Its almost over now ...
July 4, 2008 · Updated 11:28 AM
When the now-infamous charcoal drawing that once hung on the wall inside Chamarros Restaurant was sold on eBay two weeks ago, Mel Sablan thought he had lost a family heirloom forever. On Ash Wednesday, however, he got the surprise of his life: one of his own Bremerton customers purchased the drawing off the online auction house and wants to give it back to Sablan.
Yes, give with only one string attached.
For every million he gets, give me a buck and a handshake, said David Logan, who owns Pied Piper Emporium in downtown Bremerton and who got the high bid on the auction.
Logan said he purchased the painting with the intent of giving it back to Sablan.
The prominence of the piece is not worth anything if its not on Sablans wall, Logan said.
Logan will not disclose how much he paid for the drawing, but did say there was one other bidder in the process.
The sketch was put on EBay after a two-month ordeal Sablan and his wife, Jalynda, are eager to put behind them. The ordeal began in December, when mural artist Peter Teekamp saw the drawing on the wall and told Sablan it might be an original work of Paul Gauguin.
Teekamp is a 30-plus year student of Gauguin and believes his soul is the reincarnation of Gauguin, according to information on his Web site. Teekamp is writing a book about Gauguin and said he was interested in the sketch because finding a genuine Gauguin would be the perfect ending for his book. His book parallels events in his life to events in Gauguins life and builds the case that he believes he is the reincarnation of Gauguin and his co-author, Michelle Moshay is the reincarnation of Gauguins wife.
The drawing had been in Sablans family for four generations and he got it because he is the eldest male in his family, he said.
The sketch in question was titled Tahitian Women, which Gauguin sketched in his first of two trips to Tahiti. The sketch would have been the precursor the painting, as Gauguin used charcoal sketches to create the outlines for his painting. While he sketched, he used a type of carbon copy paper to create duplicates. The duplicates became the paintings.
Sablans great-grandmother somehow acquired it and kept it rolled up in a protective sleeve. The great-grandmother passed it down to her daughter, Sablans grandmother, who lived in Guam. When the Japanese invaded Guam in 1941, the family fled its home and took up residence in a cave. One of the few possessions Sablans grandmother took was the charcoal sketch, still in its protective sleeve.
The Sablans family history fits into the time line of the original sketch, which was done in 1891.
Within a week of the two meeting, $5,000 changed hands between Teekamp and Sablan. Teekamp said he bought the painting outright, but Sablan said on Wednesday the cash was a loan and an investment in the sketch.
Teekamp said the document the two signed said Bill of Sale at the top when it was signed, while Sablan said it did not.
Sablan handed the sketch over to Teekamp so Teekamp and his business associate/co-author Michelle Moshay could get it authenticated.
Both parties agreed that if the drawing ever were sold at an auction, Teekamp would receive the $5,000 back, then they would split the rest.
Sablan intended to split his portion with his nine brothers and sisters if the sketch were ever sold, he said.
Teekamp said in court he told Sablan it would take years to get the painting authenticated.
Sablan, who spoke for the first time about the drawing on Wednesday, said Teekamp never told him it would take years for the authentication process.
Once the drawing changed hands, Sablan said Teekamp told him there was an auction in France seven weeks from that date and Teekamp intended to auction the sketch at that auction, a statement Moshay denies.
Sablan said he was afraid that if the sketch ever left the country, he would never see it again. At that point, Sablan panicked and called a cousin of his in Seattle who works for D. Michael Tomkins, an attorney, and requested help. He also called in another cousin who is an attorney, Vincent Torres. Torres attended Michigan State and currently lives out of the country and had to get the courts permission to help with the case.
Sablan had a restraining order filed to keep Teekamp from leaving the country with sketch.
The sketch was confiscated by the Kitsap County Sheriffs Department, which kept it in the County Clerks office for about a month. Superior Court Judge M. Kathlynn Haberly set a deadline for Sablan to retrieve the sketch for $5,000 bail. One deadline passed, so Haberly set another deadline, which also passed without Sablan paying the bail.
While the sketch was in custody, Sablans attorney filed a lawsuit contending the sketch still legally belonged to him.
On Friday, Feb. 6, the sketch was returned to Teekamp.
Within hours, Teekamp put the sketch on eBay under the title In honor of Paul. The lowest asking price was $1,000.
Of the move to put the sketch on eBay, Teekamp said: I dont know and I dont care. It is my print. Ill do exactly what I want with it. Does that make sense?
Sablan maintains that he never intended to sale the sketch. In the past, he has refused several offers on it.
Its a family heirloom, he said. Its been in my family for years and years. Im not just going to give it up.
He also said at some point, the situation got completely out of hand and his only interest was protecting his family heirloom whether it was a genuine Gauguin or not.
Now that the print is on its way back home on the wall at Chamarros Sablan feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
When he received the news via a phone call that the eBayer who purchased the sketch wants to give it to him, he broke down in tears. When he hung up the phone, he turned to his wife and said, Its coming back.
Sablan and his wife had convinced themselves the person who purchased the sketch attended their church, Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. They had to collectively rack their brains to remember who Logan was.
Finally, it dawned on them: He is a customer at Chamarros who always waves at them when he sees them. Hes an angel, Sablon said.
Once this chapter of their life is over and the sketch is back on the wall, the Sablans have another decision to make. They are considering whether or not to close their restaurant.
The two have lost a lot of business and havent been able to recuperate. The restaurant is the cornerstone of their life, Sablan said.
Once you come in our restaurant, you become family, he said. All customers are greeted with a hug and the Sablans are more than generous with their food portions.
The Sablans are concerned that the hoopla surrounding the sketch may have scared their customers away and, because they were advised to not talk to the press, that they were not portrayed in the press as who they really are.
Were nice people, Sablan said. He and his wife regularly attend church and form an instant connection with everyone they meet.
On the business side, the two have never refused customers and do everything they can to make their customers comfortable and happy.
If customers want the restaurant to stay open, all they have to do is patronize us.
The Sablans will have to make their decision on the restaurant within a couple of weeks.