David Welker (born July 30, 1964) is an American painter whose artwork on the cover of the 1993 studio album, Rift, by American rock band Phish was listed as one of the top ten album covers of all time by Relix magazine in 2007.
David Welker in NYC
July 30, 1964
Welker was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on July 30, 1964 and raised in New York suburbia. When Welker was 13, his older brother, Steve, took him to the September 3, 1977 Grateful Dead concert at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. With over 100,000 people in attendance, including New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Hell’s Angels, this early exposure to the psychedelic counterculture had a significant impact on Welker’s artistic eye and would influence his art moving forward. He later enrolled at Syracuse University to study painting, drawing, and illustration and graduated in 1986. Welker also credits the work of artists Jerome Witkin, Max Ernst, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, and Robert Crumb as major influences in his formative years.
Early career (1986-1992)
After college graduation, Welker continued painting large-scale works to build a gallery portfolio. In 1988, Welker moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he first saw the band Phish at the Paradise Club in 1989. When Welker moved to Manhattan two years later, he saw Phish again on March 19, 1992 at the Roseland Ballroom. This particular show resonated with him so much that he decided to reach out to Phish and share his artwork in hopes of a collaboration -- a decision that would forever change the course of Welker’s career.
At the same time as the Roseland Ballroom show in 1992, Welker’s artwork was being shown in a gallery on Broome Street in New York City. Welker selected two show cards from his gallery show, Staten Island Ferry and Levitator, and mailed them to Phish’s fan mail address with the message: “I would love for you to come to my show. I really enjoy your music”. Two weeks later, Welker returned home one day to Trey Anastasio’s voice on his answering machine asking him to return the call. Trey then explained that the band would like Welker to do the cover art for their upcoming album, Rift. Over the next few weeks, Welker would talk several times with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon about the specifics. Once Elektra Records and the band approved the artwork, it took Welker a total of four weeks to complete Rift. The final version of Rift, which is an oil-on-paper painting measuring 3′ x 6′, was purchased by Phish in 1996 and now hangs in the conference room at Phish headquarters in Burlington, Vermont. When Phish purchased the original Rift, they also commissioned Welker to do A Portrait of Mike Gordon. Welker has completed several additional Phish posters since then, including gig prints for Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon’s side projects.
- "Fast Enough For You? Looking Back on 25 Years of Phish's _Rift_". Relix Magazine.
- "All Things Reconsidered Interviews David Welker".
- FM, Player. "029:Posters Under The Scales podcast". player.fm. Retrieved 2019-08-12.