Photos and article by Randy Jarosz
A Joe Mruk concert poster can be spotted a mile away. His style and subject matter are distinct and the fine detail can be rivaled to that of a hand knit sweater. His posters have been used by some of Pittsburgh’s top talents to promote their concerts, including the Harlan Twins, Chet Vincent and the Big Bend, Satin Gum and Carousel, among others. If you see his posters on Facebook or hanging at your favorite hotspot you can be certain it’s a can’t miss show. Jeff Betten, owner of Wild Kindess Records in Pittsburgh says, “…a really great poster like one of Joe’s will simply get more eyeballs. It’s not going to make the bands sound better but maybe more people will stop to check out the art and make a note of the gig as a result.”
Mruk’s posters aren’t your typical concert poster. He usually has free reign over subject matter and can let his imagination run wild. You will often notice a theme to many of his posters, with his stylized animals. Sometimes the posters may have very little to do with the band, but other times Mruk will incorporate something from the band in the poster. “He’s (Joe) just a sweet guy who’s an absolute pleasure to work with, above all else. It’s fun to hire him and let him draw whatever he wants to draw. You never know exactly what idea or concept he might come up with for your poster, but you know it’ll look cool in the end,” explains Betten.
For André Costello and the Cool Minors poster for their March 28 show at Howler’s Coyote Cafe, Mruk illustrated blindfolded sled dogs pulling a sleigh with a burning piano. The burning piano was a main focal point in the groups recent visual ep, Summer’s Best.
On the Grand Piano LP release show poster, for the album Leap Year, Mruk played off their album cover that depicts a town. He used the classic family portrait and town elements such as a factory for the fathers head, the mothers head as a mill, while the mill pours into a castle, which is the child’s head, as the father feeds a pill to the child. Mruk explains it as being a very personal poster to him and even had difficulty sharing it.
It takes Mruk at least three days to come up with a concept, for pen to be applied and for color to be added to his posters. Mruk usually sends a rough pencil sketch of his idea to the band for approval. Using only pens, Mruk traces over his sketch. He then scans his image twice onto the computer and begins work in Adobe Illustrator. He makes it a habit to listen to the music of the bands while drawing his posters. “This is the funnest shit in the world, every band is different and I love music, it’s one of my main passions. With each band comes a new challenge,” admits Mruk.
Not only is Joe a top notch poster artist, he is quite the woodworker, making boardgames, clocks and other wall pieces. He has built websites, created logos, shot commercials, designed adds and even spent time teaching at an art camp in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, re-directing Native American Lakota Sioux kids to their traditional native roots. Joe’s latest venture is to fulfill his longtime dream of writing a children’s story with text and artwork.
Jeff Betten summed it up best saying, “Joe Mruk is a certified badass. I wouldn’t be surprised if the flyers he’s done for us, end up collected in a book or displayed in a retrospective one day.”
Joe Mruk Concert Posters