Ian Fleming was born at Glasgow and studied drawing, painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art. After graduating, he worked with etcher Charles Murray, and then travelled on an art school scholarship to London, Paris and Spain.
In 1931 Fleming started teaching at Glasgow School of Art. During this time he met William Wilson, with whom he exchanged print-making ideas. He served in the police and army during the second world war and continued sketching and printmaking throughout. Notable are the prints he made of the Glasgow blitz. After the war Fleming taught again at Glasgow School of Art and at Hospitalfield, Arbroath. At this time he moved towards painting, rather than print-making, producing landscapes, harbours and portraits both in oil and watercolour.
Fleming was principal of Gray's School of Art between 1954 and 1971. He continued in printmaking after his retirement. He died at Aberdeen.