August 28th 1926 to January 16th 2015.
Ted Harrison taught at Slim School Cameron Highlands Malaya from 1957 to 1962.
A popular and much respected teacher.
TED HARRISON Artist and Writer
Ted Harrison is one of Canada's most popular and beloved artists whose love of the land and people of the Yukon has brought him national acclaim. His distinctive painting style is colourful and sophisticated yet retains an innocent charm. He is also an internationally recognized author and illustrator of children's books and has spent much of his career teaching art to children of all ages.
Edward Hardy Harrison was born August 28th, 1926 with his twin sister Algar in the village of Wingate in County Durham, England. His father was a coal miner and his mother a "miner's wife". Ted attributes his early interest in art and design to encouragement from his parents, particularly his mother who had an interest in fashion design and photography. As a youngster, he spent many idle hours drawing and his fondest memory was illustrating a book of MG motor cars at the age of 12. His talents were also recognized by grammar school teachers who encouraged him to further pursue his talents at art college.
In 1943 he enrolled in the West Hartlepool College of Art and began to study art and design in earnest, but like other young men at the time, his education was interrupted by the Second World War. Following military service, he returned to art school and in 1950, received a diploma of Design. The following year he received a teaching certificate from the University of Durham and began a twenty-eight year career in Education. He taught school in England, Malaysia, New Zealand and finally came to the Yukon in 1967 where he "received a job to teach in the land of the mighty Moose - where weaklings need not apply." He and his family settled in Carcross and in 1970 moved to Whitehorse where he taught secondary school art and adults until 1979.
After that time, he began to work as an artist full time. In 1993, seeking a more moderate climate, he and his wife Nicky moved to Victoria.
Ted Harrison credits the work of English painter Norman Cornish for inspiring his life long quest to paint people and places. He was also profoundly influenced by the curvilinear shapes of Maori art during his stay in New Zealand. He greatly admires the work of Austrian painter Hundert Wasser, Japanese print maker Katsushika Hokusai and the American painter Winslow Homer. But, the strongest influence on his life and art was living in the land of the Yukon "where he found his Waterloo!"
His work can be found in numerous private and public collections throughout Canada and in England, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Germany and Japan. In 1987 he received the Order of Canada for his contribution to Canadian culture and was awarded an honorary doctorate at Athabasca University in Alberta in 1991. Other honours include being the first Canadian to have book illustrations selected for the International Childrens' Book Exhibition in Bologna, Italy
Just a few examples of the many pictures of Ted Harrison
The Last Horizon
Boy and Girl
This is a copy in stained glass of Ted Harrison's painting done by David Wilmot the author of this web site.
The following is an extract taken from Ted Harrisons book
"The Last Horizon"
To teach and practice one's art at the same time can often be a most enervating process. Teaching is like acting. One concentrates on learning the lines at first and the early days in the class room are ones of hesitancy. Later, as the craft is mastered, so the performance improves. One need not concentrate on the lines then, for they become second nature and one can perform with confidence and surety. However, one is forever giving of oneself and some energy must be conserved for the periods of creativity after work.
It was due to teaching that I circumnavigated the globe, albeit as a passenger. I had spent six rather wearing years in a teaching position in Middlesbrough, England, whose air, in those days, was polluted by every chemical known to man. My lungs were weary of coping with generous helpings of chlorine and hydrogen sulphide. My eyes grew tired of gazing out of soot begrimed windows which faced everlasting brick walls. God bless the trees. They tried to grow in that fetid atmosphere and so did the children we taught. Trees and children suffocating together. Each day I drove a dilapidated old Ford Eight down from the country into this industrial maelstrom. My companion, Roy, would gaze down at the Transporter Bridge over which we must cross and, in a delightfully cultured Oxford accent, say:
Sir, do you conjecture well --
Yonder lie the Gates of Hell!"
One delightful spring day as I sat invigilating some examination, my eyes beheld the semblance of a life line. It consisted of an advertisement in the Times Educational Supplement, formerly referred to as "The Teacher's Bible"! The words appeared to my eyes as balm in Gilead. "Art teacher required. Slim School, Cameron Highlands, Malaya. Applications to be made to the War Office."I lost no time in applying and in a short time they replied asking me to attend an interview with one of her Majesty's Inspectors of Art in London. During the interview the renowned H.M.I. said to me, "The trouble with you Geordies is that no sooner do you get away from home than you're crying for your mothers." "Just try me," I replied. Well, the didn't try me, and the job went to a bearded Londoner instead. Farewell Malaya, I thought. Farewell escape, the romance of the Far East, adventure and everything I'd dreamed of. Farewell, farewell -- damn it!
Then six weeks later an urgent telegram arrived."Prepare to fly Malaya January." What had happened to the bearded one? Had the communist insurgents bumped him off? Was Ching Peng stalking art teachers from his jungle hideout and collecting their scalps along with those of the rubber planters? Adventure evidently had its price, but suddenly the rejected stone had become the cornerstone, and I was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
On arrival at Slim School I stood on the hillside overlooking the sea of jungle all around. Cicadas chirruped in the bushes and the Malaya sun covered all with its radiant heat No more smog, no more filth; instead, clean air washed by tropic rains and scented by flowers of a thousand hues. "And in the afternoon they came unto a land in which it seemed always afternoon." I mused thinking of Tennyson's "Lotus Eaters." All of a sudden my reverie was interrupted by the singsong voice of the Welsh major who bore the title of Headmaster."Welcome to Malaya, Mr. Harrison. Tell me, do you think you're going to like it here?" "Like it?" I responded, my eyes devouring the richness of the scenery. "Like it? I'm going to damn well LOVE it."
