A Crafter's Life, Special Events

A Presidential Artistic Journey

This is not a political post, but this post is about a former political figure, now a private citizen – former U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr.

Suspend for a moment any political leanings you hold and let me share a very special opportunity I had to see a former U.S. President speak in person in early May and to learn of his artistic journey.

A Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity

April 30 – May 4th, I attended a national conference for the industry that I am employed , in Orlando, Florida. One of the keynote presentations at the conference was a conversation with former President George W. Bush, Jr. and the president of a national organization hosting the conference.

No photos were allowed and there was strict security so unfortunately I have no photos from the experience to share (when I first discovered that President Bush would be speaking I had hopes of a “selfie” with a former U.S. President!). I’ve never seen a U.S. President in person so just the experience to see a historical figure in person was very exciting to me.

To be honest, I was not a huge fan of President Bush during his Presidency, but I put those thoughts aside and approached the presentation with an open mind.

He was absolutely amazing and spoke with much wonderful humor, insight, inspiration and Texas twang! He shared the experience of recently losing his mother, Barbara Bush (who I always greatly respected). He also spoke candidly about 9/11 (September 11, 2001/World Trade Center bombings) and other challenges and his Presidency; and about what’s going on in the world and in the U.S. today.

As I do not want this to be a political post I will not share all the specifics of what he said but let’s just say he might not fully support the current choices and political environment of the current U.S. Presidential Administration. He said that the U.S. cannot become isolationists, we have to stay connected to the world and shared specific reasons, in his opinion, why it is important that the U.S. stay engaged.

He did encourage those of us who might feel currently discouraged not to give up on democracy; and that the office of U.S. President is greater than the behavior of any one individual.

He also talked about what he has seen in the world and that those that live in the U.S. should remember just how blessed we are to live in this country (in regards to all the freedoms and opportunities we have available to us that are not available in all parts of the world).

Interestingly during his talk I learned that he is  close friends the Dalai Llama and Bono (lead singer of the band U2 who is heavily involved in humanitarian causes) – who would have known?

Overall his talk was very inspirational, spiritual (he is a man of strong faith) and hopeful – he brought many of us to tears several times during his talk.

A Former President’s Artistic Journey

For me the best part of his talk was when he shared how he became a painter and his evolution as an artist/his artistic journey. He talked about the fear he had to overcome to start painting and bouts with self doubt of his painting ability.

He also talked about the moment when he realized he was not too bad at painting. I wish I could have taken notes as there were many gems in his discussion of his artistic journey and I could relate to many of those experiences in my journey.

He eventually combined his love of painting with his post-presidency humanitarian efforts, which include working with Veterans especially those dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He painted Veterans for his book Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors (if you click on the link you will see an image of former President Bush painting a portrait) and proceeds from book sales, according to the website, “helps post-9/11 veterans and their families make a successful transition to civilian life and addresses issues of veteran wellness, including post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury”.

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Image credit:  bushcenter.org

He shared a couple of amazing stories about the friendships he developed with several Veterans dealing with PTSD while working on their portraits. He tried to capture in their portrait painting not only their physical features but what the individual was dealing with internally at the time, he made an effort to get to know each Veteran he was painting.

I’m so thankful to my employer for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they gave me in sending me to the conference in Orlando. I also appreciate the opportunity to share this experience with you all and ask for you to be moderate and thoughtful in your comments on this post as fellow readers have differing political views, thanks.


The weather was beautiful in Orlando during my visit and I enjoyed 70 to 90 degree F. weather (21 – 32 C. for my readers outside the U.S.). I brought my work laptop and had to keep up on my work when not attending conference session so I did not get much time for fun in Florida.

Here is the view from my hotel room balcony where I bought my laptop out to work between conference sessions:


I went on a walk around the hotel/conference center property each morning (early before it got too warm and before the conference sessions started) and I wondered why the air seemed to smell so good. Then I realized there were Magnolia trees everywhere! What an incredible fragrance!


The climate, geography and flora is very different than Central Oregon (which is known as a “high desert” area and at 3500+ feet above sea level elevation). It was amazing to see palm trees everywhere!


Although I did not get time to play while I was in Orlando, it was still wonderful to enjoy the warm and tropical climate!

Feature image credit: bushcenter.org

33 thoughts on “A Presidential Artistic Journey”

  1. I love this Tierney! I love how you are so thoughtful and open to learning from others. I love how you strive to respect and understand others! I love hearing your heart! It is inspirational! Thank you for sharing in such a considerate way! I love that I am your friend!

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  2. Amen to the reminder that we are most blessed to live in this country! Our leaders have an unbelievably difficult job, and I am glad they can find joy and fulfillment after office in art and humanitarian efforts. Another blessing–magnolia trees in our yards in South Missisisppi.

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  3. It says so much about the current administration that even people who couldn’t stand W. (myself included) are now seeing him as a reasonable, well-spoken (and artistic) person. I’d gladly take him as president again over what we have now. Ughh…must go look at that magnolia pic again to cheer myself up.

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  4. Thank you so much! This perspective is much needed in our troubling times. If only everyone could open their minds and hearts to listen and learn from inspiring people even though. You may not always agree. I truly enjoyed this.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this experience. I’m always amazed at “amateur” artists and appreciate this project so much.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this, Tierney. 🙂 How interesting that he has discovered an after-life as a portraitist of veterans and spokesperson for PTSD, etc. I’m always glad when someone finds the courage to express an artistic vision based on understanding others’ struggles. Glad to see you enjoyed the magnolia trees, too!

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    1. I had heard a little about the book Portraits of Courage but it was amazing to here about his journey as an artist/painter to get to the point of creating this awesome book, it was very inspirational on so many levels and I wish I could have taken notes (but we were not allowed to bring anything in with us into the presentation for security reasons). I probably should have done a mind dump after the presentation but I was busy networking and moving onto my next conference session afterwards 🙂

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  7. Wow, what a great experience! No wonder you were inspired by it. George W was never particularly popular on this side of the Atlantic, so it was interesting for me to see behind the media image of him that prevailed over here during his presidency. Plus it looks like you had a glorious time in Florida!

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