(originally published in Avenue magazine, July 2005)
By Brian Tucker
In a downtown coffee house Josh Moore rests with his back to the counter and entranceway. Before him are numerous framed images by a local photographer. He admires them a moment and mentions that he uses photographs for painting inspiration and interpretation, whether for commissioned portraits or to delineate a piece.
His hand slowly turns the hot coffee cup and he fumbles with a square napkin, wrapping it around the container and sometimes spinning it from corner to corner, like a window fan. He later reveals that he’s a constant doodler, always drawing something with a pencil or pen – doesn’t matter.
“I can’t talk on the phone without doodling,” he says. “It’s a reflex.”
Josh has lived in Wilmington since January 2004 and calls the south home. He moved from Beaufort, North Carolina by way of California. After graduating in 2000 from graduate school in engineering he made for the coast in a hurry.
“I was good at math, engineering. But I found it wasn’t for me,” he says. “I sort of flipped out and decided to move to the beach.”
It was while living at Atlantic Beach that he began in music and art. Throughout life he’d “always done some art,” but the passion came to fruition, and showed promise, living on the coast.
“I doodled my way through engineering,” he says. “I just found myself doing more creative things outside school.”
During that period, Josh lived with open minded artists in Carteret County where he found the environment to be very encouraging. He also discovered surfing. Surfing came first and then everything else.
“My friends gave their honest opinions and I was open to their ideas,” he says. “And surfing is integral to the art-music thing.” The beach scene has greatly influenced the images he creates as well as his style of painting. Wildlife and nature is also an evident theme to his work.
For the longest time he did pencil and ink drawings until a former girlfriend suggested he try water color instantly finding it to be a perfect medium.
“It’s a difficult medium to control,” he says. “And the closer you get to the work the more you can see.”
Working with water color allows for bright and vibrant colors in pieces, especially those which center on nature and wildlife or beach related pieces. The selections of colors, those which go together, seem very natural for the artist. Using red provides a powerful contrast. In ‘Swans at Dawn’ the entire background of the piece is a middle temperature shade of red with several swans gently flying away.
“Some color groupings are interesting in how they throw people off,” he says.
But aspirations reach beyond water color and environmentally minded art work.
“I have a head full of ideas of things I want to paint and techniques I want to try,” he says.
Like many people or artists, time is a constant problem. Between working a day job at a downtown law office and creating art, Josh plays guitar in the band Red Fedora on Tuesday nights at Sweet and Savory Café. He also sings and started out like many singer-songwriters – playing folk music, “but I do play bluegrass and classic rock music.”
He played a lot of the coffee houses in the area after moving here and confesses it was hard sometimes to hook up with like minded players in Wilmington.
“I want to mix styles of music, like bluegrass and rock,” he says.
Much of his circle of friends is students in the UNCW Creative Writing Department.
“The student population has helped a lot,” he says. “I’ve met a lot of creative people and they tend to encourage you to a great extent.”
Josh counts Halloween as his favorite holiday and that he can’t paint without music. His social life revolves around people getting together to play music and “meeting like-playing musicians.”
“There’s a diverse culture of surfers at Wrightsville Beach,” he says. “There are the older guys who’ve been doing it forever, the long board culture and the young short boarders.” Josh spent over a year in San Diego with an ex-girlfriend and found the time spent there valuable in many ways.
“Surfing is crazy out there,” he laughs thinking back. “But it was expensive to live. I saw many, many people working two jobs to just exist but not always enjoying living.” He started reading Juxtapoz, an arts and culture magazine while living there.
“It helped me to say I can paint whatever I wanted,” he says.
Josh packed up and headed for the east coast, returning to his roots, but still near an ocean, He feels that there’s a genetic disposition to the human body and bodies of water – supporting life physically, mentally and spiritually. There also tends to be work to be found in the area as well.
Josh did T-shirt designs, sign work and hand lettering in Morehead City to pay the bills. Commission work comes along as well, one piece involving a person’s dog in the foreground and a John Deere tractor in the background.
“I do what I can with the materials and inspiration I have,” he says. “But you have to make it right according to you.”
Lately, Josh’s work has taken a turn towards the surreal. “Adding twists to my inspiration,” he says. He would love to do pieces with more continuity but finds it hard with the constraints of time space. He has a few pieces that are done in pointillism style, where an entire piece is made solely by dots. Dot after dot is placed along a blank piece of material until a piece of art exists on its own.
In the time spent here, his artwork has been shown at the Cameron Art Museum, the old Barnes & Noble bookseller and Café Del Mar. This issue’s cover image, ‘First Tube,’ was shown at Cameron.