Councilman Russ Blewett had an empty wall in his study that needed special something.
So Blewett, who at the age of 27 in 1971 was America's youngest mayor as Baldwin Park's top elected official, decided to pay homage to his three favorite U.S. presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
Blewett commissioned Hesperia artist Matthew Woods to turn his vision into a reality, and on Thursday the councilman invited as many as 200 guests to enjoy a backyard barbecue and view the lavishly framed pastels.
"He was the first president," Blewett said about Washington. "They offered him king, but he had the integrity to turn it down."
It's Lincoln's concensus-building abilities that Blewett admires most about the 16th president.
"Lincoln could take a team of rivals and get them to work together," Blewett said. "That's an amazing talent."
Blewett, who met Reagan at a Republican convention in San Diego and again at a West Covina fundraiser, admires the 40th U.S. president for redirecting the course of world history.
"Reagan was able to change the destiny of the Soviet Union without firing a shot," Blewett said. "People don't know what an accomplishment that was."
Blewett decided to give a local artist an opportunity to fulfill his vision.
"I thought about Matthew because he is an incredible artist, and I needed something nice on my wall."
Normally a sculptor, Woods decided to use soft pastels to capture each character's nuances.
"It's essentially chalk," he said. "You can blend the colors together."
Woods painted each concurrently over a four- to six-month period. Washington's portrait, which is the centerpiece, is larger and has a darker background. But they all have similar qualities technically.
"Russ helped with the design," he said. "There's definitely a unified theme."
While he looked into the eyes of America's most revered leaders, Woods pondered their lives and what they might have been like as people.
"I thought about their admirable traits. It definitely made an impact on me."
Woods is completing his bachelor's degree at Azusa Pacific University and will pursue a new career in teaching. Currently he is on the fundraising committee at the Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley. He especially enjoys showing students how mathematics relates to art.
"Even though it's artistic, there's calculus involved in this," he said. "I'm going to use art to teach math and science."
A resident of the Victor Valley on and off for 30 years, Woods met his wife, currently a county employee, in a canoe class at Victor Valley College.
"I tipped her over because I wanted to meet her."
Today, the couple has six children ranging in age from 7 to 20.
"They're my best subjects," Woods said.