Ted Harrison raises a hand with welcome in his eyes and a “pleasure to meet you” as Kaitlyn Webb Patience offers to make some tea.
“I always welcome a cup of tea,” the popular Canadian artist says as Webb Patience, the studio manager, places a hot cup on a tray in front of him. She’s new to the role, replacing long-time studio manager Lillie Louise Major – perhaps it’s why she neglected to have cookies on hand. A fan of a good cookie, Harrison doesn’t take his disappointment out on her, but sips from the mug featuring Yukon lore that she’s set on a bright cloth on the tray in front of him.
“(When) this place closes I want my cup back,” he tells her.
The small space filled with bright colours on The Ave will close at the end of August, but with a little fanfare. And another visit from the man himself.
“It’s always been a passion project,” Webb Patience gestures to the space that has shown Harrison’s work for the past six years.
“What has to be must be,” says the iconic artist who turns 86 on Aug. 28. “You can’t fight what’s necessary.”
Though he came to Oak Bay nearly 20 years ago, in 1993, the studio waited until six years ago. There, fans from near and far would come and watch him work. “People like to watch artists paint. The artist becomes part of the scene,” he says. Although it’s not one of his favourite things. “I don’t particularly like to be watched,” he says.
But with a healthy respect for those who purchase his work, he painted daily in the studio.
“People should start to show the buying public respect for what it does,” he says.
Harrison still finds time, working with watercolour pencils, to create in the “peaceful and quiet” retirement home where he now lives. He moved to the Saanich residence recently and trips to the studio dropped once he left Oak Bay, prompting the closure.
“I don’t do a lot (of painting),” he says. “It depends on the opportunity and the mood.”
Harrison is known for his colourful depictions of the Yukon – where he spent two decades – and the Pacific Northwest where he spent the past two decades.
At the height of his work he could paint an image a day, but “it’s not about speed,” he says. “(It’s) competence.”
Though the studio is set to close, Harrison plans to remain in the area.
“I like painting anywhere,” he says. “I think Victoria is a beautiful place to live. I like Victoria because it’s a very open community. People accept you.”
Fans and friends can say goodbye to the studio, and hello to Harrison on Aug. 9 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the studio, 2004 Oak Bay Ave.