David Welker's â€œSubconscious Narrativesâ€ at The Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery
The Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery includes a name that you’ll recognize, and has been filled with even more. Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon, and Mr. Brainwash have all hung in the NYC gallery, and as of today one more name will be added to that list: David Welker. David has been in New York City for 25 years, living and working in a city that has helped him to explore his discipline of surrealist visual art. The gallery came to him to create an entire show on a pretty condensed timeline, and David got right to work, pluming his unconscious for a series he calls “Subconscious Narratives.” David tried to create these pieces through a process that ignored his directorial head. Instead, he puts pen to paper and lets the pieces reveal themselves to him through their creation. “I’m trying to draw something representationally but without looking at any reference and allowing it to be awkward, allowing it to build in terms of symbology, just let it remind me of something and then build the whole piece that way and let it tell me where it wants to go rather than me planning it,” David explains.
What results through that process are images that don’t necessarily make sense in the way we expect narrative representation to make sense. That’s the goal. The imagery built up through David’s exploration speaks to a deeper level of human experience, one that transcends pedestrian classification, moving into a visceral understanding. “It just sort of mirrors life’s uncertainty in general,” says David. “It mirrors my own desire to live in mystery rather than to know things, or have certainty about things because it’s a belief.” By allowing the construction of certainty to fall away, David leaves us with something that our eyes may not understand, but our hearts will recognize.
There’s a thrill to bringing what’s deep inside onto a canvas and displaying it to the public, but hanging his pieces in this gallery specifically is a special kind of honor. “It feels sort of like a dream,” says David. “Those are my heroes,” he says about the other artists who have graced the same walls. “It’s a really strange, big chance here and I just handed in all the work so it feels great.”
“Subconscious Narratives” opens at The Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery and runs until January 7.
Widespread Panic Goes West With David Welker Poster
David Welker created a seven-color screen print to promote Widespread Panic's spring tour. "The group has one of the richest poster scenes of any major band," the artist said. "This is for the tour's west coast leg, which starts in Seattle and moves south" to Portland, Oakland, Reno, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, "so I wanted to riff on Pacific Northwest lore."
He did more than his usual share of preliminary work on this particular piece, finally settling on a "sort of epic scene with Bigfoot running inland and the Yeti coming ashore in pursuit of his cousin – which has stirred up a fiercely turbulent sea," depicted by the frothy waves breaking against rounded, tree-topped hills. "I wanted to insert as much repetition as possible and reinforce the west's winding coastline," Welker explained.
The arm clutching a fish, center left, "raises more questions about the event than it answers," he pointed out. "I think the image as a whole plays off the name Widespread Panic well."
Black Magic Rum's David Welker-Drawn Label
David Welker was enlisted to illustrate the label for Black Magic, a newly released black spiced rum.
"Rum has historically capitalized on its nautical legacy, but I wanted to do something that did more than pay lip service to that," said Ross Sutherland, creative director at Silver Fern and responsible for the project. "I fell in love with the idea of optical illusions in which the scenes double as skulls. David was the obvious go-to guy. He has a keen and steady hand that is considerably helped along by a wry eye."
Welker explained: "I personalized the hidden-skull motif explored throughout art history for Black Magic ... the label depicts the captain and crew aloft in the ship's crow's nest, partying with island beauties and paying little mind to the sea monsters and large waves surrounding them – and their gathering creates the right eye socket (as you look at it) for the skull illusion."
Like Welker's other work, the piece contains plenty of subtle messages; for example, "Sea Czar," the vessel's name, is an anagram of Sazerac, the company that distills the rum. A second drawing (and another skull illusion) printed on the label's opposite side, facing inward, shows the captain in his study, gradually revealing itself with every nip of rum poured from the bottle.
"The final art was picture perfect – everything went exactly according to plan. David nailed the execution and the client approved the first draft without any change worth mentioning," Sutherland said, adding, "I am delighted my clients appreciate talent and that they embrace original art."
David Welker's Black Keys Poster Pays Homage to Roseland Ballroom
David Welker paid homage to the soon-to-be-shuttered Roseland Ballroom with his poster for Friday night's Black Keys concert. "I wanted to portray Roseland as a mid-twentieth-century landmark," said the artist. "I placed the two band members on the left atop my depiction of Roseland and its unassuming entrance, and above it is a cathedral, which represents all of the music, the rock and roll, that's come out of there."
He described the style as "Deco-Surrealism or Retro-Futurism," adding, "In a way, the piece depicts my childhood vision of New York City; I grew up in Westchester and driving into Manhattan as a kid, it appeared before me like a cast-iron Emerald City." He's also been captivated by the city's infrastructure and industrial-age expansion, which coincided with Roseland's heyday. "I was influenced by the old Max Fleischer 'Popeye' cartoons – those scenes of city life are fascinating Depression era creations that I'm obsessed with visually … maybe this poster shows the future and they've built up New York City with dams and aqueducts to keep out the hurricanes and rising tides."
