A book collection of Ted Harrison prints launches the same day as his Saturday memorial at the University of Victoria.
Ted Harrison Collected is the brainchild of the late artist’s curator Kaitlyn Webb Patience and Victoria author Robert “Lucky” Budd.
“I’m a really big fan of his art so I got in touch with his curator three years ago to buy a print,” says Budd, whose work includes a best-selling series collaboration with Roy Henry Vickers artwork on Northwest Coast legends.
His second title in the series came out last year and it was time to begin the Harrison book. “I’m a huge fan of Ted’s art and the book was there needing to be done,” he says. “One of the things that’s always impressed me about Ted’s art is there’s an element of folk to it. It’s art for people.”
Ted Harrison Collected (Douglas & McIntyre) features 85 of the former Oak Bay resident’s 88 limited-edition prints created between 1980 and 2010.
With format in mind, he settled in to a series of in-person conversations while poring over artwork in what turned out to be Harrison’s final months.
“More than anything it was sitting with Ted and looking at art and talking with him which was a joy,” Budd said. “It was wonderful – he was down with talking about art or anything. He was a very down-to-earth person.”
Harrison died in Victoria on Jan. 16 at age 88.
“I visited him three days before he died,” Budd recalls. “I didn’t want it to be a biography … I wanted it to be about his process and his art. You step in the middle of a scene where something is moving or happening … even the mountains seem to have rhythm and dance.”
The collection showcases the numerous subjects and settings Harrison depicted in his signature style of sweeping lines and broad swatches of solid pigment, a style he shifted to when he moved to the Yukon. “When you start looking at his art as a collection there’s a few really, really amazing things that come out,” Budd said.
For example he painted “a tonne of landscapes” with very little green which is “shocking for Canadian art.” The lack of faces also struck Budd, with exception of one moustache, which he addresses in the introduction.
“You start learning a little bit about who these characters are … and they are characters and they all live in his imagination,” Budd said. “He [Ted] said all of the characters in his drawings are out for a bit of fun.”
Budd enjoyed the narrative of those works, the storyline created by three decades of boldly coloured artwork.
“He had such deep, deep imagination … there’s so much joy in his art, in every single image.”
Budd says the quote from Harrison himself (on the back of the book) best describes it: “The North is a special sort of symphony: its landscape is a dance, the wind is an orchestra, and the cries of the birds are big notes in the background.”
“That’s exactly what I found,” Budd says. “His art is so musical, it’s impossible to not look at his art and not feel all the senses.”
The book will be available in book stores the same day as Ted Harrison’s memorial at the University of Victoria.