Barack Obama wrote a personal letter in thanks to untrained artist and secondary school teacher Brian Fogarty who simply drew a depiction of the President’s Irish relation. The 35-year-old Fogarty is a business and economics teacher at Salerno school in Salthill and has always had a passion for drawing. Although untrained, Fogarty has a very natural talent for drawing as both his father and grandfather were artists. The Galway Advertiser reported that Fogarty said, “Since I was a child I would do drawings, mostly of houses, trees and of course being from Tipperary, hurlers.”
Fogarty treated drawing as a hobby for the most part until his girlfriend Agata, now wife, laid eyes on a exceptional drawing of his mother. After realizing it was her boyfriend’s work, Agata was taken back and encouraged Fogarty to further his work. He explained that, “She marched me off to Eason’s and got me pencils and art materials.”
Fogarty began to draw more and enjoyed drawing famous people.
“Basically, I started drawing in the evenings and during the summer. I drew 80 or 90 pictures in two years. Every picture takes from five to 10 hours to complete.”
When Obama’s discovered eighth cousin and Irish tourism ambassador Henry Healy announced his invitation to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day, Agata saw an opportunity for Fogarty. She proposed that he draw a picture of the president and ask Healy to pass it along. Fogarty drew Obama enjoying a pint of guinness with his ancestral home in Ireland and the White House behind him. Amazingly for Fogarty, Healy gladly took on the task.
Fogarty expressed his thanks and praise for healing saying that, “He’s a very nice fellow and a great ambassador for Ireland. When he found out he was related to President Obama he decided he was going to get him here. He’s an optimist and is very enterprising. He said he would present the drawing to the president when he visited him for St Patrick’s Day. I am very grateful to him. Peter Whyte of Clarenmore Framing in Ballybane framed the picture for me and he did a fantastic job. I get everything framed with him.”
Almost two months after St. Patrick's Day, Fogarty had a very eager wife and very important envelope waiting at home. Agata handed him the envelope that read White House, Washington and in it was a letter from the president of the United States.
The letter read, “Dear Brian, I would like to extend my deepest thanks for your kind gift. Your thoughtfulness and generosity are much appreciated. As our world grows increasingly interdependent I look forward to working to the benefit of our two nations and to strengthening the bonds between our people. Thank you again for the wonderful gift. I wish you the best. Sincerely, Barack Obama.”
Fogarty explained he was, “fierce excited at my first piece of fanmail!”
He added, “When I first saw the signature I thought it was just stamped on but it’s the real thing.”
Despite garnishing attention and being mentioned on the Ray D’Arcy Show, the humble artist affirmed he’s no “Michelangelo,” and that he’s, “using whatever skills I might have to make a few euro”.
Astonishingly, Fogarty even had a similar experience with President Michael D Higgins months before drawing Obama. President Higgins was presented with Fogarty’s drawing of him and had it hanged in the Aras an Uachtarain.
“You have to aim high. I am very grateful to Agata and to Henry Healy for their help. Ireland has become a very pessimistic place. Sadly who can blame people. You have got to be enterprising and inventive and you have got to say ‘What can you do?’ I’m going to keep on drawing. I’m working on a couple of orders. I sent one drawing to Boston, another to California, there are more in Australia, Poland and Ireland. I love doing pictures of kids, one or two people asked me to do their houses. When I don’t have anything to work on I do celebrities,” Fogarty said.