Sunday, March 8, 2009

The long promised Nick Bantock story

I've mentioned a couple of times in my blog that I would tell the story of how I met my artistic inspiration - Nick Bantock - but never quite got around to it. So six months have gone by, in some ways feels like longer as my life has been very busy with my paying job these days and all, but here you go. Yes, it's a bit of a long story, nothing goes boom, no dreadfully exciting payoff - no impossibly cute vampires named Edward, despite Pacific Northwest setting of story...

I was on vacation in Washington state last August for a wedding. We spent a few days in Vancouver, BC, Canada and then took the ferry to Victoria which is on Vancouver Island. Now anyone who has visited Vancouver Island will ask, "Did you see Butchart Gardens?" (It's kind of the main attraction to see.) Answer is, well, no. I really do like gardens, but we only had a day, and about three miles from Vancouver Island is Salt Spring Island - where, you guessed it, Nick's studio "The Forgetting Room" is located. Well this just seemed to be too good to miss, so after having arrived at expensive B&B in Victoria, I promptly asked the husband if we could maybe not spend the next day in Victoria at all, but instead could we rent a car ($50+fuel), buy ferry tickets ($60), get up early to get on the ferry (vacation?) and spend the entire day trying to find an artist's studio? If we got done early enough, perhaps we could see the gardens...

Happily I am married to a very supportive husband; besides, he's had to trek across muddy and cow-pat laden fields all over southern England for me to see some prehistoric rock or another before, so he's used to these things. This was comparatively mild by comparison. So, he rents the car, we get up early, we drive 25 miles to the ferry terminal, and find out we JUST missed the ferry. Next one didn't leave for another 2 hours. So much for up early. Not wanting to waste vacation time (when time truly does equal money) we visited the quaint little town of Sidney, whose motto could probably be "We're here when you miss the ferry..." A pleasant tea and croissant sitting in the sunshine watching people walk their dogs isn't a bad way to spend a morning either. As a bonus, I found the Saltspring Lavender store and we had a lovely and purpley-scented visit (even though I grow lavender myself, I always want more). The store owner suggested we should really come back that night for the summer festival and street faire. I'm not one to let a street faire or farmers market go unvisited, so events were entirely conspiring at this point to never allow me to see the Butchart gardens.

Back to the ferry terminal. I really enjoyed the car ferry, as you can stand out on the deck and watch all these gorgeous islands pop up out of the blue green sparkly sea, plus work on your tan. (Over the course of several ferry rides during the week, my arm hairs bleached blonde! I'm viewing this as practically a BOGO - buy one car transport, get blond hair free. My head remained brown however).
We pull into the tiny town of Ganges - only town on the whole island - and pull out trusty GPS to find the studio. A few wonderful winding miles through tall trees with occasional glimpses of the sparkling sea later, yep, there it was! Just off the road in a little community of artist's cottages. I was so excited I was photographing the door, the window, the "closed for lunch" sign.
Well, nothing for it but back to town, and a bit of lunch ourselves. But first, a visit to Sabine's Bookstore and the Nick Bantock room! Yes, my first glimpse of a real NB painting, in the flesh (well, paint) and first editions of his books, and editions in Japanese, and signed copies, oh my! More money flies out window. I feel at this point that if I actually did get to meet him it would be practically a bonus, and really, what would I say anyway that wouldn't totally embarrass me in a fangirl sort of way. Lunch was delicious - local crab and white wine on the shaded patio of a cafe next to the town yoga studio, with a view of the marina. You can do worse.

Back in the car, winding roads, tall trees, yep, there it is again. And the door was open! In we stepped, to be greeted by a very friendly British woman "Hi, I'm Joyce" (much later turns out she's Nick's wife), who encourages us to look around and make ourselves at home. We chatted for a while, me babbling no doubt incoherently about how much I love the great man's work. She then says, "Do you think you can stick around for a little while? What's your name?" Me, "Oh yes" She then picks up the phone and calls him! Apparently he was off that afternoon with his son visiting from college, but not 10 minutes later this red Mini Cooper pulls up in front of the studio and out pops, well....Nick Bantock! He comes in, all smiles, and says, "Hi, you must be Jane!" to which I can think of nothing else than "You must be Nick?!" Son parked out on the back porch, he then spent the next hour walking my husband and I around the studio telling us about all the paintings, asking me about my art, just really took a lot of personal interest and time. It was like something out of a dream. To top it all off, he even gave me a set of his personal Griffin and Sabine faux poste artistamps and autographed them for me! I couldn't believe it. It's not so often you get to meet your heroes. Much less get to just hang out with them. Such a nice, funny, charming guy. Even my non-art husband was discussing art with him, and told him about how now that he had seen Nick's work, he sees the inspiration in mine and proceeded to inform Nick about my art! (blushing fiercely magenta here - but he got MASSIVE husband points for all this).

After we left, me dancing on cloud nine, we drove back to the ferry, crossed back to Vancouver Island, went to a gorgeous beach and sat on the rocks with our feet in the water, then went to Sidney's street faire, and finally got back to Victoria in time for a late dinner. It was truly one of the best days of my life.

If you're still awake by now, thank you for reading my story and clicking the links (you know you were tempted just to see what they were) :-)


Patti said...

Wow. How amazing to meet someone that you admire so much! I've been in that part of the country and it's beautiful enough, even, without such a great story! Thanks for sharing.

dianne said...

what a fabulous story! it's nice to know there are celebrities who are still down to earth & interested in how other artists are progressing...sounds so wonderful, glad you shared it

Anonymous said...

Thanx for sharing that fun story...supportive husbands are the are lucky, like I am to have someone who doesn't really get it, but loves to see you on cloud nine and does just about anything to get you there...I enjoyed your story, I love Nick's work too!!

Tina said...

What a great story. I live in Washington, been to Vancouver Island and had no idea it was that easy to visit his studio. A trip in the making I think. Thanks.