i heard that my drawing tutor from leeds college of art days, ‘lem’ mierins, died just before christmas.
lem was a vital influence in our graphic design training although at the time we often questioned why we spent so much time life drawing and listening to lem’s eccentric and passionate take on the history of art when surely shouldn’t we be designing book covers or something? but now i get it. not only do i credit lem with instilling in me a confidence to just pick up a pencil or pen and attempt to draw anything, but he also taught us to appreciate the flow and movement of line.
the theory of drawing the same thing multiple times, learning with each stroke to eventually be able to produce exactly what you want with all the freshness of that first attempt is something i learned from lem and continues to influence my approach to typography as well drawing.
being a great teacher was only one aspect of lem. he was a noted abstract/pop painter and produced life drawings of great energetic beauty, all about the purity of line and a moment in time frozen with charcoal, graphite or ink. he would regularly remind us as to how good his large geometric paintings would look in the receptions to design agencies – my only regret at not having a reception with black leather sofas and scattered design magazines is that i never had an excuse to buy a mierins.
the last time i chatted with him was at his retrospective exhibition at cartwright hall gallery in bradford, fresh from the state gallery of fine art in latvia [you can download the gallery catalogue as a pdf here]. although clearly moved at his former pupils coming to view the show he quickly slipped back into character and although i may have imagined him actually cuffing me round the ear (a regular technique in his life drawing class), his parting words in thick latvian accent were “…and buy a bloody catalogue!”. which, of course, i did.