As he unveiled portraits of world leaders Friday, former President George W. Bush said he doesn't want people to get the idea that he is some great artist.
Bush’s exhibit, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” includes portraits of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the artist's father, former President George H.W. Bush.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library this month is exploring Bush’s relationship with world leaders through watercolors with the 24-portrait exhibit.
Bush told an anecdote in which Putin “dissed” his dog and later showed off, bragging about his own "bigger, stronger and faster" pet.
"I just took it in, I didn't react," he said. "I just said, 'Wow, anybody who thinks "my dog is bigger than your dog" is an interesting character,' and that painting kind of reflects that."
Bush said he had a good relationship with Putin throughout his presidency, though it became more tense as time went on.
"Vladimir is a person who in many ways views the U.S. as an enemy, and, although he wouldn't say that, I felt that he viewed the world as either the U.S. benefits and Russia loses or vice versa. I tried of course to dispel him of that notion," he said.
Bush called it a joyful experience to paint his father, saying, "I painted a gentle soul." He said Blair's portrait is of a compassionate, strong and reliable friend.
The former president said he paints a lot because he is a driven person. He took up the hobby after reading Winston Churchill's essay "Painting as a Past time."
Bush’s art hobby was revealed in 2013 when a hacker posted a number of shower and bathroom self-portraits. Since then, Bush has talked openly about his art.