Vic Reeves and the art of an­noy­ing celebri­ties

From his sur­real study of Si­mon Cow­ell to ‘ Sylvester Stal­lone with Scratch Card’, the com­edy star’s bizarre por­traits of the fa­mous are be­com­ing big sell­ers

Daily Express - - EXCLUSIVE BERNARD CORNWELL INTERVIEW - By James Ramp­ton

NOT ev­ery­one has re­sponded well to the paint­ings of Jim Moir, bet­ter known as his comic al­ter ego Vic Reeves – like the fa­mous break­fast­time host who took um­brage on live tele­vi­sion. Moir sketches in the de­tails: “Piers Morgan once re­acted to a paint­ing of mine. A friend in Deal used to live next to Richard Arnold, who works with Piers on Good Morn­ing Bri­tain.

“One day my friend, Richard and I all went for lunch to­gether. Richard had seen my por­trait of Piers at a gallery in Deal. So he asked me, ‘ Can I take it to work and show it to Piers?’

“The next day on air, Richard showed it to Piers who said, ‘ Who did he use as a model for me? Jabba the Hutt?!’”

But Piers is far from be­ing the only TV per­son­al­ity he finds in­spi­ra­tional – as a por­trait sub­ject. “I al­ways like do­ing Si­mon Cow­ell,” he ad­mits. “He al­most asks to have the mickey taken out of him.”

And if in­clud­ing less- than- flat­ter­ing stud­ies of the rich and fa­mous in his new vol­ume of paint­ings, Vic Reeves Art Book, puts Moir on the re­ceiv­ing end of crit­i­cism – or “more op­por­tu­ni­ties for neg­a­tive re­ac­tions” as he puts it – is he wor­ried about that?

“I couldn’t care less,” he an­swers joy­fully.

Nei­ther is Moir, 61, con­cerned about fall­ing vic­tim to the pre­vail­ing so- called can­cel cul­ture.

As Vic Reeves, he has been in a very suc­cess­ful dou­ble act with Bob Mortimer since 1986 when Mortimer loved what he was see­ing so much that he jumped on stage at the Gold­smith’s Tav­ern in New Cross, Lon­don, and joined the act.

And he be­lieves that his work – both on can­vas and in com­edy – is too wacky ever to of­fend any­one.

“Bob and I never re­ally went down that line – we were al­ways too ab­stract, and we’ve al­ways avoided pol­i­tics.”

THE duo teamed up for such hit TV shows as Vic Reeves Big Night Out, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and Shoot­ing Stars, and, while their sur­real com­edy was as far from main­stream as it’s pos­si­ble to get, they rarely at­tracted crit­i­cism.

“The most com­plaints we ever had was on Shoot­ing Stars when we brought on a stuffed buz­zard with a cru­ci­fix around its neck,” re­calls Moir. “A lot of Chris­tians wrote in to com­plain that birds couldn’t be Chris­tians.”

Moir’s art is just as delightful­ly daft. His book in­cludes such weird and won­der­ful images as Ant McPartlin dressed as a cow­boy, hold­ing a bomb on the back of a buck­ing bronco, Edward VII show­ing off his new train­ers and Moir him­self with a bizarre, bright yel­low wig set­ting off his grey beard.

Why? Who knows? The mean­ing is, there is no mean­ing.

You might be in­clined to say to the highly tal­ented painter re­spon­si­ble for this work: “It’s art, Jim, but not as we know it.”

The co­me­dian works in a gar­den stu­dio at the house in Kent that he shares with his wife Nancy. He says he was im­mersed in art as a child grow­ing up in Dar­ling­ton.

“My mum used to paint and my dad did wood­turn­ing,” he says. “We would spend our week­ends at craft fairs and art gal­leries. That was just what we did. We were steeped in that world,” he ex­plains.

“All I ever did as a child was paint. I won two com­pe­ti­tions back then. When I was 10, I won a com­pe­ti­tion that was on the back of a Corn Flakes packet for paint­ing a pic­ture of a com­bine har­vester. I don’t know what I won – prob­a­bly an­other packet of Corn Flakes! At that time, my sis­ter used to get Jackie mag­a­zine, and peo­ple would send draw­ings of their favourite pop stars into the mag­a­zine. So I sent in a draw­ing of Marc Bolan, which got pub­lished.” How­ever, Moir ad­mits: “I put my sis­ter’s name on it be­cause all I could think of was my friends mock­ing me, ‘ Ooo, you read Jackie mag­a­zine!’

“I was over the moon when it was pub­lished, but I couldn’t blow my own trum­pet be­cause the pic­ture didn’t have my name on it.” Now Moir is more than happy to have his name at­tached to his paint­ings. He has well and truly

‘ I al­ways like do­ing Si­mon Cow­ell... he al­most asks to have the mickey taken out of him’

got the art bug. He says: “I like to pro­duce some­thing ev­ery day. The eas­i­est way to get ideas out is to put them on pa­per. I like to sit back at the end of ev­ery day and think, ‘ I cre­ated that to­day.’

