When Britain’s premier publisher of classic science fiction needs artwork to equal the prose of a Philip K Dick or an Alfred Bester, there’s only one place to go. Chris Moore is recognized as a master of hi-tech, hi-sheen science fiction illustration. At a 2004 book launch in London by Orion Publishing, 7 out of the 9 paperbacks and 2 out of the 3 hardback releases carried Chris Moore covers.
Although his book jacket work alone would more than equal the output of half a dozen lesser artists, he’s also worked in advertising, designed record sleeves, and provided concept art for the likes of Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas. His tie-in wallpaper designs for The Empire Strikes Back graced many a Star Wars fan’s bedroom. His work has even been launched into space, when he was commissioned by the Isle of Man Postal Service to incorporate his jacket art from Arthur C Clarke’s 2001 into a special First Day Cover, an example of which was signed in orbit by the crew of the NASA shuttle.
Chris Moore was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire in 1947. He says that he’d always wanted to be a commercial artist, even before he knew what that actually meant. He was educated at Mexborough Grammar School, after which he went to Doncaster Art School.
Between 1966 and 1969 he attended Maidstone College of Art on a Graphic Design course, and was then accepted by the Royal College of Art to study Illustration between 1969 and 1972. Here Chris gained practical experience with illustration commissions for his fellow students in the Graphic Design department.
In 1972 he joined with Michael Morris, also an RCA graduate, to form Moore Morris Ltd. They based themselves in Covent Garden throughout the early seventies, and from day one worked on book, magazine, and record covers. The Covent Garden design group lasted until 1980, when Moore married and moved out of the centre of London.
Though already an established illustrator, moving out of London and away from his major markets was a bold step. These had been heady days; recording artists for whom he’d provided album covers included Rod Stewart (“The Vintage Years”), the group Magnum, Journey, Fleetwood Mac (“Penguin”), Capricorn Compilations Inc. (The Allman Brothers Band), Lindisfarne (“Magic in The Air” and “The News”), Status Quo (“Just Supposin!” and “12 Gold Bars”), and Pentangle (“Pentangling”). Further work followed for Phonogram, Polydor, and Transatlantic Records. He came up with design concepts for The Chanter Sisters, managed by Justin de Villeneuve of “Twiggy” fame, and for YES’s Rick Wakeman (“No Earthly Connection”).
So far, Moore had been working closely with art director Peter Bennett at Associated Book Publishers, providing jacket art for almost every type of publication BUT science fiction. “In fact,” says Moore, “I was barely aware of science fiction. I’d seen 2001, and that was about all.” It was Bennett who suggested that Moore should try his hand at SF covers, and in 1974 he began his long association with the 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 and Samuel R. Delany, Moore was also the artist of choice for more mainstream writers like Jeffery Archer, Frederick Forsyth, Jackie Collins, Claire Francis, Stephen Leather, Wilbur Smith, Terence Strong, and Colin Forbes.
He’s worked for such US publishers as Harper Collins, Daw, Random House, Tor Books, Bantam Books, Penguin Books, Dell, Warner Books, Avon, Berkeley, Ballantine, William Morrow, and Pocket Books. His work has featured on Omni Magazine, Analog, Science Fiction Age, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction. UK publishers include Transworld, Orion, Pan, Penguin, Harper Collins, Sphere, Hodders, Associated Book Publishers (Magnum), Headline, Random House, Time Warner, Octopus, Hamlyn, and many others.
In the early 80s Moore joined Artist Partners, considered by many to be the best and most established Agency in the UK. Dom Rodi, the Managing Director at AP, had previously been the Art Director at Sphere Books. Moore and he had already worked on many projects together. Rodi and Moore formed a good team, working on cover concepts together and offering a complete service to the publishing industry. Together they would brainstorm on ideas until they arrived at something they thought would work for a particular book. (Dom Rodi today is retired and living in Florida).
Moore’s first trip to America around 1984 generated commissions from Dell and Vintage/Random House. By 1987 Moore had established a reputation with Judy Loser at Vintage/Random House and produced covers for more serious ‘literary’ fiction than the usual mass market paperbacks. This offered Moore the opportunity to come up with concepts which had a more ‘editorial’ feel to them yet still retain their attractiveness as covers. Titles included “Steps” by Jerzy Kosinsky, “The Ultimate Good Luck,” by Richard Ford, “Angels” by Denis Johnson, “The All-Girl Football Team” by Lewis Norden, and “Ellen Foster” by Kaye Gibbons.
In the late eighties, Chris Moore acquired an agent in the USA: Bernstein and Andriulli Inc. Through this agency, Moore received a huge variety of work, including major advertising campaigns as well as the more familiar book cover and record sleeve deals.
Moore’s first encounter with the film industry was 1989, when his agent set up a meeting with Stanley Kubrick to discuss a project based on Brian Aldiss’s “Supertoys Last all Summer Long.” Moore did a few sketches for production paintings, but he couldn’t get Kubrick to agree on a price for the job. Furthermore, Kubrick didn’t want to work through Moore’s agent – an uncomfortable situation, given that his agent had created the opportunity in the first place. Moore declined the job on principle. The project was eventually realised after Kubrick’s death as AI, directed by Steven Spielberg.
In 1995, encouraged by his good friend Jim Burns, he attended a World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow (Glasgow Worldcon) where he showed some original artwork for the first time. When Jane and Howard Frank from Worlds of Wonder in Washington, USA, purchased two of Moore’s paintings, he realized that there was a market for his original artwork.
At the same convention, Moore met and became firm friends with fellow-artist Fred Gambino. Gambino was instrumental in persuading a reluctant Moore to incorporate computer technology into his work. So reluctant was he that it took him five years to purchase his first computer! One of Moore’s most outstanding digital paintings was for the cover of “The War of the Worlds” in “Graphic Classics: H.G. Wells.” This was a 1998 Orion publication that combined The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine in one volume. Moore says he “very much wanted the atmosphere to be both British and Wellsian. I thought it would be nice to have Big Ben standing as a timepiece along with the Martian tripod, giving a presence to both themes in the same image.”
Chris Moore’s art has been featured in the magazine Rosebud 23, a magazine of fiction, poetry and art, and Fantasy Art Masters (1999, Watson-Guptill). He participated as a writer in Fred Gambino’s book, Ground Zero, contributing a chapter along with such other artists and authors as Jim Burns, Robert J. Sawyer, David Brin and Elisabeth Moon.
“Journeyman: the Art of Chris Moore“, by Stephen Gallagher, is a profusely illustrated book that explores Moore’s life, art, and technique. The book was published in 2000 by Paper Tiger. Nine years earlier, in 1981, Dragon Dreams published “Parallel Lines“, a book that featured the art of Chris Moore and Peter Elson (who passed away in 1999). This was followed by Martyn Dean’s “Dream Makers”, in 1988. The book was published by Paper Tiger and featured artwork by Melvyn Grant, Julek Heller, Michael Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, Charles Vess and Chris Moore.
Despite such a 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!
Moore 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 and succeed in this business. I’d like to think that I’ve not only earned their respect, but also their friendship.”