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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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November 20th, 2013
05:49 PM ET

Da Vinci. Rembrandt. Picasso ... Bush?

Da Vinci. Rembrandt. Picasso. Bush.

"I do take painting seriously, it's changed my life," said the 43rd President of the United States, who presented his latest canvas to late-night talk show host Jay Leno.

"I can't make fun of him now!" the comedian said, after receiving Bush's Jay Leno portrait.

A marked difference from early-period Bush, which trended towards bathroom self-portraits, which the world learned about through hacked e-mails to the president's sister Dorothy. The critics raved that the paintings "border on the visionary, the absurd, the perverse, the frat boy," as art critic Jerry Saltz put it.

Okay, maybe "rave" wasn't exactly the right word. But everyone's a critic, including a fellow former occupant of the White House.

"I seriously considered calling and asking you to do a portrait of me - until I saw the results of your hacked e-mails. Those bathroom sketches are wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit," former President Bill Clinton said.

Let it never be said that the man doesn't have a sense of humor. You and I weren't the only ones surprised to find out about the former president's predilection for painting happy little trees. So was his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, when CNN's Jake Tapper asked him about it in March.

"He's actually become a pretty good painter," said Jeb Bush. "I'll just admit that this was a surprise to me when I found this out about a year ago. And he's doing it with a vengeance."

But why painting? Why get in touch with his artistic side? Asked by CNN's John King what he gets from painting, Bush replied, "A lot of things."

"I relax. I see colors differently. I am, I guess, tapping a part of the brain that, you know, certainly never used when I was a teenager," Bush said with a laugh. "And I get the satisfaction out of completing a project. And I paint people's pets."

Former first daughter Barbara Bush can attest to that. Her swanky New York town house, as seen in a recent Vogue spread, doubles as something of a gallery for her dad's cat, Period. Not to be confused with his dog, Period.

So, okay, you may or may not be eager to hang an original "W." over your mantle. But if you're not a fan, perhaps you're just too short-sighted to see the genius in his oeuvre right now.

"It's going to take a while for history to judge whether the decisions I made are consequential or not," Bush told Leno. "And therefore, I'm not too worried about it."

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