The origin story began in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Matthew Miller, age 10 at the time, was attending a summer camp where one of the activities was a drama class. The assignment: Pick an item out of a bag and use it to create a skit. When Miller reached into the bag, he pulled out a shower curtain covered in sunflowers. Thinking quickly, Miller — a fan of superheroes at the time — draped the curtain over his shoulders and tied it off around his neck.
And that day, he became Sunflowerman.
The name would eventually come back to haunt him. Miller, who loved to doodle on his homework as a child, went on to pursue a career in art. He’d attend two art schools (the Kendall College of Art and Design and Savannah College of Art and Design) — and drop out twice — before finding himself working at a pizzeria in Atlanta. For a short time, he fell into a cycle: Work during the day, go home and “paint until I fell asleep.”
Then, Miller recalls, he “somehow stumbled upon painting men’s fashion,” making portraits of friends wearing suits. His big break came around 2012 when he illustrated for a show with Atlanta menswear boutique H. Stockton. Posting his work to social media garnered international attention, and the next thing he knew, he was booking gigs to illustrate social media and marketing materials for big-name companies like GQ, Maurice Lacroix and Perry Ellis. His Instagram following also grew, to now, nearly 60,000 followers.
And that’s what he continues to do today, illustrating menswear under the nom de plume, “Sunflowerman.” For the past few years, he’s lived on the road, traveling everywhere from New York to London with his wife, a Benbrook native.
“I told my wife I would never move to Fort Worth,” Miller says. “I love New York. I love Chicago. I love LA. I love that big-city vibe — Fort Worth is Cowtown; why would I move there?”
Funny how life works. Miller, now 29, wanted his own studio. His wife wanted to go back to school. The cost of living in a big city like New York was expensive. Plus, Miller says, Fort Worth’s recent growth just seemed interesting. So, they moved to Fort Worth in February, finding an apartment at Ridglea Hills, which Miller turned into a personal studio.
In a short time, Miller has become a local. He’s finding his way around the local art scene — some of his work already appears around town in places like Common Desk, and soon, the Near Southside, as part of its upcoming mural project. He also loves the coffee — having visited nearly every shop in the city, sketching, tasting and critiquing the espresso.
But his favorite thing about Fort Worth, he says, is the people.
“What I love about Fort Worth right now is the entrepreneurial spirit from a lot of the young creative people,” Miller says. “They’re all collaborative and supportive of each other.”
As far as the next step goes, Miller says he’s not entirely sure. He still has dreams — ones that may keep him in Fort Worth or may not. But, he says, he’ll be happy either way, so long as he’s still making art.
“I want to be 85, in a studio. I don’t know if it’s going to be in the center of New York or Hong Kong, or if I’m going to be in the middle of nowhere in the woods; I don’t know that part yet — but I’m going to be in a studio just painting away,” Miller says. “I don’t ever want to retire. I want to keep creating.”