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Friday, November 28, 2014

George W. Bush

George W. Bush Self-portrait
Probably the only former president
to do a self-portrait in the nude.
Although I've certainly no great love for the man, his policies, or his place in history, it's hard for this pensioned off former art teacher to disparage the art of former President George W. Bush. Let me say from the start, as an artist George W. is a brave man. As a former president not exactly beloved by either his own party or the opposition, to put himself out there as an amateur artist, essentially "naked to the world," willing to accept all the ridicule, derision, and laughter of pundits, art critics, and those who know even less about art than he does...that takes guts. Perhaps his two self-portraits bathing reflect a realization of this likelihood certainty, and a self-defensive posture in anticipation of it. I'm not sure that even I, as an experienced artist, would be daring enough to paint a self-portrait in the shower or bathtub.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, George W. Bush
Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush
As an art educator, far be it for me to ridicule the work of any amateur artist. Although George W. seems to have a pretty healthy ego, I'd be the last one to risk discouraging him by making fun of his honest efforts or their outcome. However, I'm not above rendering some honest, constructive criticism as I see fit. My first suggestion would be NOT to paint any more portraits...not for quite sometime anyway. An amateur artist should learn to handle color, composition, brush technique, anatomy, perspective, and a whole list of other skills before even thinking of tackling faces. Now having said that, one or two of Bush's portraits are what I'd call "not half bad." His Tony Blair portrait (above) may be his best. And as for expressively capturing the true nature of his subject's persona, Bush's sad, clown-faced portrait of Saddam Hussein (right) would be quite impressive from any artist. His televised Jay Leno portrait (below) was a humorous image very appropriate for a humorous guy. Beyond those, I have nothing good to say about his portraits so I won't say it.

Bush does Leno.
Bush's work has a number of strengths, especially in terms of his landscapes, of which he should do more, and his handling of his beloved house pets, Barney and his feline friend, Bob (below, who in the world would name a cat "Bob"?) Both areas of content are ideal for those wishing to learn to paint. I should also say that his choice of Bonnie Flood as his art teacher was an excellent one. She has brought him along nicely from his earliest, simplistic "dog portraits" to his efforts today. My only criticism with her efforts is that she may have moved him along too rapidly. She should had insisted upon more time to learn to draw so as not to have to struggle with that aspect as he learned to paint. But how do you tell a former president to "slow down"?

Barney and Bob, by George
President Vladimir Putin by
(former) President George W. Bush.
I could be snide and say that George W. Bush is a better painter than he was president, but I won't. I'll leave that to the historians and political pundits. I'll just say he shows promise and dedication to becoming better. From an amateur painter, who can ask more? Some, who have seen Bush's most recent work would claim he displays neither. It goes without saying that had he not been President he'd be not selling his work at sidewalk art shows. So far as I know, none of his paintings are for sale. He probably doesn't need the money. If I were his art instructor I'd aim him in the direction of still-lifes of the modern west, at contemporary landscapes (the "old" West has been done to death). And if he feels he must paint faces, he should stick to character studies rather than instantly identifiable world leaders. Even though he's no longer president, there's no need to make the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, angry by making him look like a...oops...I promised not to unduly criticize. Sorry.

A landscape featuring the Bush ranch.
Perhaps, but its convenient.


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