Key West is a fun place. If you’ve never been there, it is definitely a ‘must see’ destination. The only complaint I have is about a store where I purchased a chocolate chip cookie, foolishly without checking the price first, and then parting with $5.00 plus tax for one cookie. Yes, it was bigger than the usual cookie, but it was still a cookie, not a cake or a pie. On principal, I never pay more for anything than I think it is worth because, in the immortal words of a friend of mine, it only encourages the bastards. Just because you can afford to do something doesn’t mean that you should.
The cookie wasn’t even that good.
By way of contrast, I got a great deal on some art. On Duval Street, I stopped to look at some woodcut prints which were displayed on the sidewalk by a young artist. They looked vaguely familiar and I was taken with their simple beauty. A sign said that they were ‘free,’ but that donations were accepted. It sounded like yet another attempt to ensnare the gullible, so I passed on by. The dramatic images stayed in my head and, after we returned from our stroll down Duval Street, I stopped to have another look.
I’m glad I did. The young artist was none other than Earl Washington. If you are a regular reader of Forbes, you may remember a lengthy article about him in the magazine. Washington, the story went, claimed to have found hundreds of old woodcuts created by (if I remember correctly) a great-grandfather. Washington then started to make prints from the woodcuts and sold them to buyers who were, as I am, appreciative of their compelling beauty.
I remember thinking, when I read the article, that the story sounded too fishy to be true, that Washington was surely the real artist, and that he was also gifted with a flair for self-promotion. I also hoped that I would one day love to come across some of the prints.
Washington had operated originally out of Michigan, but there he was, on Duval Street in Key West, giving away the prints, according to the sign above the art, for free. I chatted with Washington for a bit and asked him what sort of a ’donation’ he would consider for each print I picked. He stated that he usually ’got’ $5.00 or $6.00 per print. I picked three female nudes, Washington signed each of them, and I gave him $21.00. It was more than he usually ’got,’ but I was the one who walked away feeling like I got the better end of the deal.
There may be thousands of the prints that I purchased in circulation. I don’t care. I am going to value these prints at least as much as the signed Dali serigraph I bought over twenty years ago for several thousand dollars. I am going to have the prints framed and I will gaze lovingly at them for decades to come.
There are numerous sites selling Washington prints on the internet for $100.00 each and up, some sites still claiming the fake heritage for the artwork. Earl Washington might be a scoundrel, but he is a good artist. I looked at a lot of other art in Key West and it was all syrupy, wishy-washy pretentious crap, compared to Washington’s stuff. But that’s typical, isn’t it?
Washington has been in Key West for about five months and appears to want to stay there. I don't blame him. Look him up if you ever find yourself on Duval Street.
Oh yes, the rest of Key West was lovely too.