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Journeyman: The Art of Chris Moore

 

Mix one master artist with a penchant for wry self-deprecation (Chris Moore) and a lauded British writer of suspense and horror (Stephen Gallagher). Add gorgeous reproductions of the artist's award-winning work on everything from book covers to utility posters to Star Wars wallpaper. Stir in over thirty years of funny stories about life in the British art, music and publishing scene. The result: Journeyman: the Art of Chris Moore, a profusely illustrated book that explores Moore's life, art, technique and context without pretension -- and delivers a first-class read. 

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, (c) Chris Moore (wraparound cover for the 1993 Harper Collins edition of the Philip K. Dick novel; acrylic).
(All Chris Moore images courtesy of the artist and Paper Tiger)

Gallagher organized the book, scheduled for release in September 2000, around a series of conversations with Moore. The following excerpt (courtesy of Paper Tiger) discusses how Moore entered the field of science fiction illustration and one of his more entertaining detours along the way. Determining which excerpt to feature proved exceptionally difficult for the Crescent Blues editorial staff, but ultimately, we decided readers could find out about the giant fridge party and Archie, the airborne dog, on their own.  

Stephen Gallagher: When did you feel that you hit your stride, then? Was it with the science-fiction covers? 

Chris Moore: No, not really. That was more of a progression than any kind of a breakthrough. I started doing them because Pete Bennett, who I'd already done several covers for, suddenly said, "Oh, I think you could do some science-fiction stuff." 

Stephen Gallagher: Where was he? 

Chris Moore: He was at Methuen. He just sort of set me on to it, and that was that. It was a bit of a struggle to start with. In fact, I wasn't aware of science fiction at all. I'd seen 2001, and that was about it. 

Stephen Gallagher: How long did the Covent Garden design group last altogether? 

Chris Moore: Until about 1980, so about eight years. When I got married I moved out of the centre of London. 

Stephen Gallagher: So where did you move? Did you move into the country? 

Chris Moore: Yes, near Blackheath. I had a big house in Lewisham, then we moved out to East Sussex, a place called Five Ashes, which is a very nice part of the world. 

Stephen Gallagher: So how did your life go in the Eighties, then? 

Chris Moore: Well, on the career front, moving out of London was quite a big step. A lot of the work that I'd been doing up to that point was stuff that I felt that I'd got as a result of being close to where it was all happening. 

Stephen Gallagher: Were you not established by that point, though? 

Chris Moore: In some areas, yes. I'd been doing quite a lot of record covers. I mean, we can touch on that… 

Stephen Gallagher: Yes, let's. 

Chris Moore: There was this girl group called The Chanter Sisters. They were the backing singers for Roxy Music. Nice girls. I did this illustration for them dressed as air hostesses in pink outfits, standing in front of a bright pink Boeing 747. Then Justin de Villeneuve got involved in it, and their profile immediately went from being "Well, OK, we'll release your record if you insist" to "Oh, yes, no expense spared." 

Stephen Gallagher: He was still a force at that point, was he? 

Chris Moore: Justin? Well, he'd been through all the Twiggy stuff and been involved with various other artistes, but I suspect that he went quite sadly awry with this lot. He personally took out every newspaper music journalist for lunch, to try and promote this record, and they had this huge reception at the Café Royal. We did a corporate design for the whole thing. 

Stephen Gallagher: All based around your original pink-air-hostess painting? 

Chris Moore: There were the uniforms to be made, banners, stickers -- we got all this work to do, it was great. The picture was based on some reference photographs that I'd taken in the reception suite at Polydor Records while they were miming to "Dancing in the Street."  

Anyway, Doreen, the blonde-haired one, she came out of it with bags under her eyes, and she was quite upset at this. So she was hot-foot round to my studio with the artwork and sat there while I took them out! And my mum was there. It was a very weird situation, because it wasn't a very big room, and my mum was sitting in the corner on this chair, knitting, while there was this glamorous pop star looking over my shoulder while I retouched the bags out from under her eyes. 

