(Photo: Screen grab/WAGA-TV))
President George W. Bush has discovered a new talent since leaving the White House, and when he's not clearing brush at his central Texas ranch or mountain biking with military veterans, he's painting landscapes and portraits of family pets.
Art instructor Bonnie Flood, who holds workshops for aspiring artists in Cumming, Ga., and in Florida, worked with the former leader of the free world and one of Bush's sisters-in-law for one month, six hours a day, perfecting their brush strokes and encouraging the president to paint landscapes.
"He's picked it up so quick, it just was amazing, actually," said Flood, who told WAGA-TV that Bush is "going to go down in the history books as a great artist."
Flood is a master at painting landscapes, still life and abstracts using oil on canvas, but she told the station that she had never painted one object that Bush is most fond of: dogs.
"He started off painting dogs and I think he said he's painted 50 dogs," said Flood, who traveled to Boca Grande, Fla., to teach the former president how to enhance his techniques. "He pulls out this canvas, and starts painting a dog, and I said, 'Oh my, I don't paint dogs.'"
Soon after, Flood was able to convince Bush to progress from canine portraits to another passion of his, Texas landscapes.
"His whole heart is in it," said Flood, who offers regular workshops to anyone who's interested in learning how to paint oil on canvas or hone their artistic skills. "When I would really want him to do something, I would say, 'Mr. President, you know that you don't do it that way.'"
Unsure of how she was supposed to greet Bush – who's known for giving friends and reporters nicknames based in their characteristics – Flood told WAGA-TV that she made the decision to call the 43rd Presdient of the United States, just "43."
"Actually, I called him 43, because that's the way he signed his paintings," she said, complementing Bush on his talent and passion for painting.
Flood also told the station that although Bush is a great painter, his sister-in-law is even better.
Former President Bush and his wife, Laura, will host dedication ceremonies for the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on April 25, and a public opening on May 1 in Dallas, Texas.
Both have been working on issues pertaining to global health, women's rights, education reform, economic growth and human freedom through the Bush Institute.
The institute also includes a Military Service Initiative, in which Bush hosts two annual events for wounded military veterans who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan: the Warrior 100-kilometer mountain bike ride, and the Warrior Open, a competitive golf tournament.