Published Sunday, March 10, 2013

The President's Advisor: Georgia artist shares knowledge with George W. Bush

By NICHOLE GOLDEN

nichole@newnan.com

After having one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, how does an American president unwind and enjoy retirement? Among other activities, President George W. Bush has taken up painting.

Bush, and his sister-in-law Maggie Bush, recently took a month-long class in painting led by Bonnie Flood, wife of former Newnan resident Clifford Flood.

Mrs. Flood, a painter for more than 25 years, said that President Bush saw her work through her website. Classes were arranged to be held at a friend’s pool house in Boca Grande, Fla. Joining the president for Flood’s class in January was his sister-in-law, Maggie Bush.

“I had no idea what to expect when asked to teach him,” said Flood. “He did send me some e-mails of some of his paintings he had done. They looked promising even though he had only been painting for less than a year.”

Flood, who enjoys impressionistic and contemporary pieces, said that Bush wanted to learn more about Impressionism.

“He was more of a realist,” she said.

Instructor Flood says that the president was always ready to paint at 9 a.m. on the dot, and has a great sense of humor. “He was so eager to learn; it made teaching very enjoyable,” she said. “He’s such a passionate person.”

In addition to landscapes, the president had also been painting many pictures of dogs. His own beloved dog, Barney, joined the classes by sleeping near the door. Flood said the dog was not well then, and when the Bushes returned to their home in Texas, the Scottish Terrier died. “Barney was special,” said Flood.

The teacher and her students would break for lunch each day, and were sometimes joined by Laura Bush.

Flood said she suspects that in the coming year, Bush’s works will become well known. The president didn’t have a fondness for painting flowers, but was willing to try. They also painted scenes around their friend’s home, which included a duck pond.

The president addressed Flood as “Professor” and she called him “43” in reference to having served as the 43rd president.

Flood also enjoyed her time with Maggie Bush, who is married to Marvin Bush. “She is an actress with many talents. She had never painted before but in one month she was painting beautiful pictures, with offers to purchase,” said Flood.

Clifford Flood lived in Newnan from 1961 to 1988 and has friends and family still living in the community. He and Bonnie lived in Big Canoe for several years, but now reside in Cumming.

Bonnie has taken a lot of classes herself in Scottsdale, Ariz., in New Mexico and Europe and put in a lot of “brush miles.”

But January 2013 was a new and “privileged” experience for her. “I am honored to have been part of their new beginnings,” said Flood. “Such a special time...I will never forget.”

President Bush has been in touch a few times with Flood by phone to discuss art techniques since taking the lessons. “I think I have a friend,” said Flood.

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