WITH ITS STYLISH design and 153 thick, creamy pages of fiction, criticism, interviews, drawings, photos and poetry, Sun & Moon, "A Journal of Literature and Art," has the look that comes with a big staff and plenty of funds.

In fact, it's the work of two young men who have full-time jobs doing something else, and has a cliff-hanging budget from subscriptions, personal handouts from its two editors, and a few outside grants. ("Contributions are gratefully accepted," the inside cover states.)

Douglas Messerli, 30, the literary editor, is a graduate assistant in English at the University of Maryland in College Park, and writes for scholarly journals on the side. Howard Fox, 31, the art editor, is on the curatorial staff of the Hirshhorn, and an art critic in his spare time. The idea for the magazine struck in May of 1975. It would combine literature and art (different, but related - like the sun and the moon) in a way that would "get beyond a superficial relationship so that art would be an integral part," Messerli explains. "Art is not primarily verbal, so it hasn't been easy." But the concept unwaveringly endures - with diagrams of visual philosophies, photographs of paintings, essays on esthetics and conversations with artists about their work.

They envisioned a casual stapled-and-mimeographed product, like Floating Bear, a poetry journal of the '60s. "But the response from contributors had such high quality," Messerli says, "that we felt we owed them a smarter format." Which is how they came to learn about paper stock, and "how magazines are made."

They do editing and layout in Messerli's College Park apartment and have the type set at the Writer's Center in Glen Echo. It's printed in Beltsville and sold here at Folio Books and the Kramer Book Store on Capitol Hill - plus New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and Vancouver. They have a distributor in Minnesota and subscribers overseas.

The first issue (Winter 1976) ranged from poems by Slavko Janevski of Macedonia to an interview with Washington artist Anne Truitt. Other issues have featured a little-known work by Djuna Barnes and poems in French by Rainer Maria Rilke. Number 5, out in late April or early May, will have a short sketch by Stendahl. "We're fishing back into the past for ideas sutiable to the present," Messerli says. "We try not to be caught in a time warp." Numbers 6 and 7 will be a combined double issue on "exciting new experimental narratives" - in art and fiction. After that . . . well, the manuscripts are pouring in these days at the rate of 25 to 40 a week.