“Bears are fascinating creatures and they scare the crap out of me,” said artist Brian Porter. “A lot of people always say, ‘your bears look so intense.’ Well to me they’re a no-joke animal… I find them intriguing because I know how powerful they are. Like they’re fast and they’re strong.”

Growing up, Mr. Porter saw bears at the landfill and was struck with an enduring awe that is apparent in his vivid colours and reverent portraits of the creatures. He also paints owls, wolves, moose and more.

“What better way to promote what’s beautiful about our planet than to paint it,” he said. “I mean with all these buildings going up everywhere, I think it’s important that people not forget about nature.”

Mr. Porter’s Bear – Smiling image is on the cover of this year’s Columbia Valley Map Book. A limited print run of high-quality canvas prints (called giclées) of the cover artwork are available at the Artym Gallery, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Columbia Valley Cycling Society.

“I get a lot of love, especially from British Columbia and Alberta,” said Mr. Porter, who lives in Ontario but enjoys visiting the Valley. “People like the wildlife and my spin on it.”

In years past, the Artym Gallery has donated well over $50,000 in proceeds from prints of the Map Book cover image to the following community organizations and initiatives: Valley Fitness Centre, the Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail, the Rotary Club of Invermere, the Columbia Valley Centre, Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance, Invermere Companion Animal Network, East Kootenay Foundation For Health, Columbia Valley Search and Rescue and the Invermere Public Library.

To see the Map Book print and Mr. Porter’s original paintings, stop in at the Artym Gallery or visit www.artymgallery.com.