Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Buried Treasure RELOADED

Dawn’s First Cup of Fascination

About a week ago, Seth Apter of The Altered Page Blog posted a second call for hosts of Art Blogs to repost one or two of their ‘ancient’ posts and then link to his Blog (as I did above) where he would post a list of all the Art Blogs that agreed to participate in his Buried Treasure, Part Deux. Since I’ve only had the blog up since February, I doubt any of mine could be considered old. The first time around I got little work done at my own drawing table while feasting my eyes on all the eye-candy I’d been missing in the blogosphere, and I don’t expect anything different this time. Let’s get on with it!

I was perhaps four or five years old when my folks took me to the opening of the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. That trip started me on a fabulous artistic voyage that continues even today.

It wasn’t an easy task to get me to write a Thank You to Grandpa and Grandma for the presents they sent, but after seeing what Russell did on envelopes and letters, I was hooked – for life. From that day forward, as long as I could draw something on paper to “go-with” the thank you, I was a happy, but not very wordy letter writer.

In late January of this year, my wife and I made a fascinating trip to Seattle that included a side excursion to Saltspring Island, BC. We stayed in Seattle with my sister Penny and her husband Chuck, and she and her daughter Dalwyn graciously agreed to guide me to Canada to meet the author and artist Nick Bantock in his studio. Penny was the tour guide and Dalwyn the pilot. Myself, I was just along for the ride.

For those of you who don’t know who Nick Bantock is – he’s the author and artist of the best selling Trilogy, Griffin and Sabine, two artists that exist only in Nick’s world. Griffin lives in London and creates postcards. Sabine lives on one of the (fictitious) Sicmon Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and creates postage stamps for the islands. They carry on a correspondence, and the reader is allowed to ‘share’ it.

How did I end up in Nick’s studio? My oldest sister Penny and my youngest sister Judy were shopping one day in Seattle a number of years ago and saw Griffin and Sabine, took one look at the cover, and decided that this was a book that I would appreciate – and I did.

Nick has also written a book called Urgent 2nd Class, which is truly an artist’s guide to utilizing ephemera as a part of your art. We spent the afternoon looking at his art firsthand, and I came away from his studio with the idea of giving old paper a second life with a different twist than Nick’s.

The first thing that I did after returning to Helena was to visit the local antique shops. Whereas Nick was incorporating various pieces of old paper into his art, I struck upon the idea of finding old paper that had references to something I could portray visually – on the paper itself.

The second shop I visited had no paper but for a large two gallon baggie full of sheet music for the princely sum of $7.00. I hadn't intended to even look through it, but it happened to be the only paper that was in this shop, and I was somehow compelled to look. I leafed through the contents and near the bottom I found what amounted to a ‘book’ entitled "Un Giorno In Venezia", or “A Day in Venice”. It included four songs "for the Pianoforte", which was the forerunner to the piano. This small music ‘book’ was published in 1898, and although there were no pencil marks or penned names included, the lower right corner and entire bottom edge of all the pages were badly foxed and the lower right corner of the opening page, "Dawn", was stained from being thumbed as that first page was turned - perhaps hundreds of times. It hooked me.

I contemplated what to do with this find for several days and remembered that my sister's husband, Chuck Pefley, had been to Venice and perhaps had some pictures which would help me give this music a second life that didn't include being stifled in a large baggie. I perused his site until I found this picture of a cup of coffee, taken while it perched on the railing of the balcony outside the apartment he stayed in while he was in Venice - at Dawn. I immediately knew what Dawn needed - and that was a cup of coffee.

What you see is the result of "wedding" the vision of one artist with that of another, and "First Cup" now hangs on the wall.

And while you're at it, you might want to look at Chuck’s Blog Post for June 18th to see what the Fascination is all about.


  1. I find this type of art very interesting and of course the story is just as enchanting. thank you for visiting my blog so i could visit yours. MB

  2. Dave, nice story ... and as MB says, quite enchanting. History there I didn't know. And like that small Montana boy, I'm also very content when making or working with photos. The creative life is a full and enlivened life. Fresh air with each new find, and deeper appreciation through each new creation.

    Thanks for the credit and links -:)

  3. Interesting post. I read the whole thing. As for doing something with Howard's envelopes, I only have 8-10 of them but will see if I can do something without too much effort.

  4. What a marvelous document, a glorious post, and an inspiration to parents to force their children to write thank you messages. It might just lead to an artistic life!

  5. Great story. The artwork is great as well!

  6. Found your blog on Buried Treasure Part1 & really enjoyed it. This post is a fascination read. I love old paper too (great Blog title!) & have collected a little thanks to the Bannock books. My latest is a very old Hershey candy box. I'm sure it will pop up in my work somewhere.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. What an interesting story. Thanks for the reposting.

  8. Your very entertaining clever post on my blog brought me right over to meet you and see who could write such a marvelous little temptation. I am not disappointed. Your post here is beautifully written and I am already fascinated by your journey, what has already passed and what is yet to come. I share your fixation on vintage papers, though I haven't had the guts to use the actual pieces I've collected. I scan them and use them that way so that I always have the virgin, albeit old, pieces of history and art to hold and feel and appreciate. Anyway, I loved the little side trips you took us on through your post and have enjoyed your many other posts below. I will be back! Thanks for your visit!

  9. Wonderful post Dave, great marriage of ideas and execution. Mmmm, old paper, yummm. I too used to write thankyou letters to grandparents as a child but didn't do anything as artistic as yourself with the paper, just wrote wordy tomes, but you probably already guessed that, LOL!I must admit to being sooo jealous of your trip to Nick Bantock's studio. LOVE this man's work and actually have a few pics of his artwork hanging about here on the inspiration board. What a treat that would have been! Thank you so much for popping in to see my post as well, it's great to hear from others out in cyber space!

  10. I love you telling about this journey into the meaning of what you created! Thanks.

  11. Nick Bantock! What a thrill. The cup is lovely as is Chuck's Web site. Such great photos! Thanks for "introducing" us. Putting the cup with the sheet music was inspiration. In fact, when I looked at it a second time, enlarged, it looked like above the musical staffs there were wafts of steam arising from the cup. Glad to meet you - Jeanne in Oregon

  12. how awesome a trip for you!!!
    nothing can compare to inspiring studio tours..
    and you came away with tons...yay
    so very nice to have met you on these 2 meet and you know
    you aren't that far away...should you decide to road trip a little south and then east
    stop by!
    i can't say my studio is as inspiring as his
    you might come away with a little scratch or two of something

  13. I really, really like this piece (ok, doesn't hurt that I am an avid coffee drinker with the middle name of Dawn, but even if that WEREN'T the case) ... the placement of the cup, movement of the notes, the peacock ... simply like this a lot. :)