By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After the news broke of Cecil the Lion’s killing in Zimbabwe last summer, protesters rushed to Dr. Walter Palmer’s Bloomington dental office to express their anger over the death of the 13-year-old research lion.

Among the protesters was St. Paul portrait artist Mark Balma, whose work includes portraits of three U.S. presidents and other heads of state.

“I had heard about the killing of Cecil a couple days ahead of the protest, and I was just really emotionally caught up in it,” the artist said on WCCO Sunday Morning.

With the biggest canvas he could get, Balma set up his easel in the parking lot. He then got to work on a massive portrait of Cecil, finishing it in a single day.

“I got into a painting zone, a mental state,” Balma said. “It was my silent protest.”

Currently, the artist is looking to sell the painting – with all the proceeds going towards animal conservation.

“No one is making money off this,” said Balma’s legal representative, Joe Tamburino. “What Mark envisions is that the senseless killing of this wonderful animal…something positive can come from that.”

So far, Balma has turned down offers of $100,000. He is convinced he can get more.

“Hopefully, we’ll have someone with a large amount of resources who can put that to good use,” Tamburino said.

In the aftermath of Cecil’s killing, U.S. Airlines changed its policies and have banned trophy hunting shipments. Moreover, the United States has placed lions on the endangered species list, making it more difficult for them to be the targets of trophy hunters.

As for Palmer, he was not charged for shooting Cecil. However, his hunting guide is facing up to 15 years in prison.

For information on purchasing the painting of Cecil the Lion, email Balma’s legal representative at

For more on Balma, click here.

Esme Murphy