Interview Ave | Menswear Illustrator Matthew Miller
Illustration is a powerful medium. It's fascinating that an artist can share their depiction of the world though drawings and sketches. For this post, we're introducing Matthew Miller and Illustrator who has an impressive portfolio under his belt. His signature fashion illustration has a watercolor feel that is easily identifiable, vibrant and full of life. Here is insight of creative brainchild behind the visuals:
Dapper - Tell Us About Yourself
Matthew - I grew up in West Michigan, as one of five children. Drawing has been my nature since leaving the womb. There is not a time when I or anyone can remember me not drawing. I attended Grand Rapid's only art school, Kendall College of Art and Design. Found that the standards I had expected from University was only slightly different than that of public school and moved to Atlanta when I was 20. Life began teaching me who I was going to be. I met my wife Ruth, began my career as a fashion illustrator and met many people who have influenced the way that I see the world now.
Dapper - How did you get started as an illustrator? and how has your work evolved? (early work vs now)
Matthew - I started professionally right out of school. Fashion Illustration was not my focus at the time. There was a bit of discovering who I wanted to be and what I wanted my work to do in the world. What you see now is so far from what I was doing even two years ago. The goal then was discovering myself and finding where I fit into the art world of Atlanta. Street art and community galleries are such a strong underpinning of the scene in Atlanta. Most of the young artists are always working, always creating and constantly exhibiting in small venues to hone their skills and to muster any exposure possible. That's where I was fitting in.
Quickly I transitioned themes of vultures symbolizing the redemptive qualities of life to the symbiosis of people and animals to the expressive nature of people and their clothing. People are the main focus and men's fashion is primed for featuring the lives of individuals. That is where I am now, iterating on men's fashion and the people who use it to express themselves.
Dapper - How did you come up with the name Sunflower Man?
Matthew - This is a common query when people come across my work. Why Sunflowerman? It is odd to be sure. The name does not relate to my work in apparent way. It started as a summer camp identity. Young boys of 11,12 or 13 (The exact age escapes me) dream and act out fantasies of being superheros. I suppose before the age of Marvel and DC it was about being in the army or being a firefighter.
The identity stuck with me and I constantly iterated on the idea through illustrations and writings. Everywhere I went people began to know me as Sunflowerman. When it came time to create a professional identity there wasn't much of a debate in my mind. I was already Sunflowerman. Most people react positively to the name. It brings a bit of joy to say it aloud. Sunflowerman is comical and yet the work I do is extremely professional. The stretch to connect the comical and the professional is not too difficult.
Dapper - What inspired you to focus on Menswear? and does your own personal style influence your work?
Matthew - I cannot say for sure where the inspiration stemmed from. I did not grow up in a household that cared too much about fashion. I laugh at images of myself as a child but I know that being outside of the realm of influence has allowed me to discover fashion with new eyes. The focus of men's fashion is a focus on people. I love people and without people there is no fashion. Fashion is the perfect way to illustrate people and focus on people every day. My work has influenced my personal style much more than my style has influenced my work.
Dapper - Are there any style icons that you consider to be a muse?
Matthew - Tough question. Patrick Grant, on the suggestion of friend was an initial muse of mine. It is hard to argue with his sense of tradition and the way he handles the fashion business. Others such as Walter Van Beirendonck have allowed me to view the traditions in men's fashion with a crazy eclectic eye. Currently I am soaking in the styles of everyone around me. The stories of how people have discovered their own 'Dapper Man' and the images they choose to share with the world are highly influential for me.
Dapper - Outside of drawing, what do you do? any cool hobbies?
Matthew - Yikes. So many people today do so many amazing things. Technology has made the Renaissance Man an every day man. My focus seems to be much more narrow. Every day I am drawing and painting and experimenting with textures, mediums and substrates. Outside of this my wife and I are traveling through Europe and soaking in cultures. We are attempting to learn the languages and the nuances that make up a culture within different countries. Currently our obsession is Portugal. There is so much history that has shaped our modern world in Portugal and Spain. In the age of exploration Portugal was on the leading edge. Magellan and Vasco Do Gama are two notable names that conquered the ocean and brought enormous wealth to such a tiny swath of the European landscape. While I am painting I also listen to podcasts. I am obsessed with podcasts. What I hoped I would learn in University (and did not) can be found in heaps through podcasts. Information about history and marketing, art and culture, comedy and mathematics- the access is nearly limitless. I have found my true education through the generosity of people sharing what they love in life.
Dapper -What music are you currently listening to?
Matthew - I am always exposed for being lacking in musical culture with this question. Music is probably the greatest influencer of the last 60 years and yet I am sorely lacking in my depth of knowledge and appreciation here. What you could find me listening to lately is as follows:
Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, Johnny Cash, Thelonious Monk, Kanye West,Big Boi,The Shins and Eminem. I think I'm revealing myself as a musical hipster.
Dapper - Do you have a favorite drawing or painting?
Matthew - I am more a fan of styles and techniques. Individual paintings are simply a piece of the great work of an artist's career (Though some works stand out amongst a collection). The work of N.C.Wyeth, David Downton, Alphonse Mucha, Egon Schiele, Greg Simkins, Caravaggio are all artists who have changed my life with the works they create and have created. I can sit and bathe in the works of the artists for hours upon hours. My soul is washed in their color and movement, in the ways that they use lines and figures.
Dapper - What projects are you working on?
Matthew - I am several months in to the 100 Watches Project where I take the submission of people's favorite watches and paint them on old Sherlock Holmes book pages. I have been painting one a day since the project began and will end with number 100. After that there are some peripheral projects that directly relate and enhance the collection. Submissions for that are now closed, but I am taking commissions on watch paintings still.
The Daily Fashion Project is also several months along now and has become the center piece of what I do. Anyone can submit their style through a form at sunflowerman.com. I paint one each week-day and share it on the site and social media. The goal with the Daily Fashion Project is to gather the stories of people who have been influenced by fashion and to share them with the community. The iteration of the individual styles through watercolor is a way to look past the person and see the way they present themselves in an artistic (and what I hope is a more neutral way). Breaking down the barriers of persons and seeing the stories of the community through individual people.
Dapper - Where can we follow your journey?