Meet the Artist: Matthew Miller a.k.a @Sunflowerman
Join us as we get an exclusive look inside the beautiful mind of the Fort Worth-based illustrator.
Here’s an amazing fact: the sunflower is comprised of thousands of wee flowers, and what we register as petals are actually called ray florets. We bring this up because illustrator Matthew Miller’s artistic output also contains multitudes. Miller, who goes by the monikers @sunflowerman and @sunflowerman.watch on Instagram, was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
And like a sunflower’s seeds spread by the wind, Miller’s artistic chops have been honed in the fashion hubs of London, Milan, Paris, and New York. But his elegant drawings and expressive watercolors found international acclaim when he and his wife moved to Fort Worth, Texas.
Watchonista spoke to Miller over the phone about his artistic evolution and how his art became a hit amongst the horological cognoscenti.
Stroke of Genius
A sharp-dressed man, when we spoke to him, Miller was planning his trip to the Pitti Uomo in Florence. He told us that, while “art is my first love,” fashion is another of Miller’s passions.
After dropping out of art school (“twice,” added Miller), he began his professional life in menswear. However, eventually, his interest in art and fashion would intersect.
And as he brought his artist’s eye for detail to drawings of dapper dressers, he also started noticing another detail: “About a decade ago, I started seeing people wearing watches. I didn’t grow up with watches, so that whole world was foreign to me,” he told us.
He noted that watches were not just an accessory but another way people expressed their individuality. “I became interested in the relationship between watches and fashion,” continued Miller. “I started to put my art on Instagram, drawing 100 watches in 100 days. After that, I was all in.”
An integral part of his “100 Watches Project” was that he shared the story behind each watch he portrayed. And, of course, as the timepiece part of his practice has grown, the more he has fallen down the horological rabbit hole, extensively researching brands, their collections, and the role each watch plays in pop culture.
In Miller’s portraits, the watches are presented as part and parcel of a whole look. And that is where the images tell a bigger story: Every detail is sketched out in advance, whether it be a crown, a bracelet link, or the stitches and fabric on a suit.
As detailed as Miller’s research is, the actual execution of his work is expressionistic. For example, recently, Miller made live-action artwork at Dubai Watch Week and the opening of the new Citizen Watch Boutique in New York City. During both events, guests observed his fluidity and confidence as he wielded his brush.
One is tempted to compare his technique to Japanese ink painting, or sumi-e, because of his use of negative space. But instead of using only black atop a white surface, as is the case in sumi-e, Miller plays with a wash of colorful watercolors.
Miller explained to Watchonista that the fluidity and transparency of watercolors also help bring the texture and movement of materials to life, and it is this mix of minimalism and maximalism that somehow makes his artwork feel harmonious: “There’s a confidence that you see immediately but also a permanence.”
And while watercolors can be a tricky medium to control, with pigments often bleeding one into another, Miller embraces its potential chaos: “I love the finality of it,” he said. “When you make a choice, you have to live with it.”
Like menswear, Miller sees watchmaking as a form of wearable art. Thus, his ultimate goal is to celebrate the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into creating each piece.
Miller is also a fan of watch brands that are willing to take visual risks: “I love early Ressence – there’s something about the way they play with telling time that excites me,” he explained.
He’s also into F.P.Journe and has produced at least 40 live drawings of stylish gents wearing Journes in a series of ink drawings Miller calls “St. Journe and the Dragon.” And as a fan of portrait artists like Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, it’s not surprising that his work also playfully references ancient stories like St. George vanquishing a fire-breathing, flying reptile.
Unlike other works, this series often features almost neo-classical backgrounds, but at the center of these illustrations are real-life characters from the fashion and watch collecting world. And this is one of the most appealing parts of Miller’s work: it feels very alive!
“For me, the highlight of all this travel is getting the community together,” said Miller. Just as his art lies at the intersection of fashion and portraiture, being able to find a home both in the world of galleries and watch enthusiasts, online and in person, is another reason he is a friend to watch enthusiasts from Dubai to Florence.
(Images by Matthew Miller. Front image © Elizabeth Lavin)