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‘The baby’ is out of jail

Peter Teekamp’s “baby” is on eBay.

The charcoal drawing that may be an original Paul Gauguin sat in the Kitsap County Clerk’s Office for more than a month before being sprung free by court order Friday, Feb. 6. Superior Court Judge M. Kathlynn Haberly released the drawing to mural artist Teekamp because Mel Sablan, owner of Chomorro’s Restaurant on Fourth Street, did not post a $5,000 bond by the Wednesday, Feb. 4 deadline.

When Haberly gave the order, Teekamp looked at Haberly and asked, “So the baby is free?”

“The baby is free and it is in your possession,” Haberly responded.

After he collected the sketch, Teekamp said he was going to put it “in a secure place. It will be in the center of the Earth. The Earth is round, so where ever it goes, that is the center.” In just a few hours, Teekamp posted the art piece on eBay under the title “In Honor of Paul.” His lowest-bid asking price is $1,000.

The sketch is described as being a “Black and white watercolor of two Tahitian women, full size with frame ... Thought to have been done by an admirer/follower of Gauguin.” The listing expires today.

The location of the sketch is listed as “North Bend, Washington” which is where Teekamp and his co-author, Michelle Moshay, are currently living.

The sketch landed in the clerk’s office by court order when attorneys for Mel Sablan, owner of Chomorro’s Restaurant, filed a restraining order keeping Teekamp away from the drawing.

Sablan’s attorney, Seattle-based Michael Tomkins, did not return phone calls for this article.

Teekamp noticed the drawing on the restaurant wall in mid-December. Teekamp had studied Gauguin’s work for almost four decades and told Sablan he believed the sketch on the wall may be an original work of Gauguin. Teekamp is working on a book about Gauguin and thought finding an original artwork would make a good ending for his book.

Gauguin is commonly regarded as a father of modern-day impressionists. During his lifetime, he was unable to sell his paintings and died flat broke and was unable to support his own children. Gauguin was facing a prison sentence at the time of his 1903 death for defying authority. After Gauguin died, most of his paintings were sold at auctions or simply destroyed.

The sketch that sparked the court-order and the lawsuit was suspected to be one entitled “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 paintings. While he sketched, he used a type of carbon copy paper to create duplicates. The duplicates became the paintings.

After a few days, Teekamp gave Sablan $5,000 for the drawing. Teekamp said he bought the sketch outright, while a lawsuit filed by Tomkins stated the money was viewed as an investment and Sablan was “coerced” into accepting it. Now, the lawsuit over the legal ownership of the drawing is still pending in Superior Court.

The two signed a contract stating that Teekamp would maintain contact with Sablan during the authentication process, which could take years. There was a clause built into the contract that if the drawing were authenticated as a Gauguin original and sold at an auction, Teekamp was going to take his original $5,000 out of the purchase price then split the proceeds with Sablan.

In court two weeks ago, Teekamp said he just wanted to hang the print on his wall.

Appearantly, he’s had a change of heart.

On Tuesday afternoon, Teekamp said he posted the sketch on eBay “as soon as I got it out. I just want to get rid of it.”

When asked if a lawsuit was still pending over ownership of the sketch, Teekamp responded “I don’t know and I don’t care. It is my print. I’ll do exactly what I want with it. Does that make sense?”

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