Painting Presidential Portraits
By: Arnold Wyrick
By: Arnold Wyrick
Steeleville, IL - One look at any of the 43 presidential portraits hanging in Leonard Johnson's basement, and it's plain to see these are no work of an amateur. In fact they're the creation of more than 20 years of painting our nations' top elected official.
"It started out as sketches of Popeye, and the old comics when I was a kid. Then one of my first paintings was of my 2 granddaughters. Then one day I told my wife I'm going to paint the presidents," says Leonard Johnson of Steeleville.
And paint them he did working from several pictures, sketches, and sometimes paintings by other artists Johnson finally decides on how he's going to depict the president. But before any brush strokes are made, Johnson sketches the portrait out on paper, then he transfers that image to the canvas.
"I got to liking doing it, after I'd done a couple of them and they looked pretty good to me, I just kept on going," Johnson said.
And going he did until now his basement walls look more like the walls of an American History museum. Johnson's quick to add though that he's painted all 43 of our nation's presidents, but he hasn't always agreed with their politics.
"I like the paintings. I'm not saying I like all the individuals. But Clinton, Reagan, and George H. Bush I think they're three of my best ones," Johnson said.
And one of his paintings actually ended up being a premonition of things to come.
"I painted George W. Bush four months before he was ever president, when he was Governor of Texas. I was trying to get him elected and he sent me a letter. And I thought I'll paint him right now because I'm going to say he's going to get elected. Which is lucky for me that it happened that way, or I'd have to paint another one."