Ted Harrison - Illustrator

For more than half a century, Ted Harrison's artwork has inspired the world. His colorful and somewhat whimsical depictions of the Canadian Northwest delight viewers both young and old alike.

Born in 1926, in the village of Wingate County Durham, England, Ted began to create art at a young age --- despite his art teacher telling him he had no talent for it!

Ted never gave up and even attended Art College in Hartlepool during the Second World War. And since he knows that a life as an artist can be hard, he also earned himself a teaching certificate.

Ted and his wife lived in several countries around the world before finally settling in Carcross, Yukon. Here he taught art and painted the inspirational landscapes of the north. He painted the mountains, buildings, people and animals of the Yukon the way they looked in his mind. It is this subject matter that the artist is best known for today.

Birthplace?
I was born in Durham, England, in the first terrace house facing the “Big Girls' School,” so named because the girls were somewhat bigger than those in the Junior School, which faced the “Big Boys' School.”

Birthday?
I was pitched into this Vale of Tears on 28th August, exactly one hour and forty-five minutes before my twin sister, Mary Algar. That makes me a Virgo with all the attendant joys and handicaps.

Where do you live now?
I currently live in Canada's “banana belt,” namely Victoria, British Columbia.

When did you start drawing?
I started drawing around the age of four.

How did you become involved in children's books?
I had to teach Dick and Jane to my young Cree students in Wabasca, Alberta. The book didn't make sense to them, so together we formulated two characters who lived in the environment they knew and engaged in familiar activities. I wrote and illustrated it all with a felt pen, and the University of Alberta published 300 copies. It was titled A Northland Alphabet. This sparked my interest in children's books.

Do you have any pets?
Maggie, my paisley terrier, who is seven years old, is the only pet. I did have a goldfish in my garden pond, but something consumed it one night.

What are your hobbies?
My favorite hobby is reading (especially history). I also enjoy walking with Maggie by the sea, cooking and baking, seeing good documentaries, and giving the occasional lecture. I am also an avid Rotarian in the Oak Bay Club.

What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is a well-made Yorkshire pudding with gravy, and I also love haggis.

Where did you go to school?
I was educated at Wingate Council School, then Wellfield Grammar School before entering Hartlepool College of Art and King's College, University of Durham. I later gained a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Alberta. I have honorary doctorates from Athabasca University, Alberta, and the University of Victoria.

Do you have any advice for young creators?
Young creators should remain curious about their world and other people's lives and customs. They must follow their positive dreams and cast aside negative thoughts. Be bold and enjoy life, look at all the wonderful landscapes of Canada and receive inspiration from all that nature has to offer. Remember the poet's words, “The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as Kings.”

What is your favorite book?
I loved reading Klondike by Pierre Berton and Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott, among many other grand books.

Where do your ideas come from?
I like to see how my ideas come to life in the page and talk to children who really enjoyed reading them and were motivated to create themselves.

Where do you work?
I work in my home and utilize both the sitting room and my studio.

How do you approach a project?
I research in the library, take photos of buildings I wish to use, and study animals and creatures. Then I rely on inspiration. Before illustrating The Cremation of Sam McGee, I stood outside Robert Service's cabin in Dawson City and held a conversation with his spirit, asking for some help. He gave it.

Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas just come out of the blue, mostly when lying awake in bed in the morning.

Do you have a favorite character from your work?
My favorite character is Sam McGee from the Robert Service poem. I loved illustrating this book.

What medium do you work with?
I love working in acrylic paint or gouache. They both use water as a medium and are less messy than oils. I prefer drawing directly with a brush and acrylic, as it is so fluid and expressive.

Do you have a favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is going on summer camping trips with our local Boy Scout Troop and having lots of fun, especially at Raby Castle.

Do you have any secrets or insights you could share about one of your novels?
The most wonderful book I wrote and illustrated led me to tour the Yukon with my wife, Nicky. It gave us a great knowledge of Yukoners and odd magical places. I also put in lots of autobiographical stories. Unfortunately, the publisher ceased to continue publishing so it is now out of print, as the saying goes.

O Canada

1993 - Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award, IBBY, Short-listed
1993 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
1993 - Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award, Short-listed

The Cremation of Sam McGee

1986 - Notable Book, American Library Association,, Winner
1986 - Best Book Selection, The New York Times, Winner

Picture Books

O Canada, 2003