Croatian designer Filip Peraić was only trying to have some fun when he took a break from commercial work for clients such as IBM, Nike, and Sony to create a series of portraits of James Harden, the impressively bearded American basketball star who plays for the Houston Rockets.
“Quite unexpectedly, people found that very interesting, and it went viral,” said Peraić. “It opened a lot of doors for me.”
One such door was with Leon Bridges, the soulful crooner who comes to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Wednesday, September 12. After being contacted by Bridges’s manager at Columbia Records, Peraić produced a similar portrait series of the singer for his latest album, Good Thing. Some of his pieces are now hanging in the halls of Paseo Nuevo — as well as in New York subways, downtown Los Angeles, Australia, and Berlin — and some will be part of the concert’s background visuals.
Last week, Peraić answered a few of my questions from his home in Zadar, Croatia. See peraic.com for more info.
Why did you choose James Harden? I’m a basketball fan, and the man has a unique profile. I was never in contact with James, but he told the reporters he saw it and likes it. I got a signed jersey through Houston Rockets as a gift, so that’s cool for a basketball fan like me.
How was it working with Leon Bridges? I was a Leon Bridges fan even before getting to work on this project, so I really enjoyed the whole process, especially listening to an album before it was out! The team gave me a huge amount of creative freedom and created the perfect environment for me.
How did the process work? We came up with the concept of representing each song from the album with its own profile portrait of Leon Bridges. Our goal was creating a collection of single cover artworks that will be used everywhere, including social media, prints, merchandise, and animations.
The process went smoothly for some artworks, but others took so much time. It’s not easy doing 10 portraits without repeating yourself, so I juggled a lot of ideas and made a lot sketches.
What I like about portraits is that you can be surprised by them; some people can’t find Leon’s face at first inside some artworks. We wanted visuals going in the same direction as Leon’s new sound. It’s a more modern soul and progressive feeling compared to the first one [Bridges’s debut album, Coming Home]. The portraits are kind of an eclectic mixture of styles, just like Leon’s new sound.
How does Leon like them? Leon said he loves [them]. His favorite portrait is artwork for the song “Mrs.," a portrait hidden in a rose.
I hear that they may be part of the concert as well? Yes, my brother and I produced animations of each artwork, and they are used during performances and on social media. Hopefully you’ll get to see them during the show. This took the work to a whole new level, and I love how they look when animated.
Will you be in Santa Barbara for the show? Sadly, I won’t. I’m pretty far away in Croatia, where I live and work. I attended Leon’s album-release show in Brooklyn in May, where I met him after spending a hundred hours drawing him — it was a great experience. Leon’s show is a must-go. Hopefully I’ll see him perform again sometime soon.