Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Interview with Chris Moore

Chris Moore is a British illustrator, noted for the classic science fiction book covers he has created for many of the world's most famous science fiction authors, including Philip K Dick and Alfred Bester. Born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Chris was educated at Mexborough Grammar School, after which he attended Doncaster Art School. Thereafter, he enrolled on a Graphic Design course at Maidstone College of Art, and was subsequently accepted by the Royal College of Art to study illustration.

His professional career began in the early 70s, working on book, magazine and record covers. The mid 70s marked the start of his long association with the science fiction genre. But it wasn’t an exclusive association. As well as work on titles by Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Frederick Pohl, Anne McCaffrey, Clifford D Simak, Kurt Vonnegut, J G Ballard, Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, and Samuel R Delaney, Moore was also the Artist of Choice for more mainstream writers like Arthur Hailey, Frederick Forsyth, Jackie Collins, Claire Francis, Stephen Leather, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith, Craig Thomas, and Colin Forbes. Chris has also provided art for directors such as Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas, producing the very popular wallpaper design for The Empire Strikes Back. He was commissioned by the Isle of Man Postal Service to incorporate his cover for Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 into a special First Day Cover, an example of which was signed in orbit by the crew of NASA's space shuttle.

Despite a wide range of achievements, Moore has never sought to promote himself. Aside from a readers’ award for Best Cover Art from Asimov’s Magazine, his only public acknowledgement, to date, has come in the form of a Pink Pig Award in 1982, given by women in publishing for ‘Higher Tech’ a painting of a sensuous female robot! Chris says, "All I’ve ever wanted over the years has been to gain the respect of my peers. They know what it takes to survive in this business. I’d like to think that I’ve not only gained their respect, but also their friendship."

The Stars My Destination

  1. Why did you choose to produce science fiction art, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
I had a vague interest in SF as a child, being brought up in the 50's and 60's with some of the films and comics around at the time - Superman, Batman etc. and the development of space travel with the Apollo programme. They landed on the moon when I was still at college.

In or around 1972, as part of a small design group, I met and started to work with Peter Bennett who was art director at Magnum paperbacks doing mainstream titles. He decided to try me out on a couple of PK Dick covers and an Alfred Bester. They were pretty crummy, but he persisted and gradually they got better with the Clifford D Simak's etc. I guess I was at that time full of optimism about the future and wanted to portray my vision of what the future could mean.

Download Blues

  1. Is there an underlying theme or message in your work?
Not really, the object of the exercise has always been to sell books because that is my job, and as a side issue to indulge myself in my visions of the future. Largely, art directors and the book buying public at that time were content to see something on the cover that looked like SF, not necessarily relevant to the actual story and we were sometimes producing the images so quickly that there wasn't time to read the manuscript, sometimes I had up to 20 jobs on at any one time.

  1. Prior to 1974, you had not produced any artwork related to science fiction. When you did move to the genre, did this delay prove helpful, and if so, how?
I have developed a technique of producing fairly realistic images, thanks to the use of my airbrush (a Conopois - no longer manufactured). I was able to apply that to pretty much any subject that I was given. SF was around 30% of the work I did at that time and, thanks mainly to Pete Bennett, I was able to channel it in the direction of SF. So I guess it was helpful. When I was at The Royal College of Art studying illustration, I was loosely in the employ of the graphic design department doing finished pieces of illustration to be used in the degree shows of some of the graphics students in my year. It was a good grounding for working at a fast pace in the actual real world.

I, Robot

  1. Of the artwork you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular work?
I quite like some of the PK Dick covers I have done, but generally I like very few of them a lot. You do a picture and then move on to the next job. The test of an image for me, is how long these things are around; there are some things that I did in the late 70's that are still being used and they still seem fresh. I once said to my mother that the process of creating these images was more of a journey of discovery than creation and that you had almost 'found' the image, like it was a combination of some text you'd been given and a series of happy accidents that you had gone through to arrive at this window on the future. Bit strange really.

  1. How is creating science fiction or fantasy art different from creating other genres?
It is different in that you can be self-indulgent and express yourself to a certain extent, but you still have to do something that's right for the cover just as you had to for other commissions.