It transpired that my predecessor had arrived during the summer vacation and in a short time had gone quite mad. After a lifetime of city life, the wildness and isolation of the vast jungle had proved too much of a strain, and so he was transported back to civilization. I remained to revel in this exotic environment for a further five years.
One day I decided to go on a sketching trip to the city of Ipoh, a centre of the tin mining industry in Perak state. My conveyance was a small bright red Sunbeam sports coupe, the type that Mr. Toad would well have envied. I drew up outside a charming cave temple which rejoiced in the name of Perak Tong Buddhist Temple. Soon I was sketching busily under the hot afternoon sun. The only sounds were those of the sonorous gongs booming inside the cave and the occasional lilting tones of worshippers conversing in Chinese. A temple acolyte approached and bowed respectfully with his hands in an attitude of prayer: "My master the priest wishes me to ask a favour sir." "What does he desire?" I queried. "That you paint us a Buddha on the cave wall," he answered. "We have had many artists from the East decorating our walls, but no European has yet done so."
I was led to the august figure of the priest who was dressed in a ceremonial saffron robe and smiling benevolently in my direction. His shave head gleamed in the sun and added to the serenity of his expression. "Tell your master that I shall be delighted to paint a Buddha," I informed the acolyte, "and that it shall be done during my next visit."
After several exchanges I was invited to drive the car over the hump at the cave's entrance and park it by the main altar. Apparently, its red colour was a symbol of good luck, and I smiled at the thought of this happening in some English country church. Since it was close to curfew time, I remained to escort the priest and his acolyte back to Ipoh. Owing to communist activity in the area it was mandatory for all temple personnel to evacuate the cave by five in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the priest had donned a gray robe. He squeezed into the small rear seat of the coupe, his acolyte sat at my side, and we drove with a sense of dignity back to the city.
A month later I returned laden with paints and brushes to begin work in my own peculiar "Sistine Chapel." The preparations taken for my arrival were quite spectacular. A large wooden stage had been erected, ladders, cloths and water supplied. The acolyte fussed over a variety of dishes and prepared to mix the paint according to my directions. The wall was newly whitened. and posed certain technical problems owing to the fact that is surface was concave. However, I sketched out the main theme. It was the Buddha under the Boh tree receiving enlightenment with his right hand in the uplifted teaching posture and the left laid palm upwards across his knees.
For four days I reported early to the temple and worked incessantly until curfew hour. My main diet was one of tiger nuts washed down with bottles of orange pop. Occasionally a bowl of rice with salted fish varied the menu. A constant stream of worshippers filed past me and headed for the main altar. Here they lit joss sticks, banged the huge gong, and shook a variety of sticks in wooden cylinders. The stick which protruded the furthest was removed and its message read. Accompanying the whole ceremony were wisps of scented burning oils emerging from both joss sticks and lamps. These plumes of aromatic smoke combined in a cloud higher up so that, while I balanced on the ladder near Buddha's head, I received their full effect. Even today the slightest whiff of an incense stick evokes strong mental visions of that temple now so far away among the limestone hills of Ipoh.
To Photo of the painting taken in 1958.
To Photo of painting taken in 1997.
Not long after the painting was completed I received a visit from the District Officer of the Cameron Highlands. He explained that the Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rhman, would be coming up to visit guests from neighbouring Thailand. The guests in question were His Royal Highness King Bhumipol Adulyadej and his beautiful consort, Queen Sirikit. My wife, Nicky, administered the bungalow in which their majesties would be staying, and both she and I were made responsible for decorating the place.
We decided that Nicky would see to the interior while I designed a very large Siamese crest in paper sculpture. The school art class set to work with intense interest and soon the huge "Garuda" (a mythical double-dead bird) was complete. Then into the town of Tanah Rata we drove to buy a backdrop of purple velvet to lend a flavour. The whole decoration was complete and placed outside the door of the royal bungalow. Nicky's flowers added a gala touch to the whole scheme, and we waited for the Commissioner's final inspection.
Everything passed muster save for the purple backdrop. The flowing drapes of purple velvet had looked very regal to Western eyes but, alas, not to Eastern. The colour was considered both unlucky and unpropitious to the Siamese, and I was forced to supplant it with a rich red cloth. As the light caught the folded white paper, the effect was one of solidity, and I later learned that the Prime Minister had actually touched it to see what the whole thing was made of.
Everyone knew when the King and Queen had arrived, for His Highness was an expert jazz player on the trumpet. Renderings of the blues and other New Orleans classics floated their strains across the valley as Thailand's monarch practised. Jazz and visions of gilded temples seem far apart, but during those few days they mingled quite respectably.
The whole visit ended in a magnificent reception. Nicky and I received a royal summons to the banquet and were treated to a meal of rare piquancy. Queen Sirikit shook hands personally with each guest and, after the meal, the dancing began. In Malaya the dance is a "rongeng" and the female partner must emulate each move of the male. The couple, however, are not allowed to touch, and it amused me later to see this style of dancing married to "hard rock." My partner was a charming Thai woman who could discuss Western art with knowledgeable discernment. We mounted the steps hand in hand to the stage and faced the King. I gave a fairly low bow, commensurate with my physical ability to bend only slightly. Suddenly I felt a great tug on my right arm. My charming and beautiful partner was bowing low and touching the stage repeatedly with her forehead as a mark of respect. I have had many dances since, but that one beats them all for sheer experience.
I attribute the colours in my paintings to those Malayan years. That warm flowery land, washed by tropical rains and sweltering under the equatorial sun, had somehow linked up with my Yukon experiences. It is as if the two lives are blended together in the crucible of my mind to produce an alloy of rare and exquisite memory.
© 1997 to 2019 All images and articles not to be reproduced without permission.