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Bear-loving painter Doria Moodie to guest-star at Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Moodie’s residency takes place April 15 to 16

Doria Moodie saw her first grizzly bear in 2014 on a trip to Mussel Inlet, B.C. Like some others, she went in with a preconceived notion of what they would be like: massive, powerful, aggressive and downright scary. The first two things are true, and Moodie fully understands the need to be prudent around North America’s largest omnivores. 

She also finds them to be extremely compelling. 

“I realized that they weren't as terrifying as I had been led to believe,” says Moodie. “If they're preoccupied with eating salmon or grazing, they just notice you being there and carry on with what they want to do.”

Moodie leveraged her art career to showcase bears, beginning with relatively modest works. The late, great English-Canadian artist Gordon Smith exhorted her to go bigger—literally. At one point, he asked one of his studio assistants to lay out a four-by-four foot canvas in front of Moodie and requested that she return with a complete portrait. 

“Bears are majestic,” Moodie remembers Smith saying, in so many words. “They need to be painted large.” 

The longtime local’s been doing just that ever since. Her newest collection goes up at Mountain Galleries this week: about half a dozen paintings of lone grizzlies and family groups alike. Next, her artist in residency takes place from April 15 to 16 in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. 

Welcome interruptions

As a full-time painter, much of Moodie’s work week is a rather solitary experience: her in her studio with an assortment of supplies before her. That’s why she looks forward to a change of pace. 

“I just enjoy interacting with people,” she says. “[Being an artist in residence] is more about the interactions than actually trying to complete something. It's hard to complete something when you're getting interrupted all the time, but I welcome the interruptions. It's fun to talk to people about art, bears and whatever else they want to talk about.” 

Moodie has previously done residency stints in a number of bear viewing lodges, including the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary in northern British Columbia and three years at Black Creek’s Knight Inlet Lodge. These locations once catered heavily to Europeans and Australians, but Moodie is pleased to see more Canadians become interested in domestic travel and wildlife tourism post-pandemic. 

Aesthetically speaking, Moodie tries to stay away from complete realism. It’s somewhat disappointing when a person remarks that her work looks photographic, as she prefers to display more of her own creative input. 

“I start with the eyes,” Moodie elaborates. “After I've drawn it roughly, I like to be able to interact with the bear that I've chosen to paint. Then I work from there, starting with transparent colours and gradually adding opaque colours.” 

Peaceful coexistence 

Moodie has painted professionally for a decade and a half. Before that, the Vancouver native was an educator in her hometown’s French Immersion program and a board member for Room to Read—a nonprofit organization pushing for literacy and gender equality in the developing world. 

Roughly 11 years ago, Moodie gathered the nerve to stroll into Mountain Galleries’ Whistler location with a few of her works and promote them. By chance, she encountered former owner Wendy Wacko and the two made a serendipitous connection. 

Off Piste Fine Arts have since taken over ownership of Mountain Galleries, but that has not affected the harmonious nature of Moodie’s collaboration with them. 

“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “Wendy started Mountain Galleries 30 years ago and supported Canadian art so well. It's a little different now. There's more artists from around the world, but it’s still a fantastic gallery.” 

In addition to her painting career, Moodie is on the board of the Grizzly Bear Foundation (GBF) founded by Michael Audain—the same Audain with an art museum named after him in Whistler. She donates one per cent of all her sales revenue to the GBF. 

“I feel quite a kinship to bears and I really want to help people understand that we can coexist with them if we treat them with respect,” Moodie says. 

Learn more about Moodie’s artist in residency at