Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

First step in Doer portrait -- get him to stand still

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IMAGINE painting Gary Doer.

Imagine getting him to stand still.

That was the challenge faced by artist Andrew Valko when he got the job of painting the former premier's portrait.

"The process was waiting for Mr. Doer," Valko said Thursday, shortly after Doer's portrait was unveiled at the legislative building. "Which is not his fault, because he's not in town, but finally he emailed me from the airport in Chicago saying, 'I have an hour on Boxing Day.' "

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So Valko met Doer at the legislature at the scheduled time and took a series of photos before Canada's ambassador to the United States was off again.

"We met here very quickly and took some photos, and then I basically worked on it from that," Valko said. That was just one challenge, though.

Doer needed a prop: something to hold, something statesman-like.

"We did different poses and I gave him this roll of paper to hold as sort of a prop because sometimes it's awkward to stand there without doing anything," Valko said. "It was just a blank piece of sheet, but I think it's his most important achievements that he's holding in his hands, whatever he chooses it to be."

The third challenge was the location Doer chose for the background. It's on the second floor of the "ledge," just down the hall from where his office used to be and looks over the grand staircase towards the rotunda. Doer liked the spot because it was the location where, as premier, he did his televised holiday messages.

"To tell you the truth, it was a lot of work to put that particular background in," Valko said. "You've got the whole building."

Valko said the painting took six weeks to finish, with a few days of final tweaks. Valko also painted former premier Gary Filmon's portrait and has recently finished one of former speaker George Hickes, which will be unveiled soon.

What does Doer think of his image, seeing it for the first time?

"I'm very biased. I don't like watching myself on TV or seeing a picture in the newspaper," he said. "That's why I didn't want to see it ahead of time, but I think, considering what he had to work with, a very good job. The raw material wasn't that great."

And what's he holding?

At one moment he jokes it's the game schedule for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the plans for an NHL team, but in a private moment he gets serious.

"It's my can-do list. I always had a can-do list."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2012 A3

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Updated on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 7:44 AM CDT: Adds video

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