Here is the second Austin artist interview with Russ Moore. Bryan Henderson has some amazing questions for this up-and-coming artist. Way to go Bryan, you are on fire!
Interview conducted by: Bryan Henderson
I originally met Russ Moore through Rainbolt at the AIGA event that Mondo was holding at the Alamo Drafthouse. Russ was new here in Austin and was looking for a screen printer. I had directed him toward Tim Doyle of Nakatomi Inc. screen printing since Tim had done me a favor and printed out something for me in the past. Since then, I’ve had a chance to hang out with Russ, and I have determined that he’s one of the good guys in this industry. Below are some questions and answers we have been e-mailing each other back-and-forth for the nerd masses to enjoy.
Nerdlocker (NL): What creative process do you use to come up with your ideas? Does the idea just hit you all of a sudden, or is it more of something you have to think about over a set amount of time?
Russ Moore (RM): The creative process definitely varies. Sometimes the ideas do hit me out of the blue, other times I’ll meditate out on the deck in the backyard and an idea will come into focus. Sometimes I’ll get an idea to do a print one way, but the direction evolves. It may start out as one thing, but I keep adding/changing elements until it’s considerably different than what I first conceived.
NL: Now that you mention adding elements, for your latest piece, I thought the glow in the dark chakras were a really cool design move. Were those in there from the beginning? What inspired those?
RM: I’ve been reading a lot of different literature lately – Theosophy, planes of existence and the balancing of energy through chakras. So the chakras were going to be in the print somewhere from the start, I just hadn’t figured out where. I didn’t really want them to be prominent, and I wanted the figure to be pure white, as in pure energy. The eventual solution just fit perfectly.
NL: I was wondering about the crafting process itself. How do you get from the idea to the actual creation of the print (e.g. do you sketch it out first and go from there)?
RM: Well, let’s talk about how my first print, Boy’s Night Out, came to be. I came across a photo of the moon behind a tree, and I just got a flood of ideas. I started sketching thumbnails, trying to figure out composition. I finally came up with the idea of a giant moon rising behind the trees with a person sitting on a hill enjoying the silence. I drew the hill, the grass, the giant moon in black ink and photographed them (I didn’t have a scanner yet) and brought them into Photoshop for tweaking. I set up my camera and shot photos of myself for reference for the sitting figure. Then I went out and shot photos of trees then brought them into Photoshop to use as a base for drawing with my Wacom tablet. The dog came later and was a perfect addition after I came up with the title.
NL: So you do a mixture of drawing by hand and scanning. I just saw a large discussion on a forum about hand drawn vs. photoshopped art. What is your stance on artists who only manipulate photoshopped images and don’t use a tablet or draw at all?
RM: For me, it doesn’t matter who uses what medium to achieve a final product. It’s all about how it looks in the end, and if that image can elicit a reaction for someone, then that’s what matters. It could be a drawing, a photograph, a painting or a cardboard collage my 5-year-old did in art class. I don’t think there’s such a thing as “Photoshopped” or “computer-generated” art or whatever people want to call things. Someone had an artistic vision and realized it through the medium they thought captured it best. Art is art and if you enjoy it or it gives you satisfaction to put it on your wall, buy it.
NL: Tim Doyle – the main dude behind Nakatomi – has started printing your stuff. How has it been working with him? Has he been giving you much advice or direction? For instance, you have some insane metallic ink on your latest piece that shines differently based on the lighting. Was that all your idea?
RM: Tim is really cool. He’s helped figure out a lot with things I’m not familiar with about screen printing, such as trapping, registration, those sorts of things. Coming from designing magazines, I’m used to 4-color CMYK process, and creating files for screen printing is a complete 180. For the metallics on that print, I asked Tim if there was a way to make metallic ink transparent, because I really had no idea. He said they could probably thin it out and make it work, but he said he’d never tried that before. It came out great in the end, but I had no idea how it would look. That could have been an expensive experiment!
NL: I think I recall a while back that you said that your piece The Plunge was based upon how you and your wife were taking the plunge by moving to Austin. Are all your pieces based upon your life experiences?
RM: Most of my prints are based on life experiences. Or, I may see this incredible landscape then try to figure out how to add the human element into it.
NL: Do you have any upcoming pieces you are working on that you can show off to us? If not, do you have any hints?
RM: Just a hint: A print involving the greatest video game franchise of all time…
NL: That is some hint! Speaking of video games, do you have any favorites (besides the one you just mentioned)? Are you mainly a console gamer?
RM: I don’t always play games, but when I do, it’s on a console. Being a designer, I became a Mac user, which kind of made me a console gamer by default. I still have 25 years of all my old consoles too, from the Sega Master System through the DS 3D. I really don’t make the time to play games much anymore, unless I’m playing Mario Kart Wii with my kids. But I am eyeballing that Skyward Sword…
NL: Even though you don’t have much time for games, surely you have time for movies…right? What movie(s) would you say you have enjoyed the most – recently or in the past?
