Grateful Dead

All In The Family: Kyle Field

We're proud to add acclaimed visual artist Kyle Field to the list of gifted folks who work so hard to carry on the spirit of the Grateful Dead's iconic imagery - not to mention their musical legacy. Get to know the all around multi-talented fellow who designed the original artwork for Hampton '79 in an exclusive video and interview.

Let’s start by taking a look at your history as an artist…when you got started, how you got started, and your influences.

I began drawing at an early age before I could speak if I remember correctly. I started copying other drawings and trying to draw things from life... I drew a profile portrait of my dad in pencil one night in the living room when I was nine and it was exciting...It was a pretty close representation. I liked MC Escher, Shel Silverstein, comic book art and illustrations in school books actually. I drew a see-through shark in elementary school. You could see the insides, intestines, liver, heart, the whole business. The following year my teacher gave me a shark to dissect, the rest of the class got frogs! I really enjoyed looking around at varying styles and imperfections in images were sometimes my favorite parts - the parts where they fell short. I imagine that I began imitating some of these shortcomings, stylistic warpings. I can remember seeing other people's handwriting and imitating it - my handwriting shifted around a bit depending on who I was sitting next to in class. So I think in some sense there is a voyeuristic leaning to many things I do in my pictures. Half of the time I am repeating an image that I have seen in the world in some sense, reacting to an image I was shown, you know? I truly feel like I got to witness great drawings being made in art classes in high school. Everyone's heads were down. We would talk but we were also pushing each other. I studied art throughout school and into college and graduated from UCLA in 1998. I continue to be influenced and still feel young in it.

What elements of the Grateful Dead's artwork and imagery appeal to you? And why?

Skeletons have always been one of my favorite things to draw. I thought that the Grateful Dead had it made when it came to artwork and all that could be done with their imagery. I remember seeing a glass case dedicated to the Grateful Dead in our video store as a kid. It was a video store that also sold records and tapes. The artwork looked adult but more magical. The Steal Your Face logo obviously zapped me immediately. I didn't hear the music until years later but was excited to find out that I liked the music as much as the artwork. It felt friendly and inclusive. I really love how all of the artwork, official and bootleg, has fed off of each other over the years. It's a cultural legacy that I feel lucky to be a part of.

Tell us a little bit about the process of creating the artwork for the Dead's Record Store Day release.

It was totally exciting, the prospect of doing some art work for the Grateful Dead. I submitted about five audition drawings. I would wake up and listen to their music and try and come up with one Grateful Dead drawing a day and send to Rhino. The first one was "Deal," you know with a dealer and a POV skeleton, holding his cards and smoking, the gambler himself. A few more followed including "Dead Man's" which is loosely based on the "Dead Set" artwork which I have always loved so much. The Dead team was really enthusiastic. They seemed to enjoy what I was sending in and let me know it which was helpful. Then the show got picked and I found out where it was recorded and what the Hampton Coliseum looked like. I wanted a skeleton hand holding a ticket on the front and a skeleton face on the back, and they weren't connected so it could either be one or two skeletons involved. They played "I need a miracle" at the show so I thought this was the miracle moment. To me it is either one Dead Head giving another Dead Head a ticket or one Dead Head showing the ticket that they just got, and the idea that it could be a man or a woman as well. We toyed with a few modifications and went back and forth, you know, the way things get made. Before I knew it we were done and all of the sudden I'm here trying to explain it. I really love how it turned out and am thankful for all the help from everyone involved.

You are also a musician, how has the Dead influenced your sound?

The importance of lyrics and storytelling, color and mood; the idea of timeless music and the will of a group of people who all help it grow. The notion of different versions of songs, that the song has unlimited versions of itself and that each one is relevant to every other one, that they help to define each other.

We hear you often perform Dead covers. Which of their songs do you gravitate towards and why?

I played a few of my favorites here, too many to name because I like them all, but these are the ones I got close to figuring out. I like songs that bring out feelings and ring with memories and emotions. It's sort of surreal to be recording these songs in association with this release and then sending it out for all to hear, but I feel a real connection to these songs and am glad to be able to offer a few simple renditions here. There is a sort of nostalgic feeling for the past that I get from "Box Of Rain." "Unbroken Chain"reminds me of a dark blue Renaissance fair. "Eyes Of The World" feels like the word "YES" printed in all caps.

Kyle Field Grateful Dead Art

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zepthompson's picture
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Joined: Nov 1 2010
who or where?

I like it

wilfredtjones's picture
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Joined: Jun 4 2007
i still can't get over the back cover yet.

It's too good.

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Joined: Apr 10 2008
Hey, Kyle Field!

Thank you for the music, art, and good vibes. I especially like the work with the surfer looking over the bay. I've always been a fan of Dead Set cover art and am also a surfer so I like how you combined the two concepts and highlight a relaxed moment of a surfer in a rugged place.

I'm curious about your music and band. Liked the Dead songs you played on this page and how you adapted them and made them your own.

Thanks again, Kyle. I like your art.

EdTheHead's picture
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Joined: Oct 16 2013
wow.. got another one rare as it is...

What a coincidence. Same day I post about my preference for a CD copy of Hampton '79 and hardly if ever getting a defective CD compared to a record, last week I bought Road Trips Vol 1 #1, and disc #2 won't play past track 5 at 8:10. Very defective. Sooooo... I get to find out what Dead net does about replacing a defective CD.

To those who buy and lock 'em away sealed.. good luck!

darkstartheotherone@yahoo.com's picture
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Joined: Nov 3 2007
CD Please...

I'd also like this on cd so here's hoping they decide to put it out.

EdTheHead's picture
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Joined: Oct 16 2013
Lookin' forward to...

the CD! Where's it at?

I have lots of "vinyl" records and proper equipment to play them on, but main reason I have that is because my records go back 20 years before CDs existed, and I have plenty that have never been released on CD. I enjoy both, but prefer NOT to buy new records. My experience is they still don't have all the quality control issues solved, like surface noise, off-center, warpage, never will. And it's a lot harder today to take back a defective record to the record store and exchange for another one. I think I've had two defective CDs I had to return since 1983.

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Joined: Aug 27 2008
The best artwork here is

The best artwork here is the basketball player, too, marye.

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Joined: Aug 27 2008
I wish this vinyl show was released on CD

I wish this vinyl show was released on CD and vinyl, I'd rather have it on CD.

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Joined: Aug 27 2008
Kyle Field's artwork

At first sight, I thought this is terrible, below GDP/Rhino's standards, then I watched the video and read the interview. Now I like it, it's just a bit different than what I was expecting. I look at the Spring 90 and May 77 boxes - this fits it. I like it now.
I hope I can score this vinyl today at my local record store, and not pay a fortune on ebay.
Thanks to all who got this show (or part of the show) released.

PatagonianFox's picture
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Joined: Oct 25 2011
may they all become crack houses.

record stores have outlived their usefulness. i live in a city with 2 quality record stores, and i haven't set foot in either of them in years. i prefer to buy used CDs if possible, and i can get exactly what i want online without much effort. at first i felt bad about it, but let's face it most people who work at record stores are dicks anyway. the characters in the film 'high fidelity' might have been caricatures, but they weren't far off from reality. i haven't bought vinyl since 1990, and i'll put my collection up against anyone's.

the artwork for this release is pretty bad, especially the one of the basketball player. no one shoots a basketball like that. you're supposed to use your off-hand to stabilize the ball.

dave needs to retire!

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