The lives of ex-Presidents are as varied as the men who held the office. When President Bush left office I assumed he would settle down in his beloved ranch, write his memoirs, and become a quiet political power broker. It never occurred to me that George W. Bush would turn his considerable energies towards making art. But he has pursued this difficult craft in a measured and thorough manner. Here’s how he did it.
One day in early 2012, Dallas-based artist Gail Norfleet got an unexpected phone call from her friend, fellow artist Pamela Nelson. “She said ‘Gail, I have a student for you!’” Norfleet remembers.
Norfleet had been teaching on and off for years, ever since earning her MFA from Southern Methodist University in 1972. Usually these were courses at a local community college or, occasionally, private classes for small groups. But these would need to be one-on-one lessons, Nelson explained, because this was no ordinary student. Former president George W. Bush wanted to learn how to paint.
“I was speechless,” Norfleet says.
Nelson, a close friend of both Bush and his wife, made the introduction. Norfleet soon met the Bushes in person at their Dallas home, kicking off her two-year stint as an art teacher for the former political leader. The pair met for three hours each Monday, in a home office that had been transformed into a studio. “Laura Bush called it a man cave,” Norfleet says with a laugh.
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