Michel Tamer • Artist
A blend of both figurative art and contemporary tendencies
It was summer and I was 3 years old at my grandmother’s house up in the mountains in Lebanon where my family went during the warm season. What I experienced there would define the course of my life forever.
I remember I was seated on the kitchen stoop when I heard hoof beats. I turned to see what it was. And there I saw it: a rider on a magnificent white horse. The horse’s mane and tail, waving in the warm breeze. I was mesmerized.
When they went out of sight, I ran into the house and took a piece of paper and a pencil. That day, I drew my first horse. The same excitement has haunted me since that day and has outlined my path to becoming an artist and a performing rider in dressage and showjumping events.
Drawing horses led me to do research on the subject. No internet then. At age 11 or 12 I visited the race horse stables nearby a maternal uncle’s shop and watched the horses being taken care of. I began visiting bookshops and bought (or made my mom buy me) any book of interest. That’s how I discovered the Franco-Belgian comic strips which included a lot of western subjects with a tendency to be closer to historical factuality than any other comic strip industry. Specially the American which was all a carbon copy of hollywood’s products. I discovered the art of authors like Jean Gillain, better known as Jijé and that of Jean Giraud, his assistant. Jijé did, amongst other things, the strip known as the adventures of Jerry Spring and Giraud developed later the adventures of Lieutenant Blueberry. Both mastered anatomy whether human or equine and both had this nervous brush line inspired by American artists, mainly Milton Caniff. That is how later I became an unconditional user of the brush.
Thanks to these 2 artists I became very interested in history, costumes and weaponry. I knew every Indian tribe, gun make, saddle, rifle, carbine, hat… and I started buying True West magazine with all its old pictures for accuracy’s sake.
Then something happened،
I started drawing sports cars. It must have been because I was becoming an adult.
It is with a broad smile that I look at those years.
Caroll Shelby’s cobras had no secret for me. And Beirut’s streets were literally littered with muscle cars like the Olds 442, the Dodge Charger and so many others. We were in the mid to late 60s and Bullit has just come out. What a life !!! We lived in the middle of spinning wheels, screeching tyres, roaring engines and carbon dioxide… and it felt so good
I started drawing cars that I dreamt could compete with the Mc Larens and the Ferraris of the time. Drawing cars meant drawing streets and buildings so I made myself familiar with perspective.
At age 19 my parents sent me to the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles where I have been admitted as a Transportation Design Major.
Then something else happened.
I didn’t want to draw cars anymore!!!
Was that the call of the West with its herds of wild horses, buffalos, Indians and cowboys and canyons? I think I didn’t want to end up in Detroit imprisoned between four walls for decades. I still loved wide open spaces, filled with adventure and wanted to depict them.
Before school started I went to see the admission officer and told her I changed my mind and want to go into illustration. She must have thought I was a very instable young man but quickly took the decision to give a chance, after all I was coming from so far away and I was a good promotional tool for the school for people from the Middle East.
It was a Friday. She asked me to come back Monday with a sketchbook filled with drawings to see what I could do. I did just that. When I showed up on Monday she looked at the drawings, smiled to me and said “there you go”.
I studied 4 years.
In 1976, after graduation I returned to Lebanon and started as a storyboard artist at Leo Burnett, an advertising agency. Later I became associate creative director and TV producer for our T.V commercials.
A war between a Lebanese section of the population and the Palestinian refugees that started one year before my coming back home got so bad that after 15 years and in spite of the great salary I decided to move with wife and children to France.
I freelanced a lot and founded my agency in 1998 working for the European market for 16 successful years.
I discovered a passion for teaching. I started teaching communication in advertising and Art Fundamentals in many Parisian schools of graphic design and Architecture.
All this time I had a double life. One in advertising the other in art.
So despite a professional busy life, I always found time to paint, draw and sculpt, leading me to my first art exhibits in Paris.
The time passed, but my artistic drive intensified. It is why I decided to sell my advertising agency in 2014 and devote myself fully to my art.
Recently, I have finished a large body of work which reflects on the Kalevala, the Finnish mythology, and have started a new project related to legendary horses.
‘What characterizes my approach to art is my constant call to challenge my acquired skills. I refuse the temptation to rest on my technical draftsmanship laurels. Questioning how I look at things, allows me to understand everything that surrounds me with novelty. That’s what I aim to achieve on the canvas.’