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CNHI/Southeast Iowa

August 28, 2013

Artist brings a smile to faces with his free artwork

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

"After 10 years, I'm happy just leaving it," he said. "I'm at peace knowing they will find a home."

In Washington, Bataclan started at the National Mall, which is rife with benches and dense with feet. He set up his bait: a cherry-red worm with yellow antennae and a beatific smile that could melt a butterfly's heart.

A pedestrian in a black shirt and backpack eyeballed the painting, then looked back over his shoulder to make sure that, yes, a worm was beaming at him.

"Adults are more tied into product placement and think nothing is free." said Bataclan, who has observed several distinct sociological behaviors over the years.

Another man stopped and snapped a picture of the canvas. "If my son were here," said Jala Haddad, of Oregon, "I would be asking him, 'Where do you want to put it?' " However, his son was back home, and Haddad was traveling by motorcycle and camping out for five weeks. There was no room on his bike for a happy bug.

After a few more minutes, a trio of Florida coed-types appeared. Nicole Reed broke from her pack of friends to snag the artwork.

"I was intrigued because of the bright colors, and then I read the note," said Reed, who had driven up from Gainesville, Fla., that morning. "He's coming to Gator Nation."

In Dupont Circle, pedestrians picked up the paintings as quickly as squirrels stealing bird seed. Among the recipients: a birthday girl turning 24, a family visiting from Pittsburgh (one for the 7-year-old daughter, one for the "I want what she has" 3-year-old son) and a student with the Fund for American Studies.

"I definitely can keep this promise," said Gaby Broque, the student. "I already smile a lot."

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