Jeff Donovan: What is an artistic portrait?

Jeff Donovan

My slogan is “Portraits between Branding and Art.” Some people may hire me because they want an art portrait.

Jeff Donovan not only wanted an art portrait, but he also hired me to create a portrait in his style of art; he is a sculptor as well as painter. When I look at his work, I see faces and hands that have been distorted so that they fit into a shape, such as a rectangle, square or circle.

Jeff Donovan images

In addition, Jeff wanted an image in the style of Bill Brandt, a British photographer who often created contrasty black-and-white images.

Jeff requested black-and-white images because many of his favorite photographers—and filmmakers—worked in black-and-white. In addition, the underlying foundation of his work is drawing, which is in its essence black-and-white.

Given this input, creating the portrait was relatively easy. I used hard (contrasty) lighting and a black backdrop in the studio. Jeff posed himself. He contorted his body and asked me to shoot quickly before his joints began to ache too much. Later, in Photoshop, I experimented with a spherize filter that distorts images. I also used a filter to add some grain because Bill Brandt sometimes used high-speed film and certain developers in order to produce a grainy image. Jeff liked both the result and the process. He said, “Collaborating with Keith on a portrait that was reflective of the visual style of my own work was easy and enjoyable, and produced a result I am quite pleased with.”

When customers want an art portrait, I like to experiment and also produce something meaningful to them. I always try to create portraits that grab people’s attention, usually because the images are bold and graphic.