Turning the Porsche passion into an art form

Meet the car-mad artist commissioned to paint the cover of the 400th edition of Christophorus

6d ago

At home in Portland, Oregon, artist Jeffrey Docherty scrolls through a collection of his work on an iPad. One illustration reveals the rim of a 1960s steering wheel in yellow instead of the original wood, on a salmon-hued background. Familiar forms in unexpected colours, it is at once instantly recognisable and like nothing you’ve seen before.

Docherty began using Porsche design details in his drawings six years ago, working with colours that acquired cult-like status as factory paint in the 1960s and 1970s. The 42-year-old New Zealander has a particular eye for the motorsport motifs from this era and his designs, which are primarily released on Instagram, have attracted a worldwide community of fans. “I’m always looking for surprising ways to interpret moments in racing history,” he explains. The result is always a fresh take on well-known images with new beauty, humour and often unanticipated meaning.

Docherty came to public prominence after an exhibit by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan at Art Basel in Miami in 2019 gave him some unlikely inspiration. In the famous satirical installation ‘Comedian’, Cattelan had simply affixed a banana to a wall with a duct tape. Docherty revisited the concept with grey tape against a sky-blue background and replaced the banana with a bright yellow brake caliper. And the idea went viral. “It made people smile and got them talking,” he says with pleasure. “I was able to transplant a moment from the exclusive world of art to the automotive world, to combine it with something I’m passionate about.”

Docherty has worked in the creative sector for more than 20 years and is now senior creative director for Nike. But he has loved and drawn cars since childhood, initially concentrating on air-cooled Volkswagens before focusing on early Porsche models, an interest that would lead him to buy and backdate a Mexico Blue 1978 911 SC. “There’s a timeless beauty to its design,” he observes. “Everyone knows what a Porsche is capable of. So the aesthetics don’t need to go overboard, and can afford to have a marvellous quality of understatement.”

His fascination with the brand and its unbroken tradition of racing soon extended to racing suits, helmets, stickers and patches. Now, from his basement studio, Docherty works surrounded by a slot-car racing track and extensive archive. The latter contains prints of his illustrations, Porsche models and books - including one about Porsche poster artist Erich Strenger, who Docherty considers a major inspiration for his own work.

He opens a steel cabinet and pulls out a few old issues of Christophorus. “I bought them because I was curious about the illustrations, photos, and ads of that era. Christophorus is something very special, a part of Porsche’s DNA.”

Since his recent Instagram success, Docherty has found himself illustrating books about Porsche and designing helmets for racing drivers. Meanwhile, the organisers of the GP Ice Race in Zell am See – Constantin Klein and Ferdi Porsche, the son of Dr Wolfgang Porsche – even commissioned Docherty to design a 911 art car.

Docherty and his American-born wife moved from New York to Portland in 2012, where they live with their eight-year-old son Asher. When he gets into his 911 SC, he only has to drive a block or two from his home to meet up with fellow members of the local Porsche community, with the neighbourhood of Arbor Lodge home to two classic garages where several Porsche enthusiasts look after their cars. “The Porsche community in Portland is like a family,” he says. “Everyone is connected in some way or another, or knows someone who’s active in the community.”

Docherty also heads out regularly to See See Motor Coffee in the nearby hipster neighbourhood of St. Johns, and from here it’s only two minutes to St. Johns Bridge – a gateway to the hills of West Portland with its winding roads, verdant landscapes, and spectacular panoramas. Docherty finds a leisurely drive in his air-cooled SC almost as relaxing as his art. “All I need is my iPad and stylus and I can draw wherever I am,” he says. “It’s a great way to relax and recharge. And it should stay that way. This is one passion that should never be made to feel like work.”

Taycan Turbo: electrical consumption combined (WLTP): 26.6 - 22.9 kWh/100 km; CO2 emissions combined (WLTP): 0 g/km; range combined (WLTP): 383 - 452 km; range city (WLTP): 432 - 498 km; electricity consumption combined (NEDC): 28.0 kWh/100 km; CO2 emissions combined (NEDC): 0 g/km

911 Carrera: consumption combined (WLTP): 10.8 - 10.3 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined (WLTP): 245 - 233 g/km; fuel consumption combined (NEDC): 9.4 l/100 km; CO2 emissions combined (NEDC): 215 g/km

Join In

Comments (2)

  • Does he sell any of this stuff?

      1 day ago
  • I do like his work. Some critics would label him an illustrator…it’s straightforward, colorful, easy to understand and well proportioned. Anyway, what’s wrong with being an illustrator? It sure didn’t hurt Norman Rockwell!

      22 hours ago