Sandworms Of Dune

  1. What do you find most rewarding in the creative process?
Certainly not the money; I still get a buzz from people's reaction to something when they look at a painting and say, "How the hell did you do that?" This happens a lot less now, because everyone is exposed to the polish of digital imagery so they aren't impressed any more by the workmanship, which is a bit sad really. It's one of the side effects of computerisation, that and the flexibility that the art director now expects from the service you provide. I still like to get it right and it's nice to go onto the Amazon website and see all your covers displayed.

  1. What do you find most challenging in the creative process, and how did you overcome it?
You start with a pencil and a piece of paper and design the cover as a thumbnail sketch. Then work this up to the final image with whatever medium that you decide to use. 3D is more flexible, and it's easier to change things with this medium. Art directors are used to this flexibility now. I still produce a drawing on paper to work out my design so an ability to draw is pretty essential. It's a shame art schools don't cater for this very much now, preferring to concentrate on mastering digital software technology, drawing boards have almost disappeared.

The Exiles Trilogy

  1. Have you opened your gallery in East Lancashire? Tell us about what we should expect to find on display there.
I will be opening it in October, when my kids have gone back to school and university, so I can give it more attention. The kind of work will be a mixture of SF, techno, and local landscapes with some acrylics, (mostly realistic) some oil paintings and watercolours, a mixture of original and giclée prints, framed and unframed, hopefully something for everyone. A lot of my originals head off to America but I still have quite a few in my personal collection.

  1. Evolution is an inherent facet of science fiction art. What new developments are you aware of, with regards to the application of technology, in this genre
There are so many tools at one's elbow nowadays that anything is possible and there are a lot of new up and coming and established artists working in the digital idiom. I have dabbled, but I can't hope to compete with guys who have been brought up using computers all their working lives. I admit to being a struggling Luddite, surviving more by luck than judgement in today's technology-driven market. Sometimes I think I should go back to college!

War Of The Worlds

  1. Tell us about your work for Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding your art being applied to film or television?
I didn't do very much for Stanley Kubrick, the film was 'AI', which was shelved very soon after I got involved. Steven Spielberg subsequently took it up, with Chris Baker as concept artist, and he did a great job. I did some poster work for a re-release of THX 1138 and a wallpaper design for ICI for 'The Empire Strikes Back', which sold out of sight! Regarding working in film and TV, well, I've skirted around it a little but the truth is I've been pretty busy bashing out book covers so I'm not sure if I would be able to function in that medium. I was asked a couple of years ago by my chum Fred Gambino if I'd like to go with him to Vancouver to work on a film as concept and production artist but they chose John Harris instead, which was a good choice for them; but I don't think that John found it very rewarding from what I hear.

  1. What advice would you give to artists considering a career in art?
My advice would be to spend your time at art school doing lots of drawing. Learn about anatomy of people and animals, study other people’s work in detail, read about how they work, look at how your work may well be used, as well as keeping up with all the new developments in computer software. Most people are now employed in the games industry, as well as special effects in film and TV; so really, you need to decide what speciality you want to go for fairly early on because there's a lot to learn. But drawing will be something that you can always fall back on, and will generally sort the men from the boys. Check out Ridley Scott's sketches for 'Blade Runner' as well as Syd Mead’s...'nuff said!

  1. Tell us a little about any good science fiction or fantasy art you’ve seen recently.
I haven't seen much really, other than in the film genre, which is amazing. My favourites are guys like Jim Burns, Fred Gambino, Les Edwards and John Harris in the UK, and Donato Giancola, Jon Foster, Phil Hale, Mike Whelan, Stephan Martiniere, Steve Hickman etc. in America; but really, there are so many talented people out there that the mind boggles.

  1. What are you doing now?
Still doing SF covers, everything else has been replaced by photos and Photoshop, with some 3D thrown in.  I guess I'm now branching out to do other types of work, landscapes and private commissions. I'm still quite busy really.

  1. Describe your art in one sentence.
Functional. I'm still a jobbing illustrator, working from one job to the next with a bit of time now to do things of a more personal nature.

  1. Where can we find you and your art?
I live in Rural Lancashire in a barn conversion, with my wife, Katie, 2 children and 2 dogs. My art can be found in my gallery, and gracing the covers of the Orion SF Masterworks series, the latest David Weber covers, and Hannu Rajaniemi covers. My website is: