The following is an excerpt from a series of interviews I conducted with people who gave everything they had to their creative passions. In spite of attaining various levels of success, they aren’t household names, don’t regularly walk red carpets, nor do they consider themselves rich and famous. Yet they continue to pursue excellence with everything they have. And most importantly…they’re happy with who they are and content with exactly where they are in life. I published all of these interviews in a book called “How To Succeed In Show Business (Without Making It Big).”
Stewart K. Moore is a visual artist and actor. Raised in Scotland. He divides his time between acting and illustrating the zombie epic “Defoe,” written by Pat Mills, for the legendary British science-fiction comic anthology “2000AD.” Stewart is the creator of the graphic novels “The Tragedie of Macbeth by William Shakespeare” and “MK-Ultra: Sex, Drugs & the CIA,” the comic satire, “The Bozo Explosion,” the surrealist newspaper cartoon “Morris Mule, Taxidermist ” and has contributed illustrations and cartoons to “Esquire” and “The Wall Street Journal.” Many of them done on a computer….where it not in the least bit damp or infested or negative.
A Conversation With Stewart K. Moore
How did your creative life start?
I was exposed to great art in books, we had one on Leonardo. My dad had Rockwell prints. He took me to the Kelvingrove in Glasgow to see the Dali. I had comics, but the reading bored me, I just studied the pictures.
Something happened one day when I had a comic that interested me. I asked my dad about a drawing and he began to draw. He could draw very well, no training. This was a revelation, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He drew ships coming at us on the high seas. So I was amazed and excited by this and then as I watched him draw a porthole on a ship I experienced deja vu for the first time. This was astonishing and I blurted out what I thought had just happened. I sort of saw him draw it twice. He explained what deja vu was.
I think this had a profound associative effect on me, something about reality, the mind, drawing. But none of it inspired me to draw any more than any other kid. In fact, the art I had seen seemed impossibly remote, too great to know how to even begin to get there.
Then, maybe five years later, when I was 13 or so my dad was concerned about my future, what I would study. I was not a good student, he suggested a trade. The thought depressed me, that I’d be a ‘joiner’ or electrician. Then he pointed and asked ‘what about that?’ I was reading 2000AD. What about commercial art? It was a long road, but I am now an artist for 2000AD, the greatest anthology comic in the world.
Do you have a day job or are you making a living doing what you love?
No day job, it was always a struggle but I got used to not having what other people have.
It’s a struggle but I never complained. I think from the outside people associate artist, good artist, always working, etc. with success. But I have faced down the odds time and again and it was never easy. I never took the easy path.
Where do you believe creativity comes from?
In my case everywhere. I have an unbridled imagination. I get asked ‘where do you get your ideas from’….hell knows.
One time I asked a similar question of my friend and fellow 2000AD artist Jim Baikie. He said to keep a notebook by your bed, at your side, just jot them down as they come.
It’s like fishing. When it strikes have a notebook. I did that and then noticed I stopped needing it. I’ve never been stuck for an idea since. I like elegant ideas, so I dismiss many. I look for the most elegant one. The simplest solution.
Can you talk about some of the mistakes you made?
Artists have to operate on many levels, so the mistakes are not just creative ones. I made tons of mistakes, little ones, nothing too big, maybe most of them were not mistakes, but time seems wasted…wasted time, that’s a mistake, but then how do you know where you are going if you don’t find out where you don’t want to go?
I should have socialized less, for example. I think of all the time that now seems wasted that could have been creative. I need to keep that in mind going forward, that every action can be creative. I believe I held too many inquiries into what I was doing wrong, I was too hard on the output.
I had my eye on the unattainable too often, perfection, when some of the best things I’ve made were not planned and had no end target or quality control…whatever that is. I also kept learning methods and then moving on to new methods. I should have stayed with one method for longer.
But my biggest mistake was not being born into money, can you imagine how having money would have changed things? What was my wee fetus thinking?
Have you found the meaning of life yet?
Such an existential question! I don’t know that there is a meaning of life, though you can find meaning in life. There are many ways to practically achieve meaning of some kind.
Back to portholes and deja vu. I think consciousness is not bound by time in the way the body is and I think it extends into what we think of as the future. I also think a lot about the radio bubble that is expanding into space, carrying all our broadcasts. I think of that because it is such a strange and stinky legacy to leave forever.
I can imagine beings in the cosmos, gods or the ‘machine elves’ laughing like they are high as kites at the exegesis, the daily broadcast choices of television oriented apes. And then this echoing insanity starts to vibrate around the halls of Olympus…Alf, the TV show Alf. Re-runs of Hart to Hart…. you know that way, sometimes, when a thing becomes so funny, that you can’t speak, your face looks like it will explode. It dawns on you all at once. You laugh because you know how stupid it is but you can’t determine what makes this one thing so especially and uniquely stupid?
Something like that might be the meaning of life.
Have you ever considered giving up?
Many projects will become so impossible financially or otherwise, in that they face such stiff opposition and negativity that I feel I give up. But it’s like a safety release, I find I start something very different. So I don’t give up, I dodge and weave.
What are your thoughts on the idea of “making it”?
As long as you’re making something, I guess you can tell yourself you are really making it. But to more directly answer your question…I suppose that would be security of some kind. A great deal of financial security might help keep the wolves from the door. But to what extent are you creating based on anxieties? If they were batted away perhaps you would lose the drive to create anything.
Are you happy?
I couldn’t be happier than working on this series for 2000AD. Working for 2000AD for me might be comparable in sports terms to playing for the team that first inspired you to play. In my case, the team I cheered on as a lad. It is a unique publication and its influence is everywhere in comics.
What is your biggest goal in life?
If I dialed back to the start of this journey that goal would be met today with some of the film work I’ve done maybe, but especially the work for 2000AD. Beyond me, with my family, the goal is peace of mind. If I hit the jackpot financially someday, not likely, but if I did I know I’d get restless fast, you have a responsibility to help, so my goal would change, I’d want to help others. It’d be good to know you helped someone with an education or the like.
There’s probably equal quantities of pain and greed in this world. We can eliminate much of that now, we should.