There is a curious gap in David’s public art career between the release of the Billy Breathes illustration for Phish in 1996 and his reappearance in the poster/music art scene in 2009. To find out more, we hit up the man himself.
DAVID W: “Well, somehow I got into a decade long apprenticeship in a landscape muralist’s studio. I worked my way up to first assistant and then realized that I needed to go off on my own before any more time passed.”
WELKERPEDIA: There is that one Leo Kottke/Mike Gordon painting and tour poster released in 2002. Did that happen in the midst of the apprenticeship?
DAVID W: “Yes, I remember I was on a train. Mike called to tell me he was working on an album with his hero Leo Kottke. He asked if I’d like to do the album cover. Mike lived close by in TriBeCa, so we got together a few times to discuss the concept. I had this unrelenting vision inspired by Woody Allen’s film Sleeper, where he and Leo were holding cloned chickens. Mike said that Leo probably wouldn’t want to be caricatured – and he was right, so the design was relegated from album cover to tour poster. Then, literally a month later, Leo changed his mind and loved the artwork, but it was too late to change the decision on the album art. It was a quirky album with quirky musicians and a quirky artist.”
WELKERPEDIA: So then you disappear on us again and the next time we see your work is the Disco Biscuits gig poster for Halloween in Chicago 2009. How did that come about?
DAVID W: “I retired from murals in 2008. I have to credit Jason Kaczorowski as the person most responsible for helping me transition into the poster world, starting in the summer of 2009 and forward.”
WELKERPEDIA: Wow! Okay, Jason, take us back to the summer of 2009 and thanks for making time for us.
JASON K: “No problem. I love David like a brother. The first time we met face-to-face was in Denver before the 2009 Red Rocks run. He agreed to exhibit work at the Mock Show poster show I was hosting on August 1, 2009. David hadn’t showcased his work for a gig poster-collecting audience before and had created what became his first unofficial gig poster for the event, Lady of the Rock. I think David got a taste for the rock poster scene there at Red Rocks and couldn’t get enough. He started buying art to teach himself the craftsmanship and technique of every artist he discovered. Through Mock Show, David met artists such as Fred Hosman and Bruce Horan who eased him into the screen print making process. Hosman became Welker’s defacto printer at the time, helping transition David from his giclee printing process into screen printing. I introduced David to John Schmidt, archivist for the Disco Biscuits, which led to David’s first official concert poster for the Biscuit’s Halloween show at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago featuring Holy Fuck and Glitch Mob. Hosman printed Welker’s first gig posters for the Disco Biscuits along with an unofficial homage to Phish’s Festival 8 called The Old Man & the Eight, which was released in Miami at the Mock Show NYE.”
WELKERPEDIA: That’s incredible. What an exciting time for jam band art. I assume you two kept in contact after that?
JASON K: “In December 2009, just a few weeks before Mock Show NYE, I met Welker in Miami and gave him a tour of Art Basel – the largest international art fair in the world. I was fortunate to have all-access passes for the fair and had photographed for many of the satellite fairs in previous years, so we were able to see many of the exhibitions during the press openings and attend many of the VIP parties around town. It was an amazing opportunity to gain insight into David’s ambition and drive. Five years later, David was back at Art Basel – this time showcasing his own work!”