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Renowned Portrait Artist Gives Glimpse Of First-Ever Walter Mondale Portrait

Originally published May 1

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A renowned portrait artist is giving an early look at what will be a first-of-its-kind portrait of the late Walter Mondale.

Mark Balma's work always starts with a drawing.

"I didn't want him portrayed sitting at a desk," Balma said. "I really wanted him engaged with the viewer. That was his personality, very down to earth, very look-you-straight-in-the-eye," he said.

Mark Balma's work in progress of Walter Mondale portrait
(credit: CBS)

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A preparatory drawing of the late Walter Mondale was shown to Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, even President Joe Biden.

The work got Balma the OK to then move on to paint the official portrait for the Minnesota History Center. That's a process that takes seven months to complete.

"I use a method that dates back to Leonardo da Vinci," he said.

Portrait Artist Mark Balma
Mark Balma (credit: CBS)

Balma uses a mahl stick to steady his hand and lavender that dilutes the oil in the paint. When he paints, it's quiet and focused for five hours a day.

Balma did have the chance to meet the Mondales years ago. He now lives in Italy, but will be in Minnesota while he works on the portrait that's being funded by the community.

Balma has done portraits of four U.S. presidents, and also works on large murals. He had three large murals he had finished hanging in his Uptown Minneapolis studio that will be going to a church in Italy.

When the portrait of the former vice president is finished, it will be the first in the Minnesota History Center's collection.

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