Fish Art by Cliff Moore
This article originally published a few years ago, but local artist Cliff Moore's work is still around - and perfect for outdoor and indoor use.
Creative talent is something you're just born with. For almost three decades our publishing company has developed course material for the artists now found in many top advertising agencies, web development firms, package designers and magazine publishers. Being a “how-to” writer isn't the same as carving something, or coming up with an advertising campaign like the ones you see from Apple computer. It's technical writing. But, it's put me in front of true creatives (the name given to members of that lofty community) all my life.
Artists who fish...
I am now an outdoors writer, and although I thoroughly enjoy the connection between my lifestyle and my life-long career, my walls aren't hung with deer heads or stuffed snook. Now if you want a snook on your wall you can have one made out of acrylic, and the scales don't fall off when it gets old. There's another choice for putting fish or fish tackle on your walls; what I lovingly call Fish Art.
This gorgeous permit isn't the one that ended up on the wall of our home; it was a grouper. There's something about the artist's work that hit me as a fisherman and outdoorsman; it turned out that Cliff's mom was a bass angler and a sculpture artist. Her genes ran into Moore in more ways than one.
I don't own rights to many square inches of wall space in my Saint Petersburg home. Built in 1921, my wife feels – rightfully so – that artwork is something we both have to love. Up until recently I only had one piece of fish art hanging on the walls. Done in pencil by an Alaskan Guide named Bob White, the “Alaskan Guides Selection” is a collection of dry, wet, nymph, and streamers (which could catch a snook, I bet) that he tied himself and water-colored on the paper. It's so beautiful that I can’t help but to stand close and gaze upon it at times. I tied flies as a kid, and know what's on the paper and in the water he fishes with them.
The newest piece of art – cast from aluminum – is a grouper. The metal fish called to me one day at an art festival in Gulfport. I don't know why, but it called me. I should probably say it grunted. Whether it was the old casino down the street in the 1920's town, the structural accuracy of the gill plates, or the current ban on grouper that keeps me up at night, the grouper grunted at me. After looking at the guy's castings for a while (he has quite a collection), I grabbed a card from his table. I see a lot of art, and fish-as-subject is more likely to grab me than a picture painted with lots of color, but no apparent subject. That said, I can't buy what I like most of the time.
Cliff Moore and his Metal Fish…
Cliff Moore answered the phone the next day. I didn’t get the chance to talk to him the night before; I had just said, "nice stuff" and put the card in my pocket. My wife and I go to every art show within 100 miles. I personally hate them because she doesn't stand for me buying art for the few walls I do have a right to. She wants to walk, eat unknown proteins, and "just look." Guys buy, they don't look. Sort of like the Health Care Bill; buy it first -deal with it later. I wanted to talk to the artist that created that grouper I saw. They weren't cheap, but hell - he had grunted at me.
Meeting the artist helped define its appeal. When I asked him if he fished, he said "Of course I fish. It's why I 'do' fish!" When I asked him about how he learned to fish his answer was his mom.
“My mom was a bass angler. She was obsessed with catching big bass, and she was damn good at it!” he said.
The response to my question didn't surprise me. When I ask people who they fished with the first time, and who they remember when they think about fishing as a kid gets me the "Mom" or "Aunt" answer 15% to 20% of the time. Sandy (Cliff's mom) was an artist, too. She carved. Considering that Cliff's artwork is cast in metal, and the metal is cast into a mold created from a single original carving, it made sense that he picked up fishing and carving from the same source. Fishing is a way-of-life, that is often passed from those we love, and is something we hope to pass on to those close to us. It's what makes teaching the sport so important to me, and why it's easy to make a connection to a guy like Cliff Moore.
The Casting Process
As we said, Cliff works in aluminum. It's cast while the metal's still molten, and the very thought of making stuff like a real fish out of hot metal is sort of weird to think about. But, on the wall of my house it's home, for sure.
Starting with a single carved fish, Cliff begins the process of creating his incredible artwork. The next step involved is molten aluminum. I remember making lead sinkers as a kid (something I wanna do again before NOAA bans our use of anything but dry flies and streamers maybe). Hot metal is dangerous but fascinating to work with.
It doesn't matter if they draw angels, paint flowers sitting on a table, or play the violin so beautifully that it brings tears to the eyes, there is something in the people that are real artists that tickles those of us who aren't. Watching the process of how those people do their artwork, brings something personal to the vision that produced the art piece you have to hang on your wall. Artwork is discretionary; but its impact on your daily life can't be measured.
Once the original redfish is carved, a mold is created. Once reversed, it becomes the depository for the molten aluminum.
A grouper mold filled with cooling aluminum. It eventually became the grouper that's on the wall of our home.
You really have to see Cliff Moore’s artistic fish pieces in the flesh to appreciate them. The grunting grouper is hanging on the wall of the back entry to my house - right next to those Alaskan tied bugs - where it has found a safe and shark-free reef. I've talked to Moore about doing a small piece – one that could be priced at a reasonable cost and serve as a desk piece. He intends to make one, and we'll be sure to show it to you when we get one.