1961 Yukon Nuggets
Ever wonder what it is about the Yukon that inspires people to become artists?
We know Ted Harrison's inspiration comes from colours and shapes of the natural environment.
Jim Robb's gift comes from the character of the people and the wonky shapes of old stuff. Mary Dolman is inspired by the awesome power of the natural elements. Doug Smarch describes his work as conceptual, made for a native tribe he invented and open to various interpretations.
For Ted Colyer, it was - at least in part - the lack of television, along with the inspiration of his parents and the dedication of his Whitehorse High School art teacher, Lilias Farley.
He arrived in the Yukon with his family from Ottawa in 1961, as a 13-year-old grade-nine student. His father, Hank Colyer, was an Army engineer who had been transferred to Whitehorse to work on upgrading the Alaska Highway.
His mother, Betty, worked for the Territorial Government to set up the fledgling Yukon library system and to help build the new main library in Whitehorse.
Ted remembers those days in the Yukon as a joyous time. The family had a cottage and boat on Marsh Lake, where the camping and fishing was world class.
In the winter, he curled and played hockey. "We never had a television, so our parents encouraged us in our music and artistic interests."
He recalls a very special time of both isolation and change in the North - especially for the class of 1964 at FH Collins high school. The friends reminded Ted of the TV show Happy Days.
As with many students of that time, art teacher Lilias Farley was a big influence on Ted's artistic development. He had been drawing and painting since he was about four years old, but he recalls that Miss Farley pushed him to try a lot harder and not to get complacent. She encouraged him to take a figure-drawing class at the Banff school of Fine Arts when he was just 16.
He was the only high-school student, but won a scholarship to return the next year, largely, he says, because of the training he received from Lilias Farley.
Ted attended UBC and then Mount Allison University where he studied painting, drawing and printmaking. After graduating in 1971, he moved to Japan to learn more about Japanese woodblock techniques.
His first exhibition in Tokyo that year was a big success, and he's been able to make a living as a professional artist ever since.
He and his wife returned to Canada after 17 years in Japan, and have lived in Vancouver since 1988.
Today, Ted Colyer works mainly with watercolour and acrylic painting as well as printmaking in his Vancouver studio, but he gets back to the Yukon whenever he can.
His oldest sister, Jacquelin Fowler, and her husband Jim, have lived in the Yukon since the 60's, and his older brother, Ford, works as a photographer for the Yukon government archives.
Ted says, "I think most people who have lived in the Yukon realize that it is a very special place. The "call of the wild" stays with you. I love a city like Tokyo - the masses of people rushing around, and the energy, but last year, when I got out in the bush, nobody for miles, looking at the reflection of autumn colours from an island in Big Salmon Lake, tramping around in the muskeg, catching grayling on a first cast on the Sandy River, I had to wonder why I ever left.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.