|Bill Moore, 1981. Photo by Chris Wahl|
Thursdays at CalArts were brutal. Getting to class early to pin our assignments on the long crit wall, we'd wait to be slaughtered by the old man. Upon his arrival, the room would go silent. He would casually stroll along the wall, surveying our assignments in his sport shirt and slacks (or Jordache jeans!), cigarette propped in a bent back wrist, like Tim Gunn and Humphrey Bogart's love child. Welcome to Bill Moore's design class.
You could hear a pin drop as we held our breaths, each hoping the Angel of Death would pass over their assignment. At last he'd pause at someone's piece and say, "Who belongs to this?" The owner of said piece would then have to stand and "qualify" their work - that is, explain what they did and why it works while he challenged everything they said. This went on for three excruciating hours until each of us had our turn hemming and hawing in defense of our work.
I came to CalArts right out of high school - a Catholic, art-hating prep school at that. I had ZERO knowledge of color and design theory. So on a weekly basis, in front of the class, Bill murdered me. Gleefully. He gleefully murdered me so much so, he took to calling me "Zombie".
But 40 years on, Zombie lives, as does Bill's voice when I work on any
creative endeavor. I hear him reciting his design mantras, "Repetition
with variation....contour continuity....". And I hear his cold,
judgmental prodding, "Is that the best you can do?" Of all my CalArts
teachers - men who had worked with Walt Disney personally - I would
have never bet the most influential would be a guy who never worked a
day in animation, and in fact, held a general contempt for it.
Bill's profound influence is almost universally shared among my industry peers, as is their fear and love of him. Anecdotes have been shared and re-shared to great laughter over the years from those fortunate enough to have been there. But his life outside of school has been a mystery, beyond stories he'd share for shock value or laughs. So I did some research and interviewed many former students then cobbled together this piece. It's not so much a biography as it is the story of a legend.
Bill would hate it.
| photo by Chris Wahl|