Painting with the President

Now, you might be thinking, “Wow, she got to paint with the President of the United States over the weekend?” However, I cannot truthfully say that is so. I did get to paint with an important, awesome president, though, also known as Harvey Mudd College’s own President Maria Klawe.


From left to right: Dylan Baker, Anya Kwan, and Robert Linden adding leaves to the backgrounds of their paintings.

President Klawe is an extremely cool person. She is number seventeen on Fortune’s list of the “World’s 50 greatest leaders” and one of the members of the board of Microsoft Corporation, among numerous other honors. However, she is also well known for her painting, which is what a few fellow students and I ventured over to her house to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

President Klawe went through a step-by-step process of showing us the different steps of painting with water colors. Being an inexperienced artist myself, it was interesting to observe and try the techniques. We made initial sketches with pencils, painted flowers using layers of color, and let the paintings dry at different intervals in the sun.

*Side note: One of the perks of living in southern California is that even in the middle of autumn, you still have nice, sunny days!


Ramita Kondepudi and Preethi Seshadri putting the final touches on their paintings.

It was a lovely afternoon painting birds of paradise and chatting with President Klawe. I was surprised to learn of the amount of traveling she has to do for various talks and conferences and amazed by the beauty of some of her own paintings. Upon leaving, Cleo Stannard (’15) mentioned how hard it is to fathom being invited to paint at the college president’s house. We were able to just walk over, knock on her door, and be welcomed into her home for a few hours. As we headed off to dinner, I thought about how special Harvey Mudd truly is.


Here is President Klawe’s painting before it was finished. The rest of us had only added pink to our flowers, while she had almost finished the background.


On the left is the original picture the paintings are modeled after, and on the right is my interpretation.