“I’m in my stu­dio at 6am ev­ery day be­cause I work bet­ter in the morn­ing. Then in the af­ter­noon, I like to go for a walk. I en­joy go­ing for a per­am­bu­la­tion or a con­sti­tu­tional. It’s all very Vic­to­rian.”

An ex­cel­lent draughts­man with a par­tic­u­lar fa­cil­ity for paint­ing an­i­mals, Moir has turned his art into an enor­mously suc­cess­ful busi­ness, with his works sell­ing for hun­dreds, some­times thousands, of pounds.

“My art has done very well fi­nan­cially,” he ad­mits. “My paint­ings of birds sell the best. As soon as I do them, they fly out of the stu­dio. Peo­ple like them be­cause they’ve

al­ways got room for some­thing fairly in­nocu­ous and small that will go in a cor­ner some­where.”

Moir’s work has also been recog­nised by a very au­gust artis­tic in­sti­tu­tion.

Four of his paint­ings have hung in the Royal Academy Sum­mer Ex­hi­bi­tion. He ex­plains: “It’s a great hon­our to be in the Royal Academy. It’s not be taken lightly. It’s a huge tick.

“You know you can get those T- shirts with the sign of a huge tick on the front? I might go to the Royal Academy wear­ing that T- shirt.”

Moir, who stud­ied art at Sir John Cass Col­lege in Whitechape­l, east Lon­don, ad­mits that last year he covertly broke gallery pro­to­col. “I sur­rep­ti­tiously took a selfie in front of my paint­ing at the Royal Academy, and then ran out very quickly so they couldn’t catch me,” he chuck­les.

What is per­haps most im­pres­sive is that even now he is in his 60s, he is ea­ger to keep learn­ing.

Moir says he con­tin­ues to be in­spired by painters such as Pablo Pi­casso and Fran­cis Ba­con.

Touch­ing on his cur­rent artis­tic in­flu­ence, he re­flects that at the mo­ment, “I’m in a Rubens kind of mood. That sounds like an al­bum by Richard Clay­der­man, doesn’t it?” Moir goes on to muse: “You never, ever leave art school. It’s im­por­tant to keep find­ing in­spi­ra­tion.

“I look at YouTube videos and think, ‘ How would I do that?’ I like ex­per­i­ment­ing with things. For in­stance, dry­ing paint­ings off too quickly in a mi­crowave can look strangely beau­ti­ful.

“Pour­ing bleach on to paint­ings can also work. One day when Bob and I were writ­ing, I found these old 1930s pho­tos. I started drop­ping bleach on to them, and we im­me­di­ately stopped writ­ing and started do­ing that in­stead.

“I’m al­ways in the kitchen do­ing ex­per­i­ments. I’m like Dr Franken­stein.”

Moir sums up what he loves most about paint­ing. “It gives me great sat­is­fac­tion. When I’m paint­ing, I haven’t got any­one look­ing over my shoul­der. And if a paint­ing goes wrong, it goes in the bin. No one is say­ing, ‘ Do it again’.”

Vic Reeves Art Book con­tains four years’ worth of work, but the good news is that he is such a pro­lific painter, he feels he’s al­ready got enough ma­te­rial for a sec­ond vol­ume.

ONE type of celebrity that Moir paints es­pe­cially well is rock stars – whether it’s Bono con­duct­ing a cook­ery club or Mick Jag­ger and Keith Richards do­ing bat­tle with ma­chine guns, while perched on top of ele­phant seals.

An­other se­quence of pic­tures fea­tures pop stars laugh­ing be­cause they have just won the lot­tery. And Sylvester Stal­lone, as Rocky, clutch­ing a scratch card. “I did those when I was film­ing an episode of [ the drama] Shake­speare and Hath­away and had noth­ing else to do in the even­ing.

“I was think­ing, ‘ What would make pop stars laugh their heads off? Win­ning on the scratch­cards, of course.’ They clearly buy scratch cards ev­ery week.”

Sur­real to the last, Moir jokes: “In my lo­cal shop, there is al­ways a line of pop stars wait­ing to buy scratch­cards. Last week we had all of For­eigner, Weather Re­port and Deutsch Amerikanis­che Fre­und­schaft queue­ing up for a scratch card!”

CAN­DID CAN­VAS: How Jim sees Si­mon Cow­ell and Piers Morgan

MUS­CLE MEN: Ant McPartlin, above, and Rocky with lotto ticket

DOU­BLE ACT: Vic with Bob Mortimer on their Big Night Out show

● Vic Reeves Art Book by Jim Moir ( Un­bound, £ 25) is out now. For free UK de­liv­ery, call Express Book­shop on 01872 562310 or or­der via www. ex­press­book­shop. co. uk De­liv­ery 10 to 14 days

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