NBA All-Star James Harden is known just as much for his majestic beard as for his skills on the court. In James Harden Illustrated, Croatian illustrator Filip Peraić has made that beard his muse, drawing the Herculean silhouette of the Houston Rockets shooting guard in myriad styles as a way of flexing his creative muscles.
“The point of this project is to sharpen my creativity,” Peraić says on the Harden’s website. “It’s about avoiding the enslavement of an expression to one style or concept.” According to the illustrator, the basketball player’s “unique, awesome bearded profile” is “almost icon-like,” which made it a perfect choice of subject to explore different styles and aesthetics.
As such, on Peraić’s sketchpad, Harden becomes a shapeshifter. Sometimes he is rendered in the style of the marble bust of an ancient Greek philosopher; at other times, he is just a swarm of pointillist dots. Sometimes he is drawn without skin; other times, Harden is turned into a geographical landmass, the Isle of Hardenia. Sometimes, Harden’s profile is a psychotronic amalgam of hallucinogens; other times, his beard is a whale, plunging downward in the ocean of his face.
It’s important to note that Peraić isn’t just some random Tumblr weirdo: A graduate of Zagreb’s School of Design, he has done work for major brands such as IBM, Mercedes Benz, ESPN, and more. It’s undeniably a fun project, but what sunflowers were to Van Gogh, Harden’s leonine profile is to Peraić. Out of constraint–and Harden’s magnificent beard folds–can come great design.