mahabis interviews // matthew miller
Known under many monikers, fashion illustrator Matthew Miller or ‘sunflowermatt’ talks to us about his illustrations, his nomadic lifestyle, and why he’s always working.
Before we begin, talk us through what you do in just one sentence.
I create visual content for Menswear Brands to engage with the world.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your illustrations?
Drawing on the past heavily influences the direction of my illustrations. A part of how I see my career is a revival of Men's Fashion Illustration which means drawing attention to the rich history with illustration in the Menswear Industry.
On top of that I love to meditate on some of my favorite artists work. Artists such as John Singer Sargent, Caravaggio, Alphonse Mucha, Egon Schiele, David Downton, J.C. Leyendecker and so many more.
My wife Ruth and I end up in a new home every 3-6 months and I have made it a goal to draw direct inspiration from the places where we're living. When we moved to Grand Haven, MI I immediately was drawn to the Lake and the Grand Haven Pier.
Your creative network is quite extensive, covering multiple different monikers (Sunflowerman, Sunflower Matt and the Daily Fashion Project). How do you differentiate your work between these three public profiles?
In some ways the different monikers are a bane to my work, but in so many ways the different names are the different expressions of Sunflowerman. Each has a specific purpose within creating content in the realm of Menswear. There's Book Page Fashion which is an expression of the Fine Art direction of Sunflowerman. Daily Fashion Project is Fast Menswear Illustration whereas Sunflowerman proper is Couture Menswear Illustration. Sunflowermatt takes on the challenge of fashion photography in menswear. Together they all represent the Sunflowerman Network and a multi-point approach to brand expression.
How do you split your time between working on your various projects?
I'm always on. I'm always working. I love what I do. Very recently I've begun to set up a schedule for content creation. Schedules are anathema to the laissez faire approach I've had most of my life, but without a schedule my plan for Menswear Content Creation Domination would die in agonizing pain. I'm coming to terms with not posting on social media the moment I finish a painting or have an idea.
What tips would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Create every day. Experiment. Re-consider your aspirations. If you are ok with living in obscurity, taking odd jobs, waiting months for a paycheck, and toiling away because you simply can't imagine your life without illustration then you're good to go.
You state in your website bio that you currently live a nomadic lifestyle; tell us a bit more about this choice of lifestyle and where it has led you.
After marrying my wife Ruth in June of 2014 we decided to travel. With no lease on an apartment, no car payments, no phone payments and no bills to tether us down we were free to roam. First we visited Portugal, then Croatia, then Greece. After 9 months abroad we returned to Texas, then we hit Delaware and now we're in Michigan. In May we are planning a tour of the West Coast and then we're off to Italy for a year or so.
We have no permanent address. We roam from town to town. Moving from place to place has allowed us to experience different cultures, different modes of living, different geographies. In many ways we've been exploring the lands of our ancestors and developing an understanding of how we ended up where we are now.
7. How important is downtime for you, and do you find it difficult to allocate time to unwind when you’re on the move?
Unwinding is extremely stressful. I try to allow my mornings to be my moment of relaxation each day. I'm the first one awake in the mornings and in that quiet I find my meditation in journaling. It's not much time in the day but it's become a treasured time each day.
Otherwise I'm always on. I'm always working. I absolutely love what I do.
8. Where are your favourite places to go to relax?
Coffee shops and Cafes have become my haven. Wherever we end up in the world I have been able to find a place where people gather to read or work and drink. Being amongst people is a beautiful way to live, and drinking coffee is a pleasure bordering on obsession.
When I lived in Croatia the Sea was a 5 minute walk from the apartment. The one off-season cafe that would still open each day was another 5 minute's walk along the Sea Shore. I arrived each morning at opening, the only patron, sitting with my feet only inches from the lapping water of the Adriatic. That was the most relaxing time in my entire life.
9. If you only have space for three books to take with you on your travels, what would they be?
Unfortunately I don't read as often as I should. My list is limited by my breadth of reading but I will be as honest as I can.
1. The Obstacle Is The Way, by Ryan Holiday
2. The Art of Learning, by Josh Waitzkin
3. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
Each of these books is rather slim, so I wouldn't break my back. Together, they are a triumvirate of inspiration and persistence.
10. If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
I don't need an extra hour. An extra hour would only serve to extend my intensity of work. I don't need to work more. I love the hours I have now. What I wish for more than extra time is the ability to cherish the hours I already have.