When Scott Moore was just six years old, he drew a policeman on a horse arresting a six foot tall intoxicated duck. A sign of things to come? 🙂
Well, Scott didn’t grow up to be a policeman, and as far as I know, doesn’t regularly cavort with quazy quackers, but he is a master of surrealism, or of what he calls, “out-of-scale realism.”
A 40-year resident of Laguna Beach, California, Scott painted traditional watercolors before making an international name for himself in recent decades with his photorealistic, fantastical pieces.
He typically uses two scales in the same painting, placing tiny figures in retro scenes to tell stories inspired by childhood memories, dreams, and his boundless imagination.
He creates these works in a 1,000-foot studio which he built by excavating a second floor beneath his home. He likes having his studio, which resembles an antique store, on a different level. What a cool collection of 50’s and 60’s tin toys, old books, kitchen and household memorabilia! What fun it must be to “shop your own shelves” for a clock radio, milk bottle, cookie jar, or coffee can to add to your pictures.
What Scott doesn’t already own, he finds on the internet. His only cardinal rule for painting is “to be true to the light source.” Otherwise, anything goes, as it can, and often does, in dreams: objects float or change drastically in size as they become part of the studied drama.
Artistic talent runs in the Moore family. Scott’s dad was a watercolorist and graphic designer. He encouraged Scott to pursue graphic design in college because it was too hard to make a living as a fine artist.
Scott followed his advice, studying art and graphic design at Cerritos Junior College and at Cal State Long Beach. His formal education was put on hold for a couple of years when he lost his military deferment and was drafted into the U.S. Army.
After talking to some Vietnam vets, he decided to join the Marines, where his artistic talents were recognized. He was given an MOS (Marine Occupational Speciality), and so, at age 20, was assigned to Camp Smith on Oahu as an Official Artist/Illustrator for the U.S. Marine Corps.
His job was to design and build various props to decorate the Hilton Hotel in Waikiki for the Officers’ Marine Corps Ball. He was also in charge of anything art-related that came down from headquarters (publicity folders, illustrations and graphics for servicemen’s books).
After his stint in the Marines, he moved back to California, resumed art classes, got married, and worked in graphic design while painting watercolors during off hours.
He soon decided to set up his own graphic design business to pay the bills until he could begin selling his art. A 1978 summer workshop at the John Pike Watercolor School in Woodstock, NY, proved to be the most inspirational week in Scott’s life. John encouraged Scott to give up his graphic design work to pursue painting full time.
From then on, things gradually fell into place: Scott entered his work in various exhibitions, showed it at local festivals, and began teaching his own workshops. He’d paint all year, then sell his pieces at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts (FOA) during the summer.
During this time he received many awards for his transparent watercolors (American Watercolor Society, National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West), which depicted genre scenes from everyday life.
In the Fall of 1983, Scott completed his first surreal watercolor — an auction item for the Laguna Beach Art Museum. Fifty regional artists were sent a cardboard box and asked to use it in a work of art. This was Scott’s chance to apply some of the whimsical imagery that had been floating around in his head for years. After “Box Seat,” Scott created a few more whimsical auction items before deciding to include a surreal painting alongside his traditional watercolors in his annual FOA exhibit.
“Evaporated Milk” sold on the spot, so Scott began alternating between the real and surreal for a few more years. He also began experimenting with oil, and continued to offer these paintings with his watercolors. He moved away from traditional imagery in the early 90’s.
All along, Scott had been getting more and more requests for commissioned paintings. For these, he interviewed his clients, gathering details about their lives, families, or hobbies. He then free associated with the words he’d jotted down until the words became images. Though he was telling their stories, they were being filtered through his personal perspective.
Scott admires the work of John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper and Joaquin Sorolla, but he doesn’t look to them for inspiration when it comes to his own work. He chooses instead to tell his visual stories from images he’s actually seen throughout his own life. He often uses family members or friends as models for his surrealistic paintings.
Several years ago he was asked if he had a favorite among his paintings, and he said it was, “The Aloha Motel.”
. . . it tells the story of a man who works at a lonely job, surrounded by just a few objects. I have taken those objects, made them larger than life so that others can appreciate the special qualities of someone’s seemingly simple life.
I enjoy the nostalgic tone of Scott’s paintings; so many of the chosen objects resonate and stir up personal memories. I also love all the food-related items, wishing I could be that woman leaning against a giant muffin or that little girl sitting on those red jump rope handles eating a popsicle (did you see that giant Fudgsicle?!).
Yes, I love all the antique toys and I think it’s pretty cool that Scott was stationed in Hawaii for a couple of years. I like to imagine him riding his motorcycle all over the island while I was having fun in my college dorm. His retro Hawaii posters really take me back, and I’ve always been fascinated with things that are not their usual size.
Scott retired from the FOA summer exhibition in 2018, but continues to work full time on commissions for private clients and businesses.
In 2019, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts.
Visit Scott Moore’s official website for lots more, including detailed step-by-step explanations of his creative process, a pictorial biography, and information about purchasing limited edition giclée prints.
Click here to find out about Moore Than Meets the Eye, a 200-page retrospective hardcover book featuring 150 of Scott’s iconic paintings. A Collector’s Edition is also available, which includes a signed limited edition giclée print.
*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.