The Miles Davis Online Interview: Hyatt Moore

(Artist Series, Volume 14)

Right there in the thick of the delightful Hyatt Moore gallery of paintings, comfortably resting among the enchanting still-lifes and vibrant abstracts, is a glorious oil on panel painting of Miles Davis.

I’m best described as a recent, though instant, fan of the painter Hyatt Moore; initially drawn in by the portrait of Miles, only to discover a wealth of vivid colors and striking imagery circulating throughout his artwork.

Based in lovely Dana Point, CA with his wife, Anne Moore, also a talented artist whose work with printmaking is exceptional, Moore dedicated himself to painting full-time in the late ’90s. Prior to that, he had a notable, corporate/creative background, highlighted (for me) by his two-time stint as Art Director for Surfer magazine. As a onetime/longtime subscriber, that sparked my interest and had me longing to catch a few waves.

Lacking the verbal dexterity of a skilled art critic, I won’t attempt to analyze Moore’s work. But I will happily take the elementary approach and say that it’s great(!), defined, at least for me, by an expression of colors that is simply beautiful.

I forgot to ask Moore, but it looks like his painting is based on the Lee Friedlander photo of Miles from ’69. While the photograph is nice, the oil painting jumps up and grabs your attention, the warm colors represent Miles in an almost regal manner. But that’s my own interpretation.

Hyatt Moore was kind enough to chat about his painting of Miles Davis and other artsy topics. The result is an interesting Q&A about art and jazz – and a welcome addition to the Artist Series.

Miles Davis Online: You feature such a wonderful variety of subjects, styles and locations in your artwork. And in the middle of it all – Miles Davis. What led you to painting the jazz legend?

Hyatt Moore: I paint many things, but people most of all. And that in their “humanity.” I don’t do them much as icons. Somebody suggested I do some musicians, so I looked for a picture of Miles. I found plenty of him blowing his horn, but it was more difficult to find one of just his face, as a human being first. When I did, I painted it.

It was in the same period I painted another favorite, an artist in another field, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. That one sold; I still have the Miles Davis.

MDO: Are there other jazz musicians you’d consider painting?

Hyatt Moore: I would paint any I was commissioned to paint; it’s how I make my living.

But as for painting one just for love, John Coltrane would be right there, along with John Lewis, Gerald Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Rahsaan Rolland Kirk, Cannonball and Nate Aderley, Dizzy, Yusef Lateef, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman, Denny Zeitlin, and Kei Akagi, who once accompanied Miles. Akagi is not as widely known, but revered in Japan, is a beloved teacher at the University of California, Irvine, and plays jazz almost to leave jazz players behind.

MDO: Who are some artists of the past that have inspired you?

Hyatt Moore: Leonardo is my patron saint, though I don’t paint like him, for his superior mind, left and right brain integrated and used at full bore. And I could wish for half the heart and single-minded passion of Vincent Van Gogh, and the sheer courage of Paul Gauguin – not to leave his wife, but to venture off to barely-known lands for the sake of art and documenting a people and a time.

Then there’s Monet for the sake of painting light as opposed to things. And Russian drawer/painter Nicolai Fechin who taught us how to really render with artistic flair. Same with Spaniard Joaquin Sorolla for sheer ability, not to mention the grand size of his canvases. And the German, Klimt for creativity–in figures and landscapes. The list could go on.

MDO: And contemporary artists?

Hyatt Moore: Dan McCaw and his son Danny for light and thickness of paint; Jove Wang for expressive figures, strong color and confident slap-stroked ship-scapes; Carolyn Anderson for her huge brush still capturing human nuances, including children; By Bitney for his masterly, individual approach, like he’s above caring whether people do; Wolf Kahn for his shapes abbreviated to the essence yet with strokes and colors we might have forgotten are “there;” David Leffel for his painterly still-lifes and self-portraits reminiscent of master Rembrandt; British Ken Howard for incredible ability in various mediums like his nudes in his studio, full of back-lit glory from the huge window, capturing too the scene behind as well as all the wonderful furniture and clutter in the room itself – and none of it stiff; and Sandra Pratt with her child-like shapes and colors that just “work” and delight.

Then there’s Robert Heindel (now passed) with his dancers far beyond what Degas beautifully started; and finally, Anne Moore, my wife of 44 years, a printmaker of highly individual and sensitive abstract designs . . . often, though not enough, influencing my work.

MDO: Are you working on anything special at the moment?

Hyatt Moore: I’m working at something special just about every day. Today it’ll be another version of The Last Supper I’ve been commissioned to do in a very limiting shape (5 feet x 10 inches).

Yesterday it was a matching set of boys in swimming completion, also commissioned. Last week it was a departure into abstract figurative design, strong in color, simple in shape. Before that it was a commissioned portrait. Before that it was a series of back-lit figures (female) with limited palate. Before that it was a series for young men with hands in pockets melding into backgrounds and not a hard line anywhere. Before that it was a series of life-size dancers (flamenco or ballet) with their mix of realism and abstract. And so it goes . . . as far back as you care to look, and as far into the future as one can see. The latter is not very far at all, so who knows what will happen?

MDO: Any chance of another Miles Davis painting down the road?

Hyatt Moore: I suppose we can expect anything.

MDO: Favorite Miles Davis album?

Hyatt Moore: It’s a difficult question. My wife has often remarked that I’d likely choose a Miles Davis piece for my funeral.

Not that I’ll be doing the choosing, but “Sketches of Spain” might work very well there, with its wonderful mourn. A Christian, I know there’s a brighter future just on the other side, so I might choose something more upbeat, like “Miles Ahead.”

But it hardly matters, I like anything Miles. And, like him, I hope to grow as an artist as long as I have breath. Yes, he’s a very good role model for that.

* Hyatt Moore’s artwork can be viewed at his official website. Anne Moore’s artwork can be viewed at her official website.

Artwork is © Hyatt Moore

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