George W. Bush is quite the talented artist.
"Who woulda thought it?'' the 67-year-old said of his work. "I was little reluctant to put them out [publicly], because I'm not a great artist. I don't want people to think I'm a great artist. On the other hand, I did want to refresh the Bush Center. I want people to come and visit us. We view ourselves as a place where people can learn."
The unique collection, which includes paintings of Russian president Vladimir Putin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai and the Dalai Lama, is currently on display as part of an exhibit called "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Bush couldn't help but reminisce about an encounter with Putin as they stood in front of his display.
"As you know, our dear dog Barney, who had a special place in my heart—Putin dissed him and said, ‘You call it a dog?''' Bush told Hager.
He continued: "A year later, your mom and I go to visit and Vladimir says, ‘Would you like to meet my dog?' Out bounds this huge hound, obviously much bigger than a Scottish terrier, and Putin looks at me and says, ‘Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.'"
And yes, Bush has painted the family's late, precious pet.
So, which portrait is Bush's favorite? That would be his "gentle soul" father, George H.W. Bush.
"A little bit [of tears], you know,'' an emotional Bush said about the "joyful" experience of painting the 89-year-old. "Just thinking about him. He's a kind man. He's a great listener, as you know. When it came to foreign policy, he was a master at befriending people to find common ground and the way he did so was through personal diplomacy."
Laura Bush is her husband's greatest supporter, admitting that she first saw his talent after he downloaded Penultimate on his iPad and drew some "interesting stick figure characters."
Bush explains that Winston Churchill served as his main inspiration to channel the "Rembrandt trapped in this body" and pick up the paintbrush.
"[He] wrote a great essay called 'Painting as a Pastime,''' Bush said. "I wanted to make sure the last chapters of my life are full, and painting, it turns out, would help occupy not only space, but kind of open my mind."
(E! Online and Today are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)