You've seen the amazing art from our Keri Hilson cover story (catch up!), but do you know the artist behind the eye-popping work? Over the last few years, French artist/designer So-Me has crossed over into the U.S. market in a major way, thanks to his work on music videos for Kanye West ("The Good Life") and Kid Cudi ("Day N' Nite").
When it came time to recruit an artist to help create the cover of our annual Style & Design issue, So-Me was at the top of our list. The man's also in high-demand overseas, providing art direction for Ed Banger Records (Justice, Uffie) and designing for his clothing brand Cool Cats, so we were honored that he took the time to make Miss Keri look even better. Check out a quick interview we did with the elusive artist about his Complex collaboration ...
Interview by Jonathan Lees
Complex: Were you familiar with Keri Hilson before Complex asked you to work on her cover story?
So-Me: Yeah, kind of. I mean, we're always a bit late with the upcoming U.S. artists in Europe. But yeah, of course, I know she used to be like Timberland's protégé, and these days she's blowing up. Everybody seems to love her right now.
Complex: What was the idea behind all the cats?
So-Me: The funniest part for me was to create those little characters. The little cats are kind of like... most of them are in love with Keri. They are like groupies, male groupies. And they are all like, playing around her, and trying to grab her attention, and some of them are protecting her from other ones. It's like a cool world all around her of people moving, and talking. And she's just there, being like a queen surrounded by her subjects. But she remains quiet, doesn't really pay attention to these dudes.
Complex: So what materials did you use for this project in particular?
So-Me: Well, I've been sketching some stuff and looking for ideas and then I use my good-old computer to do my graphics because that's usually the way I do. I use like very classy design tools. But my idea was to have all these cats that were in love with her, and going all around her for the fashion story. And then we decided to create some graphics as well for the cover. But then it was more informative than the crazy drawings that are inside, so the cover is a little bit different than the story. But yes, they're all connected to the same graphic style.
Complex: How does this relate to your usual style, and stuff you've done in the past?
So-Me: Well, actually it is a style that I'm using sometimes. But I think I could have used a lot of different styles, I can use a lot of different tools, I can draw in... even when I think I'm changing my style, it ends up looking like me, I guess. But definitely this was a very powerful and very bold style for this one. Because when you get a cover for a magazine in newsstand, you always think about having an illustration on the cover that will bring some impact to the magazine. Unfortunately, you always get more impact when you use photographic cover. So to keep the strength of picture or photographic cover, I needed to have very, very strong colors, a lot of impact in the contrast, and there's also the photographic element, which is Keri Hilson on the cover.
Complex: How involved were you in coming up with the concept?
So-Me: It's total exchange from the beginning, actually. They asked me to do drawings and then one day they said, "What about doing the titles?" So I was like, "Yeah, sure?" Usually when I do a cover for a magazine, I always try to ask if I can do the whole thing, like draw their logo, everything. But this time I didn't ask for it, but after I started they were just like, "Why don't you just do the logo?" So I think we were on the same line [of thinking]. We have similar ideas about what I could do, and that's pretty much what they have in mind to.
Complex: The photos and the art work so well together. How did seeing the photos effect what you produced?
So-Me: Actually, with the working process, I could even discuss with the magazine before the pictures were taken. So yes, I was actually inspired by what I saw, but it was not something that they just gave it to me like, "These are the pictures, what can you do with that?" We really, really tried to conceptualize it beforehand. I was looking for specific poses but then I was not too... I didn't have like one opinion for everything, I was giving a lot of space? So I was like, "Oh, I would like some pose that would be some kind of like this, but make it exactly the way you want it to be." So I sketched some stuff, and then made the best of it during the shoot because they made changes, and they made new poses. And then at the end of the day, that was exactly what I was looking for. So we were always exchanging, and talking during the whole process.
Complex: So as far as working with magazines, this is not your first. You've done covers before?
So-Me: I've done a few, but I'm not like collaborating often with magazines. I just go for it when it's an interesting project, which doesn't happen everyday. I've done a couple of collaborations, but not so much. Just trying to keep myself for the official stuff. So I was very happy that they gave me such freedom, such space, that was very exciting. I hope I can come to the States this summer and see it in the newsstands!
• CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL KERI HILSON x SO-ME COVER STORY!