In February, he embarked on a tour to promote Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors
, an anthology of these veteran paintings. Along the way, Bush charmed audiences and joked with TV personalities on talk shows, waxing poetic about embracing his “inner
Journalists from various publications duly issued warnings about “normalizing” the former president. They reminded audiences that Bush’s current, painterly persona does nothing to redeem the actions he took while in office—something, they noted, that can feel particularly tempting in light of the current administration.
Within the art community, many have warily admitted that Bush has a way with paint. He’s developed his style over the years, working with a string of artist teachers including
, and Bonnie Flood.
It was Norfleet, however, who first introduced him to painting half a decade ago. “He was looking for a new project,” she recalls. Already an avid golfer and bike rider, as well as an active participant in the programming of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Norfleet notes that “he needed a new challenge.”
She started him off just as she would any novice in a beginner painting class. “I am fairly traditional,” she says of her teaching style. Her classes begin with exercises to explore oil paint and brushes, before moving on to work with colors, transitions from light to shadow, and, finally, to painting still lifes.
Without fellow students, she worried that the former world leader might be irked by her hovering over his shoulder and critiquing his technique. On the contrary, he reminded her, “I’m used to scrutiny.”