George W. Bush: 'People are surprised I can even read'

Former President George W. Bush knows that his retirement hobby of painting has surprised many, but he said in an interview published Sunday he takes "great delight in bursting stereotypes."

“People are surprised,” Bush told the Dallas Morning News. “Of course, some people are surprised I can even read."

The former president's paintings were first disclosed when a hacker known as "Guccifer" posted a series of Bush family emails online. The paintings included self portraits of the former president and paintings of dogs; Bush's painting teacher subsequently revealed he had painted hundreds of pictures.

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In the interview, Bush said he now takes lessons once a week and primarily works on pets, landscapes, and still-lifes.

“It’s a way to create,” Bush said. “I enjoy creating. … You can express yourself in a way that’s unique.”

Bush said he was encouraged to paint after his wife, Laura, showed Dallas artist Pamela Nelson some of the former president's doodles. Bush said Nelson's urging and the book Painting as a Pastime — written by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill — convinced him to give the hobby a shot.

Nevertheless, Bush quipped that his signature — a simple "43," a reference to the order of his presidency — "is more valuable than the painting.”

Bush's presidential library will open later this month in Dallas. Presidents Obama, Clinton, Carter, and Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush all plan to attend the ceremony.