Watches have stories to tell. Stories that can be painted as well. We’re certainly not off the hook here! Fashion illustrator Matthew Miller, aka Sunflowerman, realized this when he saw people sharing their watches and talking about them on Instagram. To be more intimate with watches and to understand them better he decided to paint them! Hence, the “100 Watches Project”, where he painted a hundred watches in a hundred days. He asked people on instagram to submit their favourite watches along with a story about it, and the result was a phenomenal entry into the world of horology.
Your “100 Watches book” is a curated selection of watch paintings and their stories. What led to the creation of the book?
The book was a direct result of the 100 Watches Project. It was exhausting, and has been one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences I have ever had!
What appealed to you most about the stories that people told you about their timepieces?
People who love watches, LOVE their watches! The enthusiasm and passion is intoxicating. The fervour is contagious. What I really loved is the relational aspect around watches. There were stories of fathers and grandfathers passing their watches down. There were husbands and wives buying watches as wedding gifts. So much of the watch community is about sharing and about family!
What are the particular challenges in depicting high-end watches as pieces of art on paper?
The symmetry is difficult. I don’t trace, or project or print. I simply observe and record. So much of what makes a watch recognizable are the minute and specific details in its construction. Sometimes it is a subtle detail that can describe the entire piece.
Do you always use ink and watercolours?
Ink and watercolours are convenient when you travel as much as I do. I love acrylics as well, but watercolour was my first love. We have had our hard times but we have come to an understanding. We work well together!
Why do you choose to illustrate on printed-paper?
The pages give context to the paintings. Mostly, I paint on Sherlock Holmes pages. Sherlock is the quintessential man, which works well for my menswear focused illustrations. Sometimes I will paint on dictionary pages, poems, world history and Shakespeare. Whatever can help tell the story is what I like to use.
Can we dare to ask which is your favourite watch – to draw and to wear?
Ha ha! They are very different – the watch I would choose to paint verses the watch I would choose to wear! Most watches have very basic similarities. One company that really takes away the standard of construction to create beautiful works of art is MB&F. Their watches are a new challenge every time, and each is a beautiful creation.
What I love to wear is a small watch I picked up at a street market in Portugal. It has a wooden bezel and a wooden veneer dial. It’s a throw away watch that is full of personality. It was the first watch I ever purchased and I love it!
In today’s digital age where the click of a camera is always accessible to anyone anywhere, illustration is indeed a luxury. What are your thoughts on the expressions and emotions that come out via illustrations, as compared to photographs?
Photographs have their place, and are becoming ubiquitous everyday. They are especially important when it comes to commercial viability. People want to see something they perceive to be reality. Illustrations have made a resurgence in fashion because they do more than express a supposed reality. Illustrations transport the viewer into another world. They create a world where that object is not only beautiful, but also mysterious. To be understood the brain must make assumptions about the illustration, it must make connections between what it is seeing and what it believes to be true.