Ted Harrison is well known for his colourful and childlike paintings of the Yukon. Coming from a background in teaching and academic painting, he started painting afresh in mid life. Purple skies, red dogs, yellow snow and blue moose inhabit his unique world. Ted likes to tell the story of a customer who complained that two men in one of his paintings were carrying a dead moose. “Any fool knows that two men can’t carry a dead moose,” protested the customer. “Correct,” said Ted, “but two men can carry a blue moose.”
John Keats noted: “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” Here are a few methods to use in your search for the unheard melodies:
Books, magazines, media give the “mix and match” advantage.
If you are invited to tell lies, save them for paintings.
Work in places such as the gondolas of hot-air balloons.
Don’t always try to get it right. Try to get it wrong.
Fall gently in love with the world of your imagination.
Listen to music. It’s abstract. Anything can happen.
Practice “syntagma”–things that suggest other things.
Watch children at play: acting, watching, morphing.
Take off your clothes and roll around in the snow.
Pause often and fire up the “what could be” mode.
Consider doing one or two works with your foot.
Understand the terms “Metaphor” and “Simile.”
Never underestimate the value of alcohol.
Use your funny bone–incongruity rules.
Try to learn something new every day.
Don’t keep doing the same old stuff.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Don’t worry, be silly.
PS: “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” (Katharine Hepburn) “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” (Miles Davis) “The universe is real but you can’t see it. You have to imagine it. Once you imagine it, you can be realistic about reproducing it.” (Alexander Calder)
Esoterica: We have a lovely Ted Harrison in our dining room. It shows a nude woman (blue), a raven, a moose (blue), a totem pole, and two cats. Don’t ask me. “Blue moose, you’ve got me crying for you?”
This letter was originally published as “Blue Moose” on May 31, 2002.
Born August 28, 1926 in Wingate, United Kingdom, Edward Hardy “Ted” Harrison, Canadian artist notable for his paintings of the Canadian Yukon, died on Friday, January 16, 2015 at the age of 88. Ted will be remembered for painting in brilliant colours, for the books he wrote and illustrated and also for his inspirational teaching.
Katherine Gibson wrote Ted’s biography in 2009:Ted Harrison: Painting Paradise. And along with author Margriet Ruurs she has published A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison, an illustrated book released this year 2015.
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