George W. Bush: from Governor, to President, and now Painter.
In his laid-back life since leaving the Oval office in 2009, No. 43 has occasionally piqued the public’s interest with his portraits, and on Friday, NBC highlighted a new exhibit in Bush’s presidential library, "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy."
Sitting down with his daughter and NBC correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, Bush displayed his paintings of world leaders, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama, who have yet to see his new series.
"I think they're going to [say], 'Wow. George Bush is a painter,'" said Bush, 67, of his subjects. "I mean, I'm sure when they heard that I was painting—and if they had—they're going to say, 'Wow. I look forward to seeing a stick figure he painted of me.'"
Bush hopes that they take their portraits “in the spirit in which these were painted in,” which he says was a “spirit of friendship.” “And you know, I admire them as leaders and was willing to give it a shot in terms of getting people to see how I felt about them," he added.
But the former president had few kind words to say about Putin, whom he revealed had criticized his dog Barney. “I introduced him to Putin; Putin kind of dissed him,” Bush said to his daughter. “‘You call that a dog?’ A year later, your mom and I go to visit Vladimir at his Dacha outside of Moscow and he says, ‘Would you like to meet my dog?’ Out bounds this huge hound, obviously much bigger than a Scottish Terrier. And Putin looks at me and says, ‘Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.’”
A year ago, hackers leaked a somewhat shocking line of Bush self-portraits, one of which could be called “Toes in the Tub.” Bush told his daughter that he was annoyed at the invasion of privacy, but proud of the work. "I did [it] because I wanted to kind of shock my instructor," he said. "But I also thought, you know, I wanted to learn about painting water hitting water. And it kind of shows my sense of humor, I think."