The poster's first layer is a pewter metallic with a cold, silver gray, and the next layer is the same silvery tone as the paper but acts as a highlight. The line art is a grayed-down black with a touch of blue mixed in. "It's an effective use of three colors because they overlap, creating a fourth color, and I trapped the paper's color, so it makes for a fifth tonality," Welker explained. "It feels very New York, sort of York Peppermint Pattie, wintry – the vibe of this January is gray, but optimistic. I wanted that to come across."
David Welker for Phish's 30th Anniversary Tour
David Welker created a psychedelic version of Reading, Pennsylvania, for a stop on Phish's 30th anniversary tour.
"Reading's landmark Pagoda is on the right, and there's a reference to the Reading Railroad of past and how it's a river town situated among the hills," explained the artist. "I included different characters, possibly from Phishlore: Rutherford as a young lad crossing the bridge with his skateboard under one arm (instead of jumping in and drowning as he's destined to); townspeople with a lasso around an octopus who wants to return to the river; an alligator dancing with a banjo player in the street; and some strange, bulbous creatures fishing with their extendable tongues." On the horizon, a shark atop a pyramid alludes to the current fiscal crisis ... or the Phish song "Wilson," Welker hinted.
He conceived the design over the course of a month and executed the poster in two weeks. "After the pen, ink, and separations were drawn, I spent a few days on color concepts," he said. "At the last minute, I handed it over to my wife and our intern for their input. It has a feminine touch with the magenta, lavender, and neon greens – it's more fun than the colors I'd been using, which were somber and had an old-storybook feeling." The 22-by-14-inch, six-color screen print with a full bleed of metallic silver is inked on Madero Beach paper.
Welker also made a 4.25-by-6-inch, three-color screen print for Phish's newly released box set recorded live on December 7, 1995 in Niagara Falls. "It's a sweet little image," Welker remarked. "I spent a lot of time in Niagara Falls and it has sentimental value for me because my parents lived up there for a while. I studied the falls and one of my previous mentors used to do huge paintings of the crest and currents, so I tried to capture that with pen and paper."
On Tour: Phish, the Melvins, and Alkaline Trio
Some of the season's paramount concerts – for non-Beyoncé worshippers – were promoted by B&A illustrators. Phish asked Jeff Soto to develop a poster for the group's Lake Tahoe show, held at the end of last month. He came up with the design after reading about Lake Tahoe's version of the Loch Ness monster.
"Tahoe Tessie is a snake-like creature that has been seen for decades," Soto explained. "I chose to portray Tessie as a mystical water goddess, rising from the lake with her pet cat. It's unclear if the campers below are performing a type of summoning spell over the fire, or just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Or maybe it's the wrong place to be!"
Both David Welker and Tara McPherson produced bills for the Melvins' 30th anniversary tour. Welker's tricolor, hand-pulled screen print features Clarence the Clown, "who ran amuck with a chainsaw one fine Sunday afternoon at the carnival following one too many clown jokes," the artist said. "I chose this character for the Melvins because the band is an odd blend of punk, art, and metal."
McPherson's protagonist is a girl led astray by a false heart, with a paper replacement pinned to her chest, drawn using glow-in-the-dark inks and metallics. McPherson also lent her hand to the upcoming Alkaline Trio and New Found Glory tour: "The inspiration was taken from the twins in the 'Shining,' and the poster illustrated the unbreakable bond they have – a reference to the co-headlining acts – with a ghostly, Victorian feel."
David Welker for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
David Welker works with LA-based indie rock band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to create an ambitious pen and ink drawing for their June 2013 tour. The band takes their psychedelic aesthetic beyond music and applies it to their visual branding, bringing in talented illustrators like David to create intricated drawings.
David's illustration is a show poster for the band's concert in Portland, Maine, which they played earlier this month. The lettering and imagery weave together creating a look that straddles the line between reality and fantasy.
Recent Illustrations by David Welker
David Welker has been drawing up a storm with several new projects. The latest is a limited edition screen print poster for country music superstar Eric Church. The poster was commissioned for his upcoming Valentine's Day show in Ontario, Canada.
Continuing on the music theme, Welker created an 8-layer screen print poster for Furthur's New Years Run, a 3 night show at the Bill Graham Auditorium in San Francisco. The legendary surviving frontmen of The Grateful Dead, Bob Weir and Phish Lesh, are continuing their decades long musical journey as the band Furthur. The commemorative limited edition poster sold out and has become another sought after collector's item.
Welker was commissioned by the Peter Tunney Gallery to create an inspirational piece for The Peter Tunney Experience. The limited edition screen print reflects the spirit of the legendary New York artist and gallery owner Peter Tunney.
Finally, Welker was amongst several top poster artists invited by Blunt Graffix to create tribute pieces to iconic illustrator Big Daddy Roth. Welker was asked to cover Ken Kesey's Bus. Welker used elements from Underground Comix, The Merry Pranksters, and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in this psychedelic illustration.