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Duluth artist creates murals for Target Field

One of Tim Cortes' illustrations commemorating the 1987 Minnesota Twins World Series appearance. PRNewsFoto/Tim Cortes

Working around the clock got Duluth artist Tim Cortes to the finish line on time.

Ideally, he would have preferred to have six months to draw three commemorative murals commissioned by the Minnesota Twins as part of Target Field.

He had three months.

During the last month, spanning March and April, he drew in five-hour increments, with 90 minutes of rest between each at his Lakeside home. He took no other jobs and missed some family activities, but met the deadline. The murals, displayed in the ballpark's private Champion's Club behind home plate, were ready for Target Field's debut April 12.

"There were times my head was spinning, but I never got discouraged (about the time element). This is the biggest commercial project I've had and the most prestigious thing I've been asked to do. I was totally dedicated to the challenge," Cortes said last week. "This is something that can put you on the map as an artist; it can be a career-maker.

"To have my work in such a recognized part of a new ballpark is quite an honor. When I saw it there for the first time, I was touched by it."

The Twins wanted to honor its three World Series teams -- the 1965 runner-up Twins, and the champions of 1987 and 1991. Team officials made a search of about 60 artists in North America, which included talking with Terrence Fogarty of St. Paul, a noted oil painter, who specializes in sports scenes. Fogarty said the project didn't fit his schedule, and recommended Cortes, who received the job in December.

Cortes, 44, a former hockey goalie at Duluth East and the University of Minnesota, uses colored pencils to create photo realism art. Twins president Dave St. Peter discussed people and elements to be portrayed in the murals, but ultimately, Cortes devised each piece. He researched photos and significant moments of each season and set about to create 3-feet-by-6-feet meticulous drawings on illustration board. Cortes said versions of the murals were viewed by St. Peter to assure even the tiniest details were correct, down to the insignia patches worn on uniform sleeves.

"It was exciting for the Twins to have a high-quality artist from Minnesota like Tim to work on one of our art projects, and we knew he would be up to the task," St. Peter said. "There's an old adage that says 'The devil is in the details,' which means there's a challenge in getting even the smallest things right, and that's important when you're trying to tell a story.

"The murals tell an authentic story and fit our building so well; there's a strong sense of place and identity in the art. I've walked past the murals with some of our former players and they were very proud of what they saw."

St. Peter knew of Cortes, primarily through his hockey-related art. Cortes has a youth hockey mural at the Duluth Heritage Sports Center. He's also done art of Brett Hull, Chris Chelios and a piece depicting the late NFL star Reggie White, which was presented to White's family in a Lambeau Field ceremony in 2005. He also drew a piece honoring the late St. Scholastica baseball coach John Baggs.

For the Twins project he moved out of his home studio to a larger spot, the family room. He fastened each piece of illustration board to a drawing desk and painting easel. He used approximately 500 colored pencils, most in the primary colors, purchased in bulk from Prismacolor.

Although Cortes had to miss his son's regional peewee hockey tournament during the final month of drawing, he said he was able to use son, Nick, 13, and daughter, Maddy, 10, as models for youngsters holding Twins Homer Hankies in the 1987 mural.

"I was able to come up with my own contract for this project and the Twins took care of me very well," said Cortes. "I was perfectly happy with how things worked out and my phone has been ringing off the hook since."

What's next?

The $80 million Amsoil Arena at the DECC, to open Dec. 30, will have a distinct Cortes touch. He's been hired to provide artwork for all locker room areas for the men's and women's teams, including player lounges and weight rooms, the hallways leading to the ice and a piece for the lobby.

Kevin Pates is a sports reporter for the Duluth News?Tribune. The Duluth News?Tribune and Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.