Stephen Gallagher: Had you put the bags there in the first place? 

Chris Moore: Yes, well, she had bags under her eyes! 

Stephen Gallagher: How chivalrous! 

Chris Moore: Well, they weren't huge, they were just little lines… 

Stephen Gallagher: Were album covers a big thing for you at that time? 

Chris Moore: I did quite a few. I did the one for Rick Wakeman and then a Rod Stewart one and . . . 

Stephen Gallagher: Which were they? 

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Blindfold, (c) Chris Moore (wraparound paperback cover for the 1998 Kevin J. Anderson novel; acrylic). In Journeyman, Moore notes: "The crescent moon, or some form of it, is a recurrent image in a large number of my science-fiction paintings. It turns up so often that I've started to think that it's become an unintentional signature."

Chris Moore: The Rick Wakeman was called No Earthly Connection, which involved designing a plane anamorph image. It's a very old process and I'm not exactly sure when it dates from.  

You know that Holbein painting [The Ambassadors] where there's a skull that you can only see properly from a certain angle? Well, it's a development of that. It had a practical use, as a form of identification. A person would carry a picture that was distorted, and if you held a polished pewter mug in the centre of it, the reflection in the pewter mug actually re-distorted the image so that it looked like the person.  

What Rick wanted was a picture of him floating in the clouds, playing his keyboard, but distorted. When you bought the record, you got this sheet of mirror paper, which you'd roll up and stand in the middle of the picture in order to see the image. There were all sorts of things that happened with it -- there were posters on Hollywood Boulevard saying, "See this sleeve come alive." It really was big-time. I think I got paid £1,500 for doing the cover, which was a pittance. They even had a competition in Amateur Photographer magazine. 

Stephen Gallagher: To do what? 

Chris Moore: They offered three rolls of film to anybody who could write in with an explanation as to how this photograph was taken. It wasn't a photograph, because I'd painted it. It's actually got to be worked up to quite a careful mathematical formula: there isn't a way of photographing it. Or there wasn't at the time. There probably is now. 

So I did that one, and we did quite a lot for Phonogram and for Polydor. 

Stephen Gallagher: Rod Stewart, you said you did. 

Chris Moore: We did a compilation for him. We did various Status Quo albums, one for a band with Transatlantic Records called Pentangle. 

Stephen Gallagher: I remember them. Folky bunch with Bert Jansch on guitar and a female vocalist. 

Chris Moore: I'd been sitting there trying to think of an idea, because the deadline was looming. I came up with a few things, but I wasn't happy with any of them. I got a cab over there with my pile of roughs, and as the cab drew up outside the office it suddenly hit me what I had to do. So I said to the cab driver, "Just drive round the block, will you?" And I got my pen out and did this new rough in the back of the car.  

Then I ran in, and I didn't show them any of the others. I said, "We should do this," and they said, "Great." And what it was, was a pentangle-shaped record. You know how you'd get a vinyl LP inside a plastic sleeve? Well, I did a trompe l'oeil plastic sleeve with what looked like a real record inside it, but it was five-sided, pentangle-shaped. 

Stephen Gallagher: But the disc itself was never pentangle-shaped. 

Chris Moore: No, it was just a regular disc. 

Stephen Gallagher: You don't do the political thing, then, of showing five ideas, four of which you know they won't like? Which is always tricky because there's always the danger that they'll like one that you hate. Or do you have to play that game sometimes? 

Chris Moore: Well, it's all changed. You do have to, now. Although over the years I suppose you develop some kind of feel for what's going to work and what isn't, and I'd much rather go with that than present a load of stuff that I know is just going to give me problems at the end of the day. 

Stephen Gallagher: Have you ever had to walk away from a job that you knew wasn't going to work out, because what they wanted from you was something you weren't either prepared or able to give? Or have you always been able to accommodate? 

Chris Moore: I've always been able to accommodate, but I have tried to walk away from jobs. There was one -- a record cover for a band called Magnum, and -- haven't I told you this story? 

Stephen Gallagher: I don't think so. 

