If you check the Instagram #menswear tag, it’s impossible not to stumble across the work of Sunflowerman. The mastermind behind a daily watercolor portrait project, he’s painted the likes of bespoke designer Angel Ramos, fictional ad man (and silver fox) Roger Sterling, and 100 individual watches. His professional portfolio includes ads for SkinnyFatTies, Ovadia and Sons, and continuing contributions to Details magazine.
Matthew Miller, who dons the super hero’s title Sunflowerman, is normally based in Atlanta. I caught up with him in Portugal, where he’s honeymooning with his wife.
C: Alright, let’s start with the most obvious question: (Horrible Joker Impersonation) who is the Sunflowerman?
M: (Laughs) That started when I was really young, like 10 or 11. I was at camp and it was something that always came up. I just started writing and drawing Sunflowerman, even through high school and college I kept at it. So when I needed a professional identity, I had already cultivated an image.
C: What brought you down the path of menswear? You could be painting bowls of fruit, for god’s sake.
M: Well, in art school I painted boxes and naked people, of course, but I honestly have no idea where it came from. There was no ‘Ah ha!’ moment; it was gradual. It started with a focus on wanting to paint people, and I normally wanted my subjects to wear a jacket or tie. It slowly developed into menswear… I’m still not sure. I didn’t advertise the fashion aspect, but people really followed the menswear side of it. I guess that’s better than painting naked people.
C: Well, to quote Mark Twain: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
M: I love that (laughs).
C: I actually found out about you through a mutual friend of ours, Wristi. He’s one of your most painted models.
M: Yeah! Even before my 100 watches project, Wristi caught on to what I was doing. I can’t remember how many I did for him, maybe 9 or 10.
C: They’re all framed in his office.
M: That’s awesome; I’m glad to hear that.
C: Speaking of the 100 Watches Project, I understand you’re publishing it in a book.
M: I am. The idea is to tell the stories behind the watches. There was a husband and wife duo who submitted their watches without telling each other; it was sweet when they found out. I’m still editing it. Luckily, I only have to write a prologue, all of the stories are user submitted. I’m getting there. Maybe two weeks, maybe a month.
C: Your other Instagram, @DailyFashionProject is something everyone loves. You’ve painted Craig, Paul, and myself. You’ve painted almost all of my insta-friends. I know you were doing portraits before, but what started this project?
M: It kinda goes back to the original book page paintings. They only took a few minutes each; I used a brush to be more versatile. Big lines, thin lines, just getting the form down. The watch project really pushed me to get the details right, and after a while, wrists weren’t good enough anymore.
C: I’ll be honest, my mom loves the portrait you did of me; she put it on my family’s Christmas card.
M: (Laughs) why hasn’t she submitted?
C: She doesn’t know what Instagram is yet. It’s probably better that way.
M: (Laughs) I know what you mean. David Downton was a huge inspiration for me. He typically paints women, incredibly amazing. I kinda took his style a little bit. I’m mixing it with my own style for menswear.
C: Let’s talk about your work for Ovadia and Sons. That’s a great brand, I believe GQ’s Best Designer of 2012.
M: That’s right, 2012. That also happened through Instagram. They contacted me and it grew from there. It was a long and arduous process because they knew what they wanted.
C: You recently helped us at Bespoke Unit with a #That_Dapper_Chap Giveaway (See the amazing process below!). You did a great portrait of the winner that you’re going to mail out to him…I guess what I’m getting at is…where are my portraits, damn it?!
M: (Laughs) Shoot, I have you in a stack somewhere…I’m not giving the Daily Fashion away yet. A lot of people want to purchase them. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with them yet, so I can’t give them away..I think I would love to do a show, I have over 100.
C: You have so many great diverse styles. You have folks like me wearing tuxedos (pause) by the way, thanks for not painting my ex girlfriend’s hand in there.
M: (Laughs) I try to edit where I can…
C: But then you have folks who are literally holding giant ice cream cones and wearing crowns. Some of them are super goofy, but I love them.
M: That’s the point! If I ever have an exhibition that will be the central theme. I just want to capture people; I really like the idea of capturing what the community is wearing. Most of the time we see brand look books or Pitti Uomo or NYFW. Fashion is now street style. Although it’s my style of painting, you can really see each person’s individuality. Hopefully if people like it, they’ll look that person up and learn their wardrobe.
C: I also loved your work in Detail’s Gift Guide this holiday.
M: Yeah, I titled mine “The Aesthetic Guide for the Dapper Man.”
C: What I like about it is that it’s not one gigantic Photoshopped product placement.
M: Oh man, in general I don’t like mood boards or gift guides. They don’t have much creativity, but I guess it’s only not creative because everyone’s doing it now. I wanted to create a catalyst for inspiration, not just a list of things to purchase.
C: I know it’s hard to say, especially because you’re honeymooning for the next few months, but what’s on the horizon for Sunflowerman? Will he gain a perky side kick named Daffodil Boy?
M: That’s been an idea that’s been kicking around, but nothing has stuck yet. No villains yet, either. Sunflowerman exists in an isolated world, and maybe it’s better that way. I would say his powers are ambiguous. You never know what’s coming up next…that’s pretty snappy.
C: I’d say so.
To celebrate the new year, we wanted to do something special. We couldn’t think of any better prize than a custom watercolor by Sunflowerman himself! Check out his artistic process below, step-by-step!
Original Picture 1
Original Picture 2
If you’re interested in getting a custom picture yourself, visit the Sunflowerman website here.