Since he left office in 2008, George W. Bush has kept a pretty low profile. The 43rd president enjoys being out of the spotlight, saying that his presidential “afterlife” has been “awesome.” So what does ol’ W do to pass the quiet time in his fortress of solitude? As we noted in February, he paints dogs and eerie self portraits. And the paintings aren’t half bad either.
Bonnie Flood, an art instructor from Cumming, Georgia, recently spent a month teaching the finer points of painting to the former president and his sister-in-law Maggie. Flood mentored the prez for six hours a day on his brushwork in Boca Grande, Florida. She told Atlanta’s Fox 5 that Bush “has such a passion for painting, it’s amazing.”
Before meeting with his new instructor, the ex-POTUS had focused his artwork on man’s best friend. “I think he said he’s painted fifty dogs,” said Flood. After his beloved Scottish terrier Barney passed away earlier this year, Bush made a portrait of the pooch and posted it to his Facebook page. Bush also made this touching statement about his late companion.
Flood felt that dogs are a limiting subject for a painter and encouraged W to try his hand at landscapes. She was surprised by his progress. “He picked it up so quick,” said Flood. “It just was amazing, really. His whole heart is in it.” She also noted that he signs his paintings “43” in reference to his tenure in the White House.
Some of W’s more unusual work surfaced last month after a hacker named Guccifer broke into Bush family email accounts and leaked the contents to The Smoking Gun. The hack turned up a picture of Bush painting what appears to be a pretty decent rendering of a chapel as well as some bizarre self portraits of the president in the shower and bathtub. The shower scene, painted from the perspective of a voyeur watching Bush from behind, is a bit unnerving.
The critics are divided, according to the Huffington Post. Some experts think the paintings are amateurish at best, while others think it is shedding new light on the former most powerful man in the free world. “They’re really funny paintings,” said Michael Weiss, associate dean for fine arts at Maryland Institute College of Art. “It’s a really different picture of the guy.”
Bush is not the first ex-president to take up painting in his free time. According to the Washington Post, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower also dabbled on the canvas after leaving office. Maybe W can be the first president to land a commission for a presidential portrait. Wouldn’t it be great if 43 painted 44?