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Adrian Powell

Adrian Powell


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It doesn't always have to be about computers, coding and graphics. Adrian Powell, the artist behind the original Lemmings game, crafted all its artwork, including box art and promotional materials. His passion for painting lemmings has persisted over time and he is still painting lemmings to this day. Powell's work remains influential and has helped selling millions of copies of this classic (ST) game.


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Adrian Powell Interview

Written by grams88

April 18, 2024

1) Would you be able to tell us a bit about yourself for those of us that have not heard of you?

Most of my life I have been what is termed a commercial artist. And a sign writer. I had also worked in an environment of print production from colour separation, printing block production, typesetting and printing letterpress and lithography. My talent for art, recognised in my early years by my tutors, was gifted to me by my left handed Royal Academy of Arts father. I am also left handed.

In my latter years, I was asked by a large company who provided care homes for Alzheimer’s sufferers, to paint murals on the corridor walls. Most of the memories of the residents I initially talked to, referred to their childhood and comics of that era. Accordingly, I would paint comic characters and seaside scenes.

2) When did you first get involved with the art?

It was 1990, when I was introduced to Psygnosis, the marketing company, in a modern converted Liverpool warehouse. I sat with a young computer operator involved in the game and watched a series of ping pong balls falling off cliffs and crawling along tunnels lit by flaming lanterns. The ping pong balls were in fact , LEMMINGS”. My mission ---- to turn the white blobs into a character.

3) Could you tell us how you became the lemmings artist and what that entailed? The art looks really good.

There was a lot of pressure to bring about the artwork in time for a Christmas launch worldwide, – about 4 months away, as I recall. But before any artwork could be produced, there was a challenge to bring to life a figure which would become a big big hit. This involved days ( and nights ) of sketches, plus many visits to Psygnosis before any actual finished artwork. Finally, a Lemming was born. Then he had to have a family. A pair of diggers, a climber, a couple of floaters, a bomber, a blocker, and a builder. Next, I began a box design which would contain all the characters and the elements of the game, including the iconic logo name in a complimentary green livery. All hand lettered.

In the early 90’s, the use of computers had not quite become as prolific as today and progress was infinitely slower and frequent visits to the customer.

Once the box art was complete, promotional artwork was required for the launch. Point of sale lemmings characters in many applications including a life size cut-out supplied to all major shops and other outlets. The final piece was an instruction manual, produced very last minute I recall. I think it was an oversight. That was indeed, a rush job for me, particularly as it had to be translated into several languages.

4) Was there anything that inspired you when working on the artistic side of lemmings?

That’s a difficult question. I can only think that I was inspired by my mural painting of comic characters. Cartoons have always played a part in my life, even at school when I used to make my own comics for my schoolmates to read. Wish I still had those to look at. I think they were commandeered by my pals.

5) Did you get the chance to play the game yourself and if so what did you think of it?

That’s a definate NO. At the time of the launch, I was a cub scout leader. Most of my cub pack boys were bought the game at Christmas because they knew I was the artist behind it. They all asked me to sign their box but one lad said, “How could he get to level 3 in the game“ I looked around and whispered, I wasn’t allowed to tell. In truth, I had no idea!

6) Were you proud with how the art turned out for the game?

I was very proud at the finished product. In the production, the art was created in separate pieces, for example, the name logo and the two characters carrying the placard. The reverse design , I remember, had many of the characters in separate poses to be brought together by the printer along with the jig-saw pieces.

I visited the printer to approve the first proofs and remember being delighted at the outcome. I had produced all the artwork oversize, as is traditional, and so to see it in its final stage was very satisfying.

7) Were you amazed at how successful lemmings was and how are your own feelings on this?

The success of the game went beyond all expectations both from my own point of view and Psygnosis. What amazed me were the number of times the game was reprinted. In the final reckoning there were 20 million games sold. To me that was 20 million pieces of artwork reproduced….worldwide. Quite staggering.

8) I bet you were featured in many magazines, newspapers and many more, could you tell us more about this one?

