The 43rd president said that he was inspired to take up painting after reading a Winston Churchill essay. When he hired an instructor for weekly lessons, he said he told her "There's a Rembrandt trapped in this body. Your job is to find it."
Bush shared paintings of his dog Barney and a stray cat that he adopted and named Bob ("so I can remember how to spell it when I got older") and said painting has changed his life. He presented Leno with a portrait of the comedian, prompting Leno to say: "I can't make fun of him now."
When asked what caused a blocked artery that led to his hospitalization in August, the 67-year-old Bush joked that it was because he "didn't behave that well when I was younger and I might have smoked some."
Bush has kept a mostly low profile since exiting office in early 2009 while the country was in two wars and struggling with an economic crisis.
"It's hard for some to believe, but I think eight years in the spotlight's enough," he said.
Former First Lady Laura Bush also appeared on Leno's couch to discuss the couple's charitable causes. They also showed the strand of pearls Bush gave her for their 36th wedding anniversary and a video clip of their first grandchild, nicknamed Mila.
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