The Art of Listening with Illustrator Joe Mruk

“Drenching every inch of a room in its texture and hue”

By Joe Mruk

Joe Mruk
Mick Turner’s “El Arbol”

Every band drags along a certain aural baggage that paints the room you’re occupying in a certain way. Ambient music in particular is great to paint to; artists like Odd Nosdam or Mick Turner (of the Dirty Three) can have a way of loosening or warping time in song structures, and that looseness can extend to my hand when painting nor drawing. Ambience can act as a multicolored stand-in for silence that has a way of drenching every inch of a room in its texture and hue. If I put on a Mick Turner record, I feel like I can scoop up buckets of blue-green ocean detritus just by lifting a bucket through the empty air.

Illustration by Joe Mruk.

I’ve jumped on the Popol Vuh train recently, and start to finish, those records are a blissful blur of warm spiritual vibes that channel an intense positivism. They have been comforting in these often politically vulgar times. Listening to them reminds me of the quiet dignity of solitary introspection and private spiritualism. The warmth of a record like Hosianna Mantra is palpable, and it seems to exist somewhere outside of psychedelic, religious, and classical music while somehow drawing reference to all three. The first six or so Popol Vuh records (with the exception of their debut record Affenstunde) have the power to turn any room into a sanctuary. Listening, I can offer myself the chance to slow down, consider what I’m doing, and attempt to offer up a similar dignity in my work.

Popol Vuh’s “Selig sind die, die da hungern”

“The Art of Listening” asks visual artists to reveal their go-to music for creating work in the studio.

Joe Mruk is a fine artist, illustrator, designer, educator, and writer living in the East End of Pittsburgh. Mruk’s highly stylized poster designs can be found all over the city, all the time.