RM: I try to see some movies, but definitely don’t see as many as I’d like. Most of the time I get to the theater these days is taking the kids to see something. I just saw The Muppets at the Alamo Drafthouse, and that was pretty awesome. Brought back lots of wonderful childhood memories and it was great to be able to share that with my kids. As far as all-time favorites, it’s without a doubt The Empire Strikes Back and Pulp Fiction. I got my Tyler Stout Empire print, now all I need is a Stout Pulp Fiction and I can be complete!
NL: Last question regarding pop culture items – what is your favorite comic book character?
RM: Does Bill the Cat count? Probably not. Then Spider-Man, without a doubt. He’s just a regular smart kid who gets bullied and has problems just like everybody else. He wasn’t an alien or a mutant, just a dude that got bit by a spider who can do all this “Amazing” stuff now. I guess Peter Parker is just the most easy to relate to of just about any comic character and that was important to me growing up.
NL: What kind of background do you have where you are able to make art prints? Did you go to school to learn all you needed to know, or did you just look into it in your spare time as a side hobby?
RM: I studied art and graphic design in school. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and really got into it in high school. Also heavily influenced by photography, and art directed magazines for 10 years. When I got laid off from my job early in 2011, I decided that I wanted to create screen prints since I loved collecting them so much.
NL: So you just jumped right into it (part of the inspiration for The Plunge, perhaps?). But seriously, that’s like the dream job for anyone – doing what they enjoy. Now that your time is freed up to work on screen printing whenever you want, do you find it hard to focus on it at times? For example, do you get caught up in something around the house like video games instead of working on your next piece?
RM: It’s weird, but not having a boss can be tough at times. I’m still figuring it all out as I go. I have to make my own deadlines. But my wife also works from home in IT, so I certainly can’t just plop down and play video games if I want to keep a harmonious life!
NL: Have you ever been approached by a gallery or private commission to do any art pieces for them?
RM: Funny you should ask, I was approached by a gallery about a month ago for a show and I received my first request for a commission last week.
NL: Wow, that’s good news! How did each party become interested? Did you advertise yourself out there? Can you talk about any of the upcoming prints?
RM: No, I haven’t really put myself out there yet except through releasing prints. I’ve just been contacted through e-mail by people who follow my work. But if anyone out there wants a commission, drop me a line and we’ll work something out!
NL: What is your most cherished print of your collection?
RM: My absolute favorite print that I own is Dan McCarthy’s “The Day Everything Became Nothing.” It’s framed up right next to my side of the bed, and I have an external camera flash on the nightstand that I flash it with every night just to watch it glow and light up the room. The two skeletons holding hands are going to be my first tattoo as well. I already got Dan’s blessing for that one!
NL: I have noticed a similarity between McCarthy’s works and your own. Would you say that his work is a great source of inspiration for you? Do you have any other artists you enjoy as much as McCarthy?
RM: Dan McCarthy and Daniel Danger are pretty much the be-all-end-all for me. Those guys can just create incredible atmosphere like no other in their art. JC Richard is another artist that just has jaw-dropping talent. I don’t know what’s in the water in Massachusetts, but those guys are just killing it.
NL: Both those guys are top dogs on the screen printing field, and their work is very respectable. Have you noticed any underdogs that may be of interest to you or anyone else later on down the road?
RM: I wouldn’t call him an underdog, but one guy who is really hitting his stride this year is Denver-based Jay Shaw, aka ironjaiden. I did a print for him for his Sidney Lumet show earlier this year. He does some amazing work and he just learned screen printing last year. He’s recently been printing stuff for Kevin Ang, someone who has great talent and is pumping out quality work consistently. Another Austin Co. is Newflesh, who is doing some really good design and printing as well as putting on secret rooftop screenings for said prints around Austin (stay tuned for another Nerdlocker exclusive interview with Newflesh in coming weeks). It’s a great time to be living in this town, for sure. I couldn’t have found a better place to move at this particular time in my life.
NL: Do you receive much criticism? How do you handle it?
RM: No one likes to have their work criticized, but it’s part of the business and your skin has to be thick or it can get you down. I haven’t actually seen a ton of criticism. If it’s constructive, I’ll consider it and try to grow from it. If it’s just petty nonsense, it’s pretty easy to ignore.
NL: That’s pretty awesome that you haven’t received too much criticism. On the flip side, do you ever ask anyone for advice on your work?
RM: Yes, there’s a couple screen print artists that I get a lot of good advice from. I know a guy who is a classical painter who has been painting for 50 years that gives me tons of help. He calls himself “your self-appointed mentor.” He’s great. But above all, my wife always gives me the best advice. I mean, she knows me better than I know myself.
NL: Did you find it difficult to ask for advice at first from him and was it difficult to accept the constructive criticism from him?
RM: Well, yes, it was hard asking for advice at first because I had just met him. But after I got to know him as an artist, it’s not tough to take his criticism. I know he knows what he’s talking about because he’s been doing this since before I was born. So I definitely trust him with that.
NL: Thanks again for the interview. I really appreciate it. You can follow Russ Moore on Twitter, sign up for his newsletter, or you can check out his Facebook to learn more about Russ Moore’s screen printing.
Russ will have some APs of “The Plunge” and “Life on Earth is a Flash of Thought” available through a contest. Stay tuned after the New Year for more details.