We all know George W. Bush likes to paint. In early February, a pseudonymous hacker named Guccifer published photos of Bush's paintings — including two self-portraits — and they kept coming, and even the art critics kind of liked them. And then the Bush reunion tour around the dedication of his library this week forced the 43rd president to speak out about his hobby: "People are surprised," he told the Dallas Morning News. "Of course, some people are surprised I can even read." On Tuesday Bush told Diane Sawyer that "painting has changed my life in an unbelievably positive way." And then came Friday, when his wife revealed a totally new perspective on Bush's post-presidential life: He learned to draw and paint an an iPad app. (Our guess is Brushes, the same app used by Jorge Colombo for his series of New Yorker covers.) Long portrayed as technologically aloof in a proto-iPhone presidency, Bush now appears to be fully in thrall to consumer technology, leveraging the iPad not to check email but to ... express himself. Sure, his art might have leaked in the first place because he was still using an AOL email account, but Bush provides unlikely — if inconclusive — proof for all of those well-lit Apple commercials about using an iPad to, say, compose a full-length instrumental song.
Drawing was not Bush's first pursuit on the iPad. His wife told Yahoo News in 2010 that, besides reading The Wall Street Journal, her husband "constantly" played Scrabble on the device, often to the point of distraction. Nor is the iPad a foreign entity among figures of Bush's stature. In October 2012 Vanity Fair noted that President Obama used his iPad to read newspapers, and a Politico eBook that appeared in the same month reported that Obama became attached at the hip to his iPad during the 2012 presidential campaign, using it to stay apprised of negative stories about the Obama campaign. Obama, a BlackBerry holdout, even liked showing it off:
(Photo by Pete Souza/White House)
Mitt Romney had a more conflicted relationship with the iPad. A month prior, in September 2012, The Washington Post revealed that Romney repeatedly refused to downloads any apps that cost money:
The candidate has thoroughly incorporated the modern instantaneous connectivity of his iPad into his now-frenetic life, but he downloads only free applications, friends say. He is so rigid about this that he continued to revise his speeches through a cumbersome process of text changes in e-mails, complaining all the while — but refusing to buy Apple’s Pages word-processing program because it costs $9.99. Finally, a senior staffer told an aide to buy it and download it onto Romney’s iPad when he wasn’t around.
So Bush certainly has company. But where Obama and Romney treated their iPads as tools of consumption or productivity, Bush employs his as a source of entertainment and expression. To some degree, this makes sense: Bush has a lot of free time; Obama does not. Still, politics doesn't tend to attract creative, expressive souls. (For proof: take a glance at Washington, D.C.'s architecture.) Bush's leaked paintings were far surprising less for their content, or their sudden exposure, than for the fact that they existed at all — even if they are kinda good.
It's going to take some time getting used to Bush's unearthed creativity. For now, Bush seems to be a good sport about his sudden artistic fame: