At Cecil’s Pride we want to recognize animal lovers for their efforts and contribution to forward the animal’s voices. This month we’re honored to introduce you to Mark Balma.
Meet the man behind the Cecil painting outside Walter Palmer’s office when the first wave of animal lovers protested outside the dentist’s office. He painted the iconic painting of Cecil which many activists took selfies with and reporters presented it as a centre piece of the first day’s protest. He shared with us a special message:
Tell us about yourself and what you do, Mark:
My name is Mark Balma and I am a traditional portrait and fresco artist who creates works for individuals, families and public officials by commission. My paintings are in major museums in the US and Europe and I use a historical oil painting technique dating back to the Renaissance. Additional information about my paintings and frescoes can be found at www.markbalma.com.
About the painting you painted outside River Bluff Dental, can you tell us more about it?
Cecil’s portrait was painted on July 29, 2015, during the public protest located at the River Bluff Dental practice of Dr. Walter J. Palmer in Bloomington (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. The portrait was an interactive public work in that I began it on-site in the morning, worked without stopping to eat or rest and completed it on-site the same evening. People observed and commented on the portrait throughout the day while they waited for the public protest to begin. Outdoor painting is a challenge and most artists are not prepared for the distractions or problems that arise from not working from the comfort of a studio.
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I felt Cecil deserved to be visually represented/honored during the first event about his death, in a larger than life canvas to remind us of his beauty and the tragedy behind his loss. I painted this portrait of Cecil in silent protest over his unethical killing. This portrait was also an opportunity for me to pay my respects to Cecil, express my feelings about his loss and how he died, along with commemorate his life.
This is a wonderful piece of art, what was going through your mind as you were painting Cecil?
As a portrait artist, I approached the painting of Cecil by trying to capture his spirit. I painted an expression in his eyes that would communicate the intensity of his spirituality as a living creature, strength of character, pride and an aura larger than himself.
Was this your first time painting at a protest? If yes, what got you into protest painting in the first place?
In the past, I had never participated in any protests but Cecil’s death was an issue I felt very strongly about. Publicly painting a portrait of Cecil was my non-verbal protest of his killing. By turning the focus onto Cecil and his suffering rather than who caused it, the world can begin to act on how to avoid a similar death. Cecil’s portrait is for sale with all proceeds directed to WildCRU and similar organizations to further wildlife research, conservation and education. Currently, I am in the process of creating two additional portraits for a similar cause. The first is of Boswell, an elephant who lives in the Mana Pools in Zimbabwe and the second, Swaziland, a White Rhinoceros recently lost to poachers.
For those who are interested in getting a copy of the painting where can we get it?
Due to many requests, the option to purchase a print of the painting is now available. They are limited to 300 and personally signed and numbered. Profits from each print benefit animal conservation and can be purchased through this link on my website http://www.markbalma.com/markbalma.com/Cecil_Print.html
Thank you for your time, this is Mark Balma