WEIRTON-Tempy Moore of Weirton, W.Va., has always enjoyed drawing. As a child, she began with pictures of horses before graduating to charcoal reproductions of the photos she saw in "Rolling Stone" magazine as a teenager. She said that if she acted up or got into trouble, her mother would send her to her room to draw. "That was my punishment, to go draw," Tempy said. "So I would draw a lot," she added with a laugh.
All that ill-gotten practice has recently begun to pay off.
Over the last three years, the East Palestine native has found herself taking personal commissions from famous professional athletes, has painted at a black-tie reception for business and political leaders at the Empire State Building in New York City, and recently completed the artwork for a limited-edition series of baseball cards that will be released by Leaf Trading Cards next month.
Scott and Tempy Moore pose in front of examples of Tempy’s work, including portraits of Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby and Steelers Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. (Photo by Richard Sberna)?
An example of Tempy’s sketch art that will be found in the “Best in Baseball 2012” collection by Leaf is one of Scott’s favorites, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop and Hall of Fame member Ozzie Smith. (Photo courtesy of Scott Moore)
The story begins with a portrait of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope holding a Terrible Towel, which she drew for her husband Scott in 2009.
During the busy years of early motherhood, Tempy says she quit drawing altogether. This disappointed Scott, who had noticed the deterioration in his own skills since he left the illustration field. He didn't want the same fate for Tempy. "She's the most talented artist I've seen in the area," he said.
The couple met as graphic design students at PTI a decade ago and married after Tempy graduated in 2003; the beginnings of a family soon followed. Scott opted for a steady, good-paying job with the Postal Service in Pittsburgh while Tempy looked after their children, Alaina and Peyton, now 9 and 8, respectively.
When the children hit pre-school age, Tempy got a job in graphic design for a local company, but was laid off after eight months when the economic slump began in 2008. The loss of income was problematic, so she began selling some of her old college projects, mostly chalk work and paintings, on Ebay. "I saw people interested in it, so I decided to do some more," she said.
Then came Myron Cope.
It was a chalk and pencil portrait, and became an instant hit with Scott and others who saw it. "Everybody liked it, so I started doing prints from there," Tempy said. She began taking commissions from friends and family, mostly of children, though requests for other popular sports figures came as well.
Tempy and Scott began taking her art on the road, beginning with local craft and art shows at schools and shopping malls. People who saw the Myron Cope piece offered requests for works featuring other Pittsburgh sports heroes past and present. According to Tempy, she previously had no interest in sports, though another bit of serendipity had changed all that the year before.
Scott, who has always been a sports fan, had struggled to get Tempy interested. While watching the 2008 NHL playoffs, he suggested that she enter a contest for tickets to game six of the finals, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Philadelphia Flyers, on the glass at the old Civic Arena. He vividly recalls when "Tempy M. from Weirton" was announced on TV as the winner a week later. "I immediately jumped up and freaked out, because there's only one Tempy that I know of, and it's from Weirton," he said.
Best of all, Scott's plan worked. Tempy became instantly hooked, particularly on hockey, and began enthusiastically incorporating sports into her work. As they turned their attention increasingly towards sports memorabilia shows, her pieces began attracting more attention, eventually from the athletes themselves.
The first big commissions came from Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury and Brooks Orpik, which amazed the now hockey-crazed Tempy. Scott said they were nervous the first time they met with Fleury and Orpik, but were gratified by the players' enthusiasm for the pieces. Tyler Kennedy has since become a client and is in regular contact with the couple, according to Scott. "When you get to know them a little bit better, they are so cool, down-to-earth and humble," he said.
Scott, who is as extroverted as Tempy is shy, soon began acting as her de-facto agent. "I love to talk, to get out there and mingle, so I've just been pushing as much as I can to get her exposure right from the beginning," he said. "I'm so confident in her skill level, that I will go to any lengths to talk to anybody about her."
Between Scott's chatting up Tempy's skill and her work being admired by the players of Consol Energy Arena, she eventually caught the attention of Consol executives. Scott was contacted with an offer for Tempy to appear at the Pennsylvania Society's "Captains of Industry" reception last December, sponsored by Consol Energy, at the Empire State Building in New York. She would paint four canvases during the event, essentially acting as live entertainment for an art-loving crowd of high-profile business leaders and politicians.
Eager for the chance to raise Tempy's profile higher, Scott says he accepted on the spot, which came as a surprise to Tempy when she found out. "I told them OK before I even knew she could do it," he recalls. Following a pause and a shared smile between them at the memory, he added, "She works great under pressure," prompting a burst of laughter from Tempy.
The event was a success, with Tempy's four paintings now adorning the walls of Consol Energy's headquarters in Canonsburg, Pa., and Scott making contacts with ever more potential clients. A recent commission came from the Franklin, Pa., family of San Francisco 49ers tight end Nate Byham, depicting he and his fiancee, who will be married later this month. "One door has led open to another, and we just hope the doors keep opening," Scott added.
Via attendance at sports memorabilia shows, those contacts eventually led to Leaf Trading Cards owner Brian Gray, who resurrected the dormant brand in 2010. After passing Tempy's portfolio along to assistants at Leaf, Scott says Gray was impressed enough to offer Tempy a project, "Best in Baseball 2012." The limited-edition series features 150 baseball greats featured in five hand-drawn cards, including three black-and-white pencil sketches and two color pencil sketches, for a total 750-card set.
The featured players, selected by Gray, include past legends from Honus Wagner to Hank Aaron, as well as contemporary stars like Derek Jeter and Yu Darvish. Also featured are fictional baseball heroes, including Kevin Costner as Crash Davis in "Bull Durham," Charlie Sheen as Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in "Major League," and Madonna as "All the Way" Mae Mordabito in "A League of Their Own."
Scott said he was impressed with Gray for taking a chance on a newcomer to the field like Tempy with such a large project. "It's a really huge step for her getting the recognition out there where she deserves to be," he said. That recognition has other benefits for Tempy. "It gives me more confidence in my work," she said.
"Best in Baseball 2012" will be available from Leaf in early August.
The couple has also established Art for Yinz, a website featuring prints of Tempy's best Pittsburgh-themed sports work, including portraits of Steelers like Jack Lambert and Hines Ward, Penguins Mario Lemieux and Sid Crosby, and, of course, the Myron Cope that started it all.
From here, it's anyone's guess what's next for Tempy and Scott. "We really don't know where it's going to end up, but I really feel good about it," Scott said. With typical understatement, Tempy smiles and says, "It's been very exciting.