy drinks and canapés.

“Art has always been a passion of mine,” said Ms Douglas, 49, a teacher at Mount St Agnes Academy.

She studied illustration at Rhodes Island School of Design. Alongside her landscapes and abstracts, she is deft at caricatures, often commissioned for special events.

She has exhibited and sold work in Neudörfl, Austria, which she said was her first and only solo show, and she is earning more commissions after selling her work in last year’s Charman Prize. She is also finding time to experiment.

“I find being a single mother and teaching, it’s hard to get enough work together,” she added. “I do commissioned work and portraits for people.

“Slowly I’ve been finding more time, with the children away at school.”

Her daughter is studying fine arts at the University of Creative Arts in Canterbury, Kent, and her son Oliver, a musician, is in high school in Austria.

Ms Douglas said: “I’m a different artist than Elena is. She thinks very abstractly and works in layers.

“Last year, she was here for the year and I got involved with helping her get her portfolio ready. I learnt stuff with her and she learnt stuff with me. We bounce off of each other.”

She said Elena gave her the idea to look up fluid art painting — her newest passion.

“My daughter’s exposure to art history has been incredible,” she said. “The places she’s visited — I’ve never been to those places.

“Wanting Elena to get out there and get her artwork out there, this was a way for me to get out there, too. It drove me, because I want her to be successful.”

Most of all, Ms Douglas wants her daughter to have confidence.

“I don’t worry that she won’t be able to support herself, she works very hard.

“I just want her not to settle. I want her to strive for her interests and to be able to do something that she loves.

“I would love for her to be recognised for the talent that she has, so that she knows she is doing the right thing.

“I want her to get noticed faster than I did. I want her art to take off before her life does — meaning her adult life.

“My children are the loves of my life.

“I want to be able to give them the opportunities they need to be self-confident and successful.

“I’d do anything for them.”

I get my talent from my mum

Unlike her mother, Elena Portius typically works with spray paint and stencils.

This year, the 20-year-old has focused on the trees and buildings of Southlands in Warwick. Her paintings and installations are exhibiting in the UCA students’ art show in Kent.

“My mom’s style is very different to mine,” she said. “However, she has influenced me — growing up in a home that was colourful and very artsy.”

Would you say your mother being an artist as well has encouraged you, discouraged you or a bit of both?

It has definitely encouraged me. I grew up being told to follow my dreams and having an artist as a mom really helps when sometimes that dream doesn’t seem achievable.

What qualities have you inherited from your mom?

I definitely have my artistic talents from my mother and many other qualities, such as being very passionate about the things I love.

What is the greatest lesson she has taught you?

That even if you fail, you still learn something. Fall down seven times, get back up eight. Never give up trying.

What is your earliest memory of your mother?

My mother, my younger brother and I at Turtle Bay building sandcastles, something we used to do a lot.

What drives you? What are you passionate about?

Art, obviously, but also sports, such as swimming, which I did competitively for 11 years. A good day, a great book, but also pressure usually drive me to do things.

You both share a love of colour and nature in your work. Where does this stem from?

Living in Bermuda is partly to blame for my fascination with nature. Because our island is so vibrant, I have developed a strong feeling towards colour. However, living in Austria for ten years definitely is a reason as well, with its amazing lake and mountain landscapes. I am always in awe by the simplest things, such as a beautiful sunset. I just love the colours.

How does your work differ from your mother’s?

My mother’s old work is very surrealistic and she is very good with caricatures and portraits, something I cannot say for myself. I usually play around with colour, strong contrast outlines of things and some photography.

What are your long-term goals?

I am doing a BA in fine art at UCA Canterbury. I am also hoping to maybe do an MA in curation or a teaching degree. With what I am studying, my future is not yet clear. I do hope to end up having a job somewhere in the art world.

What about your mother’s wishes, for you to be confident and successful?

Thanks to my mother, with this upcoming show I have the opportunity to get my work out there, which really helps with the confidence bit. Maybe I will be successful as well. I have had shows in the past but it is different if you are exhibiting with school or university from just you with someone else.

The show at Muse Restaurant and Skybar opens at 6.30pm tomorrow. It is open to everyone and there will be a cash bar and nibbles while guests interact with the artists

Art show: Cristina Douglas and her daughter, Elena Portius (Photograph supplied)
Promising future: 'Feuer Bäume' by Elena Portius (Photograph supplied)
Creative flair: Cristina Douglas’s Pink Surf (Photograph supplied)
Upcoming exhibit: one of Cristina Douglas's pieces, 'Summer' (Photograph supplied)
An abstract painting by Cristina Douglas. (Photograph supplied)
'Inspired by nature: Tigger' by Elena Portius (Photograph supplied)
Abstract art: 'Weeping Willow' by Cristina Douglas (Photograph suplied)
'Nacht Bäume' by Elena Portius (Photograph supplied)