Salerno teacher thrilled to get thank you letter from US president

The drawing of President Obama downing his pint.

The drawing of President Obama downing his pint.

A Galway based secondary teacher - who drew a picture of US President Barack Obama which was presented to him on March 19 - has received a personal letter of thanks from the man ranked by Forbes last year as the world’s most powerful person.

Brian Fogarty, a business and economics teacher at Salerno school in Salthill who has no formal training in art, loves drawing pictures of celebrities.

The 35-year-old, who is originally from Templemore, Co Tipperary, has been drawing since he was two-years-old.

“Since I was a child I would do drawings, mostly of houses, trees and of course being from Tipperary, hurlers,” he says.

When he took his Polish girlfriend Agata, who is now his wife, to meet his parents in Tipperary two and a half years ago she was immediately impressed by a drawing of his mother which was hanging on the wall. She asked who had done it and when told by his father that it was Brian’s work she was stunned. Both Agata’s father and grandfather were artists.

“She marched me off to Eason’s and got me pencils and art materials,” recalls Brian. “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.”

The naturally gifted artist, who lives in Renmore, says drawing is his “great passion”. He drew a picture of President Michael D Higgins in October which was presented to him on the 75th anniversary of the Mercy Secondary School in Newtownsmith. It hangs in Aras an Uachtarain today.

US President Barack Obama’s ancestral home in Moneygall, Co Offaly, is just “over the hill” from Brian’s family home in Tipperary. So when Mr Obama’s eighth cousin Henry Healy announced he was invited to visit his famous relation in the White House over the St Patrick’s Day holiday Agata had an idea. She suggested to Brian that he should do a drawing of the US’ first African American president and ask Mr Healy, Ireland’s tourism ambassador, to present it to him during his visit.

Brian duly obliged and produced a picture of Mr Obama drinking a pint of Guinness with the White House in the background and his ancestral home in Ireland to his left. He contacted Henry Healy who readily agreed to pass on the gift.

“He’s a very nice fellow and a great ambassador for Ireland,” says Brian. “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.”

When Brian arrived home one afternoon last week he was greeted by an excited Agata holding a brown envelope with White House, Washington written on it. It was a letter from the president thanking him for his drawing.

It 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.”

Brian says he was “fierce excited at my first piece of fanmail!” and has since framed the letter and has it hanging on the wall of his home in Galway.

“When I first saw the signature I thought it was just stamped on but it’s the real thing,” he says.

The fact that his work has been presented to

two presidents is a tremendous boost to his artistic career. However he hastens to add jokingly that he is not “fussy” and will take orders from “non-presidents” too.

He was mentioned on the Ray D’Arcy Show last week but insists he is “no Michaelangelo”, just someone “using whatever skills I might have to make a few euro”.

“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,” says the man who has never been to an art class but whose work adorns the homes of some of the world’s leading figures.

Brian Fogarty can be contacted at (087 ) 9674343 or you can check out his sketches/drawings page at www.facebook com/bpfsketch


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