Chris Moore: Magnum was a band based in Birmingham. I think they were mates of Electric Light Orchestra, out of that stable. They called me in to talk about their new record and I sat there listening to it in Polydor's new reception suite in this mews in Mayfair. It was a dead swanky posh boardroom, with this black iron kitchen range down one side.  

The art director was German and he told me that this used to be Clive of Arabia's kitchen. I asked him if he meant Lawrence of India, but he didn't get it. Anyway, they played me this record, and after they'd played me a track and a half I said, "OK, I've heard enough. I've got the idea." I thought it was awful.  

The main man of the band was a bloke called Tony Clarkin. He was about five-foot nothing, bald, with a big beard, open shirt, medallion, and this big hat like a sombrero. And he said he'd had this dream, and it was like this evil entity in the form of a psychedelic eagle coming through a window into a big pink marble room, and there was this unicorn shying away from it in terror. The unicorn was supposed to symbolize peace. I said, "Yes…" And he said, "That's the idea. That's it." 

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The Days of Perky Pat, (c) Chris Moore (wraparound cover for Volume 4 of the collected short stories of Philip K. Dick, issued by Harper Collins in 1993; acrylic).

Stephen Gallagher: Sounds like a moment from This is Spinal Tap. 

Chris Moore: I think he'd seen Legend, the Ridley Scott film, the week before. I sat and thought about it for a minute and said, "Well, OK, I don't mind this pink marble room. We could do something with that. But how about if you're looking out of this window, and across the water there's a mountain range and a blue sky. You've got a spiral galaxy in the sky, and then in the lake at the foot of these mountains there's a whirlpool. Then, as you come into the room, there's a whirlpool-shaped mosaic in the floor. And then in the corner, there's one of these old-style record players with a record on it, so it's like four stages of style from this little record to the spiral galaxy." 

Stephen Gallagher: What did he say to that? 

Chris Moore: He said, "What about the evil entity?" 

Stephen Gallagher: So did you still end up doing this? 

Chris Moore: I did, yes. Eventually they just rang me up and said do what you like. But they still insisted on having this threatening entity. So I put a big rock in the middle -- this rock that looked like it was just about to fall into the shape of a hooded monk or something. They never came back to me for their second album -- I think that went to Rodney Matthews. Nowadays I'm more positive about turning things down. I turn things down which I think are going to be a problem. 

Stephen Gallagher: How do you know when something's going to be a problem? 

Chris Moore: You just get a feeling for it. 

Stephen Gallagher: Are there certain people you tend to deal with over and over? If there's someone who you haven't dealt with before, do you tend to approach them with a little more caution? 

Chris Moore: Well, I don't often work for people directly any more. I usually go through whichever agent I'm using. Although for a long time I didn't have an agent at all. So I was quite used to dealing with clients. 

Stephen Gallagher: Were you a businesslike person back then? 

Chris Moore: Not really, no. 

Stephen Gallagher: So did you find, when you moved from dealing for yourself to dealing through an agent, that things improved business-wise? 

Chris Moore: No. It's always been the same. I've always lived slightly beyond my means! I don't end up being hugely in debt, but I've always got an overdraft. 

Stephen Gallagher: So how do you organize your finances professionally? 

Chris Moore: Well, I usually have to wait two to three months for any payment anyway, so I kind of work on the principle that, as I'm doing the work, I'm earning Brownie points which will eventually materialize as money. But, other than that, I don't really worry about it. 

Stephen Gallagher: You don't feel a direct connection between work and money, then? 

Chris Moore: Well, no, because you don't actually see the money. A cheque comes in every so often. 

Stephen Gallagher: And by then it's unrelated to what you did to earn it. 

Chris Moore: Yes, and if people had any kind of foresight at all within this business they would realize that, if somebody knew they were going to get paid quickly, or even instantly, then they'd be much more willing to actually put themselves out and produce a damn' good job. 

© Paper Tiger. 

Click here learn more about Chris Moore. 

Click here to learn more about Stephen Gallagher.