The internet is a powerful instrument. It never ceases to amaze me. My early beginnings in the world of art were slow and methodical but nevertheless a solid grounding for my future. As we know it is worldwide. Accordingly, and surprisingly, I became famous, in countries all over the globe. Also I was asked to make appearances or take part in interviews. Many Lemmings fans wanted their own "Powell" original painting, and, that continues to this day.

In 2021 a film was made entitled Lemmings, Can You Dig It. I appeared in it along with the originators of the game. It was released for its premiere in Dundee, home of the Dandy and Beano comics……and Lemmings ( this is where the game originated ) I was invited to be in the audience and asked to take a bow at the end of the film in front of an audience of Lemmings fans.

9) As the artist was there any moments or times you were finding a bit challenging during the lemmings process?

There were challenges all through the process. As time went by I recall that the pressure of producing a piece of artwork became monumental and how important this was to a lot of people involved in the game. The product itself was a small floppy disk. The box art was what would sell it. All over the world. This was, in all probability, the biggest commission of all time for me. And the world was waiting.

10) Did you have a favourite lemmings skill, such as the miner, builder, climber, floater, bomber, blocker, basher, digger? (I hope I havn't missed any)

My favourite Lemming, without a doubt was the parachutist, or as it known The Floater. I have reproduced the Floater for collectors many times. Just love him, I gave him birth

11) I think I remember seeing a nice photo of yourself standing next to the statues in dundee, what do you think of the lemmings statues?

I remember being told by a lady, she had visited Dundee to see her student son. She had told him about me and Lemmings. He very excitedly told her there were Lemmings statues in a park in Dundee. Additionally, there are statues all over Dundee of characters from the Beano and Dandy. When I went to the film premiere I visited the statues. It was like a good dream. The memory of the games just goes on and on.

12) Do you play any video games yourself and if so what video games do you play?

No. I have to say the actual playing of video games has never appealed to me. But I do understand the attraction.

13) Do you still keep in touch with the people you have worked with in the past?

People have moved on or even passed away. So I have not been able to enjoy memories with the team. I did meet several of the initial designers at the film premiere. I enjoyed that.

14) Are you still involved with the artistic side of things or are you doing something else as of now?

Good question, and I am happy to say, Lemmings live on in my studio. I am very involved in my other favourite ( hobby ? ) British landscapes. My father was an artist and like me, he was left handed, apparently the artist greats like Michaelangelo and Leonardo were also gifted with that hand. My father was Royal Academy trained and a member of The Royal Academy of Arts. He also illustrated in the Eagle comic. I often seem inspired by my old man.

Lemmings is about to be illustrated again in a version that will be a tribute to all the games in the series. It will be extremely involved with all the characters gathered for the biggest party artwork of all. It is scheduled to be printed with limited editions and the original will be auctioned on the internet. Hopefully this year.

15) I'm a big fan of board games, do you like board games and have a favourite?

I do like board games but haven’t played for years. But my favourite was Mahjong. Really the best game in the world. However, when you are an artist you never retire. So games have to take a back seat.

16) Do you have any favourite TV programmes or films that you like to watch?

I have to say Last of the Summer Wine. It is the epitome of life played for love, fun and mischief. I laugh out loud with every episode I watch. And it is set in beautiful Yorkshire. My favourite art venue.

17) I noticed ST Graveyard usually asks this at the end of the previous interviews so here I go. If you could have a drink with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask?

In my life I seem to have been lucky enough to actually sit and talk with many high profile names. I have even played darts with Paul MaCartney. Also had a drink and a meal with Roger Moore and David Niven at an authors convention in London’s Hilton Hotel. However, the man I want to sit and have a pint with, would be my late Dad. I would love to show him todays technology, the computer that typesets manuscripts in pretty much any font you want, messages anyone in the world, the mobile phone that accesses the Encyclopedia Brittanica and communicates with people whilst I walk through wild countryside.

Yes, that’s my wish. Most of all I want to show him I did quite well in the world of art...And Lemmings!

Thanks Adrian, this will be an interesting read to lots of people especially from the lemmings community. You have made a big contribution to the game of lemmings with the artistic side of things. Thank you for taking the time to do the interview.

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