The art of painting by President Bush

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The Art of Painting event in the Bush Center. Photo credit: Farah Qutub

“My life has changed dramatically post-presidency. First, I’m no longer president. Second, I became a grandfather and have become an artist,” President George W. Bush said.

On Wednesday evening, roughly 300 guests filled the red velvet seats of the George W. Bush Center auditorium to listen to Bush’s life as an artist. His wife Laura emerged from behind the stage and started the conversation on how he got into painting. He started by painting his family’s dogs then advancing to more challenging subjects like world leaders.

“He always had a perspective of an artist and as a president when he painted,” the former First Lady said.

Following his wife, Bush took the stage and thanked all his partners that worked with him to make his exhibit a reality.

“We’re proud to be partners with SMU, the undefeated football team,” President Bush joked.

As the crowd erupted with laughter, he introduced the panel of his mentors, a group of unlikely friends that became his dearest acquaintances over the years.

“Gail Norfleet, Sedrick Huckaby and Jim Woodson are not only my mentors but all teachers at different universities. Here’s the theme, if you’re an artist you have to be a teacher to make a living,” Bush said.

NBC 5 anchor Meredith Land led the discussion with Bush’s first mentor Gail Norfleet. Norfleet explained how she was in shock when Bush asked to be taught by her.

“How are you going to feel about me standing behind you and criticizing your paintings?” Norfleet asked the president.

“I’m used to scrutiny,” Bush joked.

Norfleet taught Bush the basics including paintings of cubes and watermelons. He then learned to contrast colors and became adventurous with artist and mentor Woodson. Eventually, he moved on to deeper subjects including painting the portraits of 98 physically or mentally wounded veterans in his book, Portraits of Courage.

Mentor Huckaby said Bush was equally passionate about the veterans as he was with painting. Bush personally knew each of their stories.

“When content and form come together, you have a really good dynamic,” Huckaby said.

The accompanying museum Portraits of Courage at the Bush Center will continue to be on display until Oct. 17, 2017.

“Each and every piece has an important meaning and Bush took the time to paint every one of them,” Bush Center employee Meredith Barnes said.

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