George W. Bush on making art: ‘Never paint your wife or your mother’

George W. Bush greets the public at a Nov. 20 event for his book "41: A Portrait of My Father" in Columbus, Ohio.
(Jonathan Quilter / Associated Press)

Since leaving the White House, George W. Bush has devoted a significant amount of his post-presidential time to pursuing his hobby of painting. On Sunday, the 43rd U.S. president shared one of the key creative insights he’s gleaned in his relatively young career as an artist: Never paint your wife or your mother.

Bush gave a rare interview to CNN’s “State of the Union,” in which he talked about his new book, “41: A Portrait of My Father,” which recounts the life of George H.W. Bush. In the interview with Candy Crowley, the younger Bush spoke about his father’s military service, marriage and post-White House years.

When asked about his amateur painting career, George W. Bush replied, “I’m driven to be as good as I can be. I’m a task-oriented person and every painting is a task in a sense.”


At first, he said, “I was trying to be like a Polaroid camera. I’m learning ... how to work colors, to get a different feel. I don’t know what I’d be doing -- I don’t drink anymore. I guess if I were a drinker, I’d be up there drinking away. Now I’m painting away.”

Bush’s paintings were a private hobby before they were leaked to the public a few years ago by a hacker. Since then, the former president has spoken publicly about his art and shown some of his paintings on television.

Earlier this year, the former president held his first solo art exhibition, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. The exhibition featured two dozen portraits of leaders created by Bush, as well as personal artifacts, photographs and other items.

Bush’s portrait of his father is featured in the new book. In the CNN interview, he advised artists to “never paint your wife or your mother.” He revealed that he in fact painted his wife, Laura Bush, and that she didn’t care all that much of the result.

On Sunday, Bush paid an unexpected visit to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York. It is believed to have been the first time that the former president has visited the museum since it opened to the public earlier this year.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT