Thursday, April 03, 2008

Jukka Murtosaari's covers for Hard Case Crime

Say what? Did you ever hear about this? A Finnish guy working for Hard Case?

My friend, Jukka Murtosaari, who's been illustrating fanzines, magazines, books and other commercial stuff for over twenty years is hard looking for work. In Finland the markets for illustrated covers are nearly non-existent, and Jukka's been looking for work at European Disney. He tried to jump the Hard Case wagon and sent their boss, Charles Ardai, these two beautiful perfectly pulpish action covers, painted with oil. He was told everything was OK, but they wanted that all the illustrators working for them are American. Too bad for everyone.

If anyone's interested in purchasing these covers for use or willing to ask Jukka for more work, feel free to drop me a line in e-mail or post a comment.


CharlesArdai said...

Hi, Juri --

In fairness, it's not that we would *never* consider commissioning art from a painter outside the U.S. It's just that the extra inconveniences of dealing with an artist outside the U.S. (such as the special tax forms that have to be prepared by the artist and filed with the IRS, possible foreign currency issues, and the time and cost and risks of shipping materials back and forth across the ocean [sure, you can work digitally these days -- but whenever possible we prefer to actually get the art in our hands so we can photograph it ourselves]) mean that an artist outside the U.S. would have to absolutely knock our socks off to justify our using him or her. And while I thought Jukka Murtosari's work was solid (and while I really don't want to make him feel bad in any way), I didn't think it was phenomenal.

I don't remember exactly what words I used when I (hopefully politely) declined; I wouldn't be surprised if I said something like "Everything was OK" (especially if I was trying to let him down gently rather than needlessly being harsh). But "OK" is not the level of quality we aspire to, and for work that's just OK rather than truly great, it's definitely not worth taking on the extra hassles and headaches of cross-border dealings.

If we ever came across a foreign artist whose work we felt was on par with that of our very best cover painters, we'd gladly work with a non-U.S. painter.

I wouldn't normally comment critically on an artist's (or a writer's) work in public in this way, but I didn't want to leave an inaccurate impression in people's minds that we loved Jukka's work and only turned it down because he's not American. We liked it okay -- but we didn't love it, and given that that was the case, the fact that he was outside the U.S. helped tilt the decision toward 'no.' But realistically it would probably have been no even if he'd been in the U.S.

All that being said, this is of course just my opinion; another editor or art director might absolutely love his work, as you do, and I certainly would be delighted to see some other publisher employ him.


Juri said...

Hi Charles,

thank you for dropping by. My choice of words was probably bad - I should've written something like "people at Hard Case Crime thought the pictures were nice". And I was only going with what Jukka said to me - or actually wrote. He's one of those last mohicans who refuses to use a computer - hence he's not on-line and I only have what he wrote in his letter and I couldn't ask for more specifics over e-mail.

Yet I think his pictures are better drawn than some of the weaker Hard Case covers. Of Jukka's pictures, I like the first one, with the city background, more. The other one would be better with a bigger gun!

I sincerely hope someone gives Jukka more work. I know he's pretty desperate. I'd give him a job in Finland, but can't really talk about it now and these things are not really in my hands.

He did one cover for Gryphon Books. I have a black-and-white scan of it in the blog.

CharlesArdai said...

Thanks, Juri -- I agree that his paintings are better than some of the weaker Hard Case Crime covers (just not as strong as the very best...and only a handful of painters in the world are at that level).


Juri said...

Yes, you